Having recently returned from the first European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL), I am delighted to report that scholars from around the world are working in the field of Legal Information Literacy; the topic of Information Literacy in Legal Studies is alive and well! Several programs focused on information literacy in law schools, with presenters coming from Croatia, South Africa, Finland, as well as Turkey and the United States (the present author).
The highlight of the ECIL, of course, was the plenary session with Paul Zurkowski, who coined the phrase “Information Literacy” and also first defined Legal Information Literacy back in the 1970s. Zurkowski’s speech, entitled “Towards Universal Information Literacy: The Economic and Social Building Blocks,” presented the ambitious concept of “information juntas,” wherein local public libraries serve as focal points for community information professionals to offer non-partisan analyses of local as well as national issues.
However, individual sessions also indicated that Information Literacy in Legal Studies is an international concern. Doreen Yemisi Olorunfemi spoke of her surveys of information literacy skills as manifest in information seeking behavior among law students at Adekunle Ajasin University, noting that although law students were generally enthusiastic about using the law library, they were also predominantly accessing electronic resources through their own private cell phones, due to the electric power issues common in Nigeria.
Dejana Golenko of the University of Riejka presented her exploration for evidence of language emphasizing or prioritizing information literacy and library instruction within strategic documents from Croatian law schools. This fascinating approach not only demonstrated how Croatian law schools emphasize (or de-emphasize, as the case may be) library instruction on a formal and informal level within Croatian law curricula.
Another paper presented at ECIL 2013 showed the outcomes of a pilot information literacy instructional program at the Law Library of the University of Osijek in Croatia. Students in this program reported very high rates of satisfaction, leading to formal information literacy instructional programming at the Faculty of Law in Osijek.
Kerem Kavecioğlu and I presented “Three Faces of Information Literacy in Legal Studies: Research Instruction in the American Common Law, British Common Law, and Turkish Civilian Legal Tradition.” We compared legal information literacy standards from the USA and the UK, and discussed the direction that legal information literacy is taking in Turkey. I’m pleased to report that our presentation was well-received.
Overall, the ECIL promises to be a very valuable event; rumors are that the next ECIL will be held in Croatia, which, given the prevalence of legal information literacy among law schools in that nation, promises to bode well for the continuing development of this topic. But Istanbul was a fantastic setting, and thanks are due to Serap Kurbanoğlu and Sonja Špiranec for organizing an excellent inaugural ECIL. I can’t wait for next year!
Rutgers School of Law–Newark
The State University of New Jersey