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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 011-131-E
Division Number: III.
Professional Group: School Libraries and Resource Centres
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 131.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

School librarians, teachers and students facing together the challenge of literacy in the information society: the case of the european project CHILIAS

Alexandra Papazoglou,
Hellenic American Educational Foundation


How can children's and school libraries help students become information literate and able to function in the multilingual and multicultural environment they will live and work in? Project Chilias, funded by the European Commission within the framework of the Telematics Applications Programme -Telematics for Libraries, 1994-1998, offers, through relevant research and development, a new model for libraries interested in becoming stimulating environments for innovative learning with the use of technologies. The project with partners from Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal and Spain has developed a multimedia virtual library on the web with content on selected topics, a guest-book, story-builder and information skills components. The application and its impact in the case of a library and educational community are presented here in the context of three school libraries.



We live in the age of information abundance, of big social and economic changes and of impressive technological advances. Information technology represents "a change even more far reaching than the harnessing of electrical power a century ago" (1) . At the same time, distance, once a factor that made communications expensive and complicated, becomes increasingly irrelevant. Teaching and learning in this new environment is a real challenge for schools and libraries. There are many questions and few straight answers. How to make children active players in the information society? How best to prepare them for the multicultural and multilingual environment they will live and work in? What skills to integrate in the curriculum and in the school library practice and how? What is the appropriate learning method to be used? In 1996, sixty five percent of U.S. schools were equipped to use the Internet (2) versus five percent of the schools of the European Union. (3) To support and facilitate the use and exploitation of the learning opportunities offered by multimedia tools and advanced telecommunications, the European Commission is funding model projects. Their role, by the replicability of the model they develop and the spin-off effect through dissemination activities, is to influence the situation on the national, the European and the international level.


Project Chilias (4) is such an initiative funded by the Libraries Sector under the Telematics Fourth Framework Programme 1994-1998. Chilias stands for "Children in libraries: information - animation - skills" and is coordinated by the city of Stuttgart Public Library System with partners the Public Library Systems of the cities of Gateshead in Britain, of Vaanta in Finland and of Barcelona in Spain, the school libraries of the Hellenic American Educational Foundation (HAEF) in Greece, the IT Center for Schools of the University of Helsinki and ISEGI of the New University of Lisbon as a technical expert. A fairly large number of associate partners is also attached to the project.

Chilias' goal was to develop, during its two year duration (1996-1998), a multimedia virtual simulation of a children's library on the WWW in six languages, English, Finnish, German, Greek, Portuguese and Spanish, for children aged 9 to 12 (the age goes up to 14 for the libraries of the HAEF). What brought together the forward looking libraries involved in the project was the genuine desire to design new learning environments that would offer their children users the ways and means to information literacy; to expose to this new learning process the professionals involved in the effort, the librarians and the teachers; and to advance as institutions in order to meet and implement the new technological and educational developments. The main objectives of the project were to:

In the case of the three libraries of the Hellenic American Educational Foundation (two elementary and one secondary school libraries) great emphasis is placed in integrating and combining the effort with the school curriculum.

Structure of the project

The project was built around four modules that served as guidelines in the development process.

Module "Lib", a virtual representative digital children's library, with digitized materials -parts of books, photos, maps, images, videos, sound samples, text, children's products- to selected library topics.

Module "Net" a communication network for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of experiences of children and professionals. "Net" may take the form of an e-mail communication, or of correspondence through the provision of a "guest-book".

Module "Act" an interactive library service encouraging children to express their creative skills by generating their own materials and disseminating them through the medium of advanced telecommunications.

Module "Skills", an information package, that assists the information skills acquisition process in young learners.

The digital library that was created and includes the elements of all four modules is called "Infoplanet", subtitled "A journey into the unknown". The metaphor of space exploration used, suggests a challenge to those kids that want to explore the world of information provided, travel in a virtual context and discover in the process, available resources, different cultures, the possibilities of networked telecommunications and the pleasure of becoming a skilled navigator.

The Parts of "Infoplanet"
Based on the guidelines of the four modules, the parts developed in the context of Infoplanet were: content for selected topics, a story-builder, a guest-book and a skills component called Infoton.

The picture story offers the student the possibility to write a story based on a selection of open or secret pictures. The student selects a picture and writes his/her text on the basis of that picture. A minimum of three pictures need to be selected before the writer can publish his/her story. Before publishing the students have the possibility to edit their text and make the necessary corrections. The picture story structure gives the additional advantage of use irrespective of language. So far, stories have been written at all partner sites both in the national languages and in English. The best stories written in English appear as a separate selection in the story-builder.

A story to be recreated and a story to be continued and finished. During the development stage of the project, Eugene Trivizas, a popular Greek children's author was contacted and was asked for a contribution to the story-builder. He offered two stories: "The secret of the land of darkness" and "Stephanie and the enormous wedding cake". In the first selection children are asked to "enter the dark dark contest" and give their own version of why a firefly found itself in a dark room. In the case of the second story children are supposed to read it and continue it as they like.

For all partners involved, working together to reach the goals set by the project and becoming familiar with the different work and educational environments in each country, has been a great educational and cultural experience. It represents the invisible success of the project, but one highly valued by the participants.

The use and application of Infoplanet in the context of the school library
The three libraries of the Hellenic American Educational Foundation (HAEF) were the only school libraries that participated as partners in the project, all the other partner libraries being children's sections of public libraries. Undertaking the Chilias project has been for these three school libraries a challenging but also a rewarding and beneficial experience. Librarians, teachers and students joined their efforts in the development and use of Infoplanet, in getting to know the Internet and in taking advantage of its many educational opportunities. To accomplish the goals of Chilias and the heavy workload it involved with only one additional librarian, required the mobilization of all the resources available in the school community. The following actions taken were essential in that respect:


In the two years duration of Chilias the libraries and librarians of the HAEF have greatly changed. They are in a position now to offer innovative multimedia supported learning and help children and faculty use multimedia technology in a creative way. In the user needs analysis undertaken in the early stages of the project, children's access to the Internet represented a very small percentage.(5) Now Internet is not only demystified for the library users, but also its use is integrated in the curriculum. The challenge for our educational systems is to prepare students to be information literate citizens for the twenty first century. Research shows that the library media center impacts the learning environment of the school.(6)Chilias in a subtle and inconspicuous way has brought many changes in the school community and placed a seed in the search for the correct pedagogical approach in the formation of the information literate student. Moreover, Chilias is a model to be imitated by other school libraries.

Bibliographical Notes

  1. Cairncross, Frances, "A connected world", The Economist, Sept. 13, 1997.

  2. US Dept. of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. NCES 97-944, Feb. 1997

  3. Finnish Information Agency (Helsigin Sanomat) 4.10.1996

  4. International Chilias home page: http//www.isegi.unl.pt/chilias_int/

  5. Tuominen, Kirsti. Children Libraries and Information Technology: results of the user needs analyses. The association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, 1997, p.35.

  6. Tastad, Shirley and Tallman, Julie. " Library Power", Knowledge Quest, Jan/Feb. 1998, p.21.