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Library Insights: Information Literacy Project at St Ninian's High School


Everyone who visits St Ninian’s High School library knows it is a place of stories. They know stories can be fictional or factual. They also know that their school librarian can help them find these factual stories by equipping them with research skills – and this is where the S1 Information Literacy programme comes in.

Every pupil takes part in three library programmes throughout their first year which all aim to develop information literacy skills:

  • Library Skills (August to October)

  • Researching Ingredients (December or January)

  • The Suitcase Project (February to March).

All these programmes take place with department and senior management support.

Library Skills

Library Skills is run in partnership with the English Department. Every first-year class takes part in four Library Skills sessions, including two on information literacy. Pupils learn how to plan their research, how to find sources which are current, accurate and relevant (CAR for short), how to use the information they find, and the importance of writing down their sources. I developed these resources when I started at the school in 2016, after talking with colleagues in other schools about what they did.

Researching Ingredients

Researching Ingredients is a short research project run in partnership with the Home Economics Department. It runs after Library Skills has finished, and allows S1 pupils to put their information literacy skills into practice by asking them to research a particular food ingredient. I also introduce one new skill in this session: how to write a bibliography. This reinforces the learning pupils complete in the first term, while also preparing them for a bigger research project in February.

The Suitcase Project

The Suitcase Project runs over two months, from February – March. Each S1 class visits the library four times over the course of a week, and work in groups to research a particular country. Each group is given a suitcase of objects from one country, and pupils pick an object each to research. They are asked to complete this research using one book and one website, presenting their findings (and bibliography) in a group presentation at the end of the week. This project requires the support of our Principal Teacher of Literacy, senior management team and several departments (including English, Social Sciences, Modern Languages and Religious Education). Classes are timetabled to visit from different subjects, to reinforce the message that information literacy skills should be developed across the curriculum.

The S1 Information Literacy Programme

This information literacy programme is designed to be cumulative and to give our pupils the chance to recap and reinforce their learning. I have continually developed it over the last three years to suit the needs of my school. I inherited the Suitcase Project after it had been successfully run by my predecessor, only changing it so that it included the requirement to produce a bibliography. The Researching Ingredients session came about after discussions between me and the Principal Teacher of Home Economics, with a desire to formalise the S1 information-gathering visits to the library. I was keen to develop this as I realised it could be a very useful bridge between Library Skills and the Suitcase Project.

Impact and opportunities

This work has led to library activities being included on departmental improvement plans, and to greater involvement with the literacy committee. The staff information sheet for the Suitcase Project has a list of literacy indicators which demonstrate how the project supports the advancement of our school’s literacy priorities and has led to requests from other departments (including Science and PE) to run information literacy sessions tailored to their subjects.

I use the same opening slide with every class who come to the library for an information literacy session, irrespective of year or subject, to reinforce the steps of the research process: plan, find, evaluate and use. The S1 programme has also allowed me to develop sessions for older pupils because it has shown teachers that I am a useful, time-saving resource when a class is about to embark on a piece of research. It also gives me the opportunity to signpost to pupils that I can help them develop their information literacy skills, and that they can come to me at any time if they get stuck.

The S1 information literacy programme helps our pupils piece together the stories they are asked to tell during their time at school. I’m very proud that the library is instrumental in helping our pupils develop these skills from the outset.

Written by

Pamela McLean, School Librarian

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