INFORMATION LITERACY AND THE WESTERN BALKANS: A TEMPUS PROJECT

An interesting article presented during our 2013 conference by: Jerald Cavanagh, and Padraig Kirby

This paper will depict a unique, pioneering European Union funded project which aims to develop information literacy for lifelong learning in the Western Balkans, specifically, in the countries of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo under UNSC Resolution 1244/99 and Montenegro.Tempus is the European Union’s programme which supports the modernisation of higher education in the Partner Countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean region, mainly through university cooperation projects. Information literacy involves having the ability to recognize when information is needed and having the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the information needed (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2000). Information literacy ―is the keystone of lifelong learning‖ (Byerly & Brodie, 1999 cited in Lau 2006 p.7) and is ―absolutely critical literacy to all sectors of society‖ (Kajberg & Lørring 2005 p.67). The specific objectives of the project are development of IL programs for lifelong learning and their use in curricula as appropriate; development of innovative online IL modules for lifelong learning; harmonisation of the IL programs with those currently active in Western Balkan countries. An important objective, also, is strengthening the capacities of Western Balkan higher education institutions for strategic planning and implementation of IL programs, in order to instill transferable skills for a competitive, dynamic, knowledge-based economy, as well as to develop IL policy, guidelines, goals, and mission. The main outcomes of the project are guidelines for planning IL programs, harmonised contents for the teaching of IL, training of IL practitioners, development of innovative online IL modules, implementation of IL programs, dissemination and sustainability of IL programs. All projects have obstacles thrown in their way from time to time and this project is no different. This three year project which commenced in October 2011 has faced and overcome some obstacles such as a lack of awareness of IL in Western Balkan institutions, differences in harmonizing financial project management systems, as well the highly decentralised structure of some Western Balkan institutions. This is due to the fact that every Faculty is an individual legal entity, hence making IL implementation at the University level more challenging. The project has had some important achievements to date, such as the publication in each Western Balkan institution of Guidelines for planning IL programs in Western Balkan countries, and publication of Guidelines for IL program harmonized contents. The project has also published an Information Literacy syllabus and curricula in each Western Balkan institution participating in the project. Other achievements include the publication of Guidelines for training of IL teachers/practitioners: methodology for teaching information literacy. Future activities in the project include the development of innovative online modules, and the full rollout and implementation of the IL programs. This will involve coordination, timetabling and physical execution of the program, as well as the creation of a Western Balkan Network for Information Literacy (WBIL) for the future dissemination, sustainability and exploitation of project results across the Region.

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