UK Copyright Literacy at ECIL in Prague

img_4304I’m really excited to be presenting at the European Conference on Information Literacy which this year is being held in Prague from 10th -14th October. We view ECIL as the spiritual home of copyright literacy, as this was where I first heard about the work of Tania Todorova and her colleagues, back in 2014 in Dubrovnik. Last year Chris and I presented on the UK survey results in Tallinn, and this year I’m returning to present our latest research, exploring the experiences of UK librarians of copyright, using phenomenography. It’s still early days – we carried out 3 focus groups in higher education and have been juggling work and some pretty intensive data analysis. As neither of us had used phenomenography before we are grateful to the help and advice we received from Emma Coonan and Lauren Smith, as well as several very useful articles they pointed us to. I’m sharing our slides from the ECIL presentation which I am due to give on Tuesday morning. It will also be great to catch up with Tania, Serap, Joumana and several of the people who undertook the survey in their own country.

Back to phenomenography, we have created four ‘Categories of Description’ and have a first draft at an ‘Outcome Space’. If this means nothing to you, then have a read up about phenomenography in the article by Christine Yates in our reference list. What is clear is that copyright is experienced in quite a number of different ways by librarians, and this depends on a number of factors. In some cases this relates to their role and the context they are working in, but it’s also affected by their ideological stance, the support they receive from senior management and of course how much training and knowledge they have about copyright matters. These cut across our categories and are called  ‘Dimensions of Variation.’ However, although there are a number of categories and dimensions, the thing that’s interested us the most is the emotional response to copyright – fear, anxiety, boredom or even excitement that many librarians described to us in the survey. Some of their other experiences are then related to their attempts to deal with the fundamental tension that copyright laws can create. It’s seen as a problem to many, as something that gets in the way of the job librarians have chosen, which is all about providing access to information. The second category recognises the complexity of copyright, and the need to have specialist knowledge to understand it. In this category the librarian often plays the role of pointing people to others or to information that might help. In the third category, understanding copyright and being able to simplify and communicate it effectively to others is an important part of librarian’s role. Finally, in our fourth category copyright is experienced as an opportunity for collaboration, where librarians are working with researchers or an enquirer to help them interpret copyright laws and negotiate what might be possible. This collaboration involves co-creation of understanding, and enables information professionals and their institutions to expand possibilities for providing access to information in an uncertain and changing environment. Here the idea of developing a copyright ‘community of practice’ can be really helpful.

We’ve still got some way to go before finalising our research, but hope to write it up as a journal article by the end of the year. We’d welcome any feedback you have and I hope to have some really interesting discussions with colleagues in Prague about the direction this is heading in!

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