Information Literacy and Open Access: two movements – one aim?

The LILAC (Information Literacy) Conference programme is taking place at the University of Nottingham from 24th-26th April. The draft programme is now up on their website and we will be hosting a panel discussion on the relationship between information literacy and the open access movement on Thursday 25th April. The idea to run this panel was partly inspired by watching Paywall the movie last autumn and reflecting on whether open access on its own was enough to ensure that anyone could get access to scholarly knowledge. I was reminded of a quote I used when writing about information literacy for many years from Professor Diana Laurillard, who said (and I am paraphrasing) that giving people access to information and equating it with education was like trying to solve a housing crisis by giving people bricks. There are a whole host of reasons that mean that access to knowledge (ie not having a paywall in place) is just one barrier to people being able to access and use information and knowledge, particularly when that knowledge is published scholarly content, not aimed at an everyday reader. In my mind, open access is vital, but it is really closely related to issues of information literacy such as information privilege, being discerning and knowing how to interpret data and statistics.

In addition to me and Chris, our esteemed panel includes:

  • Dr Elizabeth Gadd, Research Policy Manager from Loughborough University,
  • Dr Stuart Taylor, Head of Publishing at the Royal Society,
  • Stephen Wyber, IFLA’s Policy and Advocacy Manager,
  • Claire Sewell from the Research Support Skills Coordinator, University of Cambridge,
  • Damian Mitchell, formerly Facet Publishing, now at Lexis Nexis.

The abstract is reproduced below, and we hope if you’re coming to LILAC you’ll join us at the panel. We’ll be writing this up as a blog post in due course, possibly even publishing something depending on the outcome!

This symposium explores the relationship between information literacy and scholarly communication (ACRL, 2013) and how they both relate to the concept of openness. One important aspect of that relationship is how to square open access with developing the literacies that both researchers and citizens need. It considers whether the open access movement has been more successful in highlighting its cause than those who champion for IL and the reasons for any differences. The panel will discuss whether open access without information literacy is helpful, or if information literacy without full access to publicly funded research is realistic. It will also consider the role that copyright education plays in both movements in light of the recent Statement on Copyright Literacy from IFLA (IFLA, 2018).

The panel will comprise of experts in copyright, information literacy, scholarly communications and open access. It will include a representative from IFLA working in the field of information literacy and copyright reform, an academic publisher and an open access advocate from the Royal Society.

The session starts with a short clip from the movie Paywall: the business of scholarship released in September 2018 to highlight inequalities in access to information and knowledge. The panel will discuss the critical issues of access to knowledge affecting the library and education sector and the role played by both information literacy and open access. They will consider issues such as:

  • Information Literacy and its relationship with information privilege and social justice.
  • The idea of the open access movement as a movement, and what IL can learn from this in championing for reform.
  • The issue of copyright and whose rights should be protected – authors or publishers?
  • What can librarians do as collection managers, who negotiate licences with publishers and seek to provide equitable access to those collections for their users?
  • What can librarians do as educators to highlight issues surrounding access to information in their teaching? 
  • Finally the panel will discuss the IFLA Copyright Literacy statement and what role copyright education might plays in both movements.

Delegates will hear from the panel members in turn and then have the opportunity to explore some of these issues in small group discussions. There will be a chance to question the panel further, directed by the Chair. It will end with each panel member offering a short summing up with suggestions for future action. The symposium aims to generate practical ideas for starting a dialogue with those inside and outside the library community to support both the OA and IL movement and to suggest ways the two communities could work together better. 


ACRL (2013) Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment. ACRL. Available at: 

Paywall the movie: the business of scholarship. Available at: 

IFLA (2018) Accelerating Access: IFLA Statement on Copyright Education and Copyright Literacy. Available at: 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.