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

L-R – Claire Sewell, Lizzie Gadd, Jane Secker, Chris Morrison, Stuart Taylor and Stephen Wyber

Last week at the LILAC 2019 conference at the University of Nottingham, I was lucky enough to assemble an impressive line-up of speakers to take part in a symposium to explore the relationship between information literacy and scholarly communication and how they both relate to the concept of copyright education. My panel consisted of:

  • Chris Morrison, University of Kent
  • Claire Sewell, University of Cambridge
  • Stephen Wyber, IFLA
  • Elizabeth Gadd, Loughborough University
  • Stuart Taylor, Royal Society
  • And me, Jane Secker, Chair of CILIP Information Literacy Group (Chair)

The panel considered 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. We discussed whether open access without information literacy is helpful, or if information literacy without full access to publicly funded research is realistic. We also considered the role that copyright education plays in both movements in light of the recent Statement on Copyright Literacy from IFLA (IFLA, 2018).

The session started with several short clips from the movie Paywall: the business of scholarship released in September 2018 to highlight inequalities in access to information and knowledge. We then discussed the critical issues of access to knowledge affecting the library and education sector and the role played by both information literacy and open access. Each speaker addressed a specific question and their notes are included in full in a Google Doc.

Delegates heard from the panel members in turn and then had the opportunity to explore some of these issues in smaller group discussions. The symposium aimed 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. The slides from the session are available online.

  • I opened the panel addressing the question of Information Literacy and its relationship with information privilege and social justice.
  • Chris Morrison addressed the question of what can librarians do as collection managers, who negotiate licences with publishers and seek to provide equitable access to those collections for their users?
  • Claire Sewell discussed what can librarians do as educators to highlight issues surrounding access to information in their teaching?
  • Stuart Taylor discussed the idea of the open access movement as a movement, and what IL can learn from this in championing for reform.
  • Lizzie tackled the thorny issue of copyright and whose rights should be protected – authors or publishers?
  • Finally Stephen discussed the IFLA Copyright Literacy statement, launched in August 2018 and what role copyright education might plays in both movements.

We followed the panel with a mixture of small group discussions around the six questions and then an open question and answer session. In conclusion we felt that not enough connections have been made between these two movements in the UK at both a strategic and operational level. Within university libraries support for teaching has often not been linked to support for research which has tended to focus on getting staff to deposit their publications in a repository. The open access agenda has sometimes been lost behind a need to comply with the REF which leads academic staff to be less engaged with the movement from an ideological perspective. There wasn’t enough to time to explore all the issues and the Information Literacy group are planning a follow up event based on the interest this panel session generated. Judging from the number of people who attended this session I think we struck a chord and I look forward to continuing the discussion further.


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:


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