MRU Library Blog

The Value of Information Literacy in the Workplace


Sara Sharun is exploring how information literacy is experienced in the workplace through her most recent scholarship that surveys Alberta health care professionals.

Exploring Value as a Dimension of Professional Information Literacy is a recently published study that questions what information literacy looks like through the eyes of health centre staff, and suggests how their information practices can help Library and Information Studies (LIS) researchers understand the concept of information literacy.

Sharun, who is an Assistant Professor and Librarian, conducted seven interviews with youth support specialists and medical office assistants at a Calgary community health centre in spring 2018.

The qualitative study explored the concept of information value as it emerged from participants’ descriptions of their work with clients in the context of their workplace, the network of human service organizations in Calgary, and the broader health and social care system.

“What was most surprising to me was the subjective nature of information value. The information they used in practice was valued only if it supported client outcomes and helped build and maintain relationships with clients. This relationship-based approach to information use is something I think warrants more consideration by librarians working with their own clients,” says Sharun.

She observed that key concepts related to information literacy,  largely developed in and for academic settings, were evident in the staff members’ descriptions but looked quite different within the health centre. Sharun suggests that future studies examine the nature of these differences more carefully and in other contexts to continue to build a more complex understanding of these concepts.

“I think there is a lot of space for LIS researchers to make more connections between workplace and educational settings, and develop more insight from studies of different professional, personal and everyday life contexts to inform our information literacy instruction for students and future professionals.”