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Libraries and Media 2012. Study on the status of media education in public libraries

For several years, the Division for Cultural Policy of the Ministry of Education and Culture has supported the development of media education in public libraries. In 2004, the Ministry published a draft for an operational programme entitled Mediaväkivalta. Lapset ja media (Violence in Media. Children and Media) (Opetusministeriön monisteita 2004:10). The draft programme states that media education can be carried out by several different actors. Alongside Yle, Finland’s national public service broadcasting company; the Finnish Film Archive, and regional fi lm archives, libraries are highlighted as public cultural institutions that can function as important providers of media education. Libraries are also mentioned as central actors in the promotion of digital equality between the regions.

The national development of media education provided by public libraries has been supported, for example, through the Ministry’s Children and Media programme. Between 2006 and 2010, a total of EUR 680,000 worth of support was allocated to the projects. The Uimarengas mediatulvaan – kirjastosta (Swimming Ring for Media Flood – Provided by Library) (2006) and Superkirtsi (Super Library) (2007–2008) projects developed operational models and materials for media education carried out by libraries and organised training for library professionals. The Lapset, media ja kirjastot (Children, Media and Libraries) project, active between 2009 and 2011, arranged training for regional providers of media education for libraries, produced a collection of articles and created learning material for the purpose. In addition, a media education website for library professionals and children’s web service entitled Okariino were developed. The projects were coordinated by the Finnish Library Association, and their implementation was carried out in cooperation with the Helsinki City Library / the national central library / Kirjastot.fi and the Media Education Centre Metka.

The aim of the study on media education provided by libraries was to obtain information on the impact of measures taken by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the status of media education in municipal public libraries in Finland. The study focused particularly on attitudes and conceptions with reference to media education, the visibility of media education projects and materials and the realisation of media education in the daily activities of libraries. The target group of the study consisted of all municipal public libraries in Finland (321 in total). The questionnaire was addressed primarily to library directors. The data for the study was collected in the form of an online survey between 27 March and 16 April 2012. The response percentage was 41.

Based on the results, media education is generally considered to be important. The provision of media education in comprehensive school is deemed very important by almost all respondents. Library is considered to be a very important provider of media education by a third of the respondents and rather important by more than half of the respondents. The most important goal of media education is considered to be inspiring children to read and supporting their interest in reading. The book is deemed the most important instrument of media education. The most central topics in media education are considered to be information management skills and the ability to differentiate between fact and fiction. The most important target group for media education is deemed to be children aged 9 to 12. Also young people aged 13 to 18 are considered to be an important target group. The majority of respondents consider adults a very important or rather important target group. Immigrants are deemed a very important target group by more than 25 per cent of the respondents.

A relatively small proportion of respondents had explored the media education material or projects in more detail. Most often (20%), the respondents had more detailed knowledge of the Superkirtsi project. Of the respondents, 15 per cent had more detailed knowledge of the Media Bus Tour organised by the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Out of the projects and materials addressed in the study, three were not recognised by more than half of the respondents. With respect to media education materials, the respondents place special value on the provision of information about the materials and practical instructions. Clearly less importance is placed on the theory of media education and the presentation of related concepts and assessment methods.

Out of the libraries, 81 per cent has been involved in some national, regional or local media education project in the past two years. Only 16 per cent of the libraries are involved in some network related to media education. In 25 per cent of the libraries, media education or the promotion of media literacy has been incorporated into the job description of a staff member. Only few libraries have defined a certain percentage or number of hours of this person's total working hours to be used on work related to media education. Usually, such person has the overall responsibility for the coordination of work activities and events related to media education.

In slightly less than 20 per cent of the libraries, media education is either incorporated into the action plan or a separate media education plan has been prepared. In half of the libraries, media education had been discussed, but it had not been incorporated into the action plan. In one third of the libraries, the matter had not been taken up in connection with the preparation of the action plan or it had been agreed that it would not be included in the action plan. In more than one third of the libraries, a plan for library-school cooperation had been drawn up in cooperation with the schools. In slightly less than one third of the libraries, the cooperation plan had been drawn up independently, while in the remaining third of the libraries no cooperation plan was in place.

The most common working method in media education carried out by libraries is school visits. Often, media education is carried out as part of the daily work in the libraries. Story hours, too, are relatively common. Different courses and workshops are implemented regularly in just a few libraries. The most common target group of media education is 9 to 18-year-olds. A fi fth of the libraries also provide media education on a regular basis to 0 to 8-year-olds. More than half of the libraries provide media education at least occasionally to adults and senior citizens. Media education is provided to immigrants at least occasionally by two out of five libraries. In two out of three libraries, the media education provided regularly focuses on topics related to literature. The internet is addressed regularly in slightly less than half of the libraries. Film, music, games, television, advertising and radio are regular topics of media education in relatively few libraries.

Less than half of the libraries have specific equipment or facilities for media education. Two out of five libraries provide a games console or a specific computer or computer facility for gaming. One in three libraries have a digital camera and one in four libraries have a facility for the digitizing and editing of material. Only one in five libraries have a separate studio facility.

Lack of time and insufficient personnel are perceived as clearly more significant obstacles for the organization of media education in libraries. Attitudes of customers and management are considered to be significant obstacles for the realisation of media education in rare cases only. In addition to the research results, the Library and Media 2012 publication contains expert viewpoints focusing on literacies as the cornerstone of the library, the role of information specialists in the implementation of media education, aspects related to encountering the customer, media education events for library staff , and parents and children as peer tutors in media education.

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