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Media and Information Literacy in school libraries in Portugal: mapping practices to improve policies

Sara Pereira et Margarida Toscano


En 2011, dans le cadre d’une étude qui a analysé la situation de l’éducation aux médias au Portugal (Pinto et al., 2011), les bibliothèques scolaires ont été identifiées comme des contextes émergents au niveau de la promotion de l’éducation aux médias en milieu scolaire. Depuis lors, plusieurs bibliothèques se sont affirmées comme telles, étendant leur action éducative du domaine de l’information à celui des médias. La 1er édition du référentiel Apprendre avec les bibliothèques scolaires, publié par le Réseau portugais des bibliothèques scolaires (Conde, Mendinhos et Correia, 2017, 2e ed.) et le Référentiel d’éducation aux médias pour l’éducation préscolaire, l’enseignement primaire et l’enseignement secondaire, approuvé par le Ministère de l’éducation en 2014 (Pereira et al., 2014) peuvent avoir contribué à cette élargissement. En plus de ces référentiels, la formation continue des enseignants dans ce domaine peut également avoir aidé l’éducation aux médias à trouver un espace de mise en œuvre dans les bibliothèques scolaires. Afin de connaître la situation actuelle de l’éducation aux médias dans le contexte des bibliothèques scolaires, une étude quantitative a été réalisée sur la base d’un questionnaire en ligne appliqué à la population des professeurs bibliothécaires au Portugal continental. L’échantillon final est composé de 743 professeurs, ce qui représente 53% de la population. Les données montrent une attention particulière dans ce domaine centrée sur les dangers et les risques d’internet et des réseaux sociaux et sur l’utilisation des médias en tant que ressources d’apprentissage. Ils montrent également la nécessité d’intégrer la MIL (media and information literacy) dans la formation initiale des enseignants et d’investir davantage dans des programmes de formation continue, l’objectif étant non seulement de consolider la MIL à l’école, mais également d’élargir le type d’approches, de thèmes et de stratégies de mise en œuvre.

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Text revision financed by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology through the pluriannual Funding from the Communication and Society Research Centre 2020-2023, base funding with reference UIDB / 00736/2020.

Introduction: teacher-librarians as MIL promotion agents

1In the deeply mediatized society in which we live, citizens are required to know how to use and navigate digital environments. The development of information and media literacy (MIL), which includes digital literacy, has become a fundamental area for citizenship and democracy. In this context, citizen’s empowerment is decisive. School libraries (SL), due to the functions they currently assume in the context of school and society, have become important educational agents since they are, first, centres of learning and, second, centres of resources (Herring, 2007). The teacher-librarian (T-L) is asked to play a dynamic role, to put into practice new pedagogies and to develop multiple literacies that are required of students in today’s world. Among those literacies, MIL is a key area.

2In the research foundation paper School libraries work!, the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science maintains that “across the United States, research has shown that students in schools with good school libraries learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries.” (NCLIS, 2008, p. 4). In this regard, one should also emphasize the study conducted by Todd & Kuhlthau (2005) with school students from school libraries of the American state of Ohio that shows “an effective school library is not just informational, but transformational and formational, leading to knowledge creation, knowledge production, knowledge dissemination, and knowledge use, as well as the development of information values.” (2005, p. 63). According to Todd (2003), among the areas that SL should include in their action, in order to become dynamic agents of teaching-learning, are ’information literacy’ and ’technological literacy’, the latter being understood as “Development of media and technological skills, which include critical thinking and communication competencies; as well as the appropriate and ethical use of technology for information access, retrieval, production, and dissemination.” (Todd, 2003, p. 6). Hobbs (2011, 2019), a leading American researcher on media literacy and director of the Media Education Lab, has emphasized the importance of school libraries, public libraries and other community institutions as Media Literacy centres in the context of formal and informal education. In the presentation note of the book The library screen scene that Hobbs wrote with Liz Deslauriers and Pam Steager (2019), it is stated that “in the past two decades, several U.S. states have explored ways to mainstream media literacy in the school curriculum. However, one of the best and most accessible places to learn this necessary skill has not been the traditional classroom but rather the library”. Similarly, Mihailidis and Diggs (2010, p. 279) argue that “media literacy, while growing considerably during the past three decades, remains on the margins of educational establishments in the United States”, pointing to the school library as a place for media literacy learning. This view, shared in several locations, comes from the need for SL to reposition their role in the digital media age. In Norway, Ingvaldsen (2014, 2017) presents the projects and their results conducted under the Norwegian School Library Program (2009-2013) “designed to make sure the school library was included in reading education and in the promotion of MIL.” (Ingvaldsen, 2017, p. 51). Also in Portugal, SL have gradually positioned themselves to provide resources and develop competences to help children and young people to critically read, analyse and produce media (Pereira and Toscano, 2020).

3In these works, the collaboration of the T-L with other teachers, allowing for the integration of literacies in the curriculum, is pointed out as the appropriate support for the formative and transforming work of the SL and a condition for its success : “Central to this work is the role of the school librarian as an information learning specialist, working with classroom teachers to foster opportunities for students to learn well.” (Todd & Kuhlthau, 2005, p. 86). The American Association of School Librarians argues that collaboration, together with leadership and technology, are the three fundamental components for “creating learning-centered library media centres” and to “sustain a powerful vision for the twenty-first century”1. Other authors such as Haycok (2007, p. 32), Montiel-Overall (2005) and Herring (s.d., p. 13) reinforce the key role of collaborative work in effective teaching and learning processes, which is also crucial in the MIL field.

4Four basic principles involve the work of Media Literacy (ML): (1) access, (2) analysis, (3) evaluation, (4) production (Livingstone, 2004). It is around these dimensions that it is defined by the European Commission (2009): “Media literacy reports to the ability to access the media, to understand and critically evaluate different aspects of the media and media content and to create communications in a variety of contexts.” (EC, 2009, article 11). It is also in this sense that Roger Silverblatt formulates his definition:

The development of strategies with which to discuss and analyse media messages; an awareness of media content as “text” that provides insight into our contemporary culture and ourselves; the cultivation of an enhanced enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of media content; and in the case of media communicator, the ability to produce effective and responsible media messages. (Silverblatt 2001, p. 120).

5Buckingham (2003), a well-known English researcher in this field, refers that “media literacy is clearly more than simply a functional literacy” (p. 37), it is “a form of critical literacy” (p. 38). In this sense, and according to the author, media literacy “refers to the knowledge, skills and competencies that are required in order to use and interpret media” (p. 36), adding that “it also involves a much broader analytical understanding.” (p. 38).

6Unifying the notions of Information Literacy and Media Literacy, Unesco proposes the concept of MIL, considering that “on the one hand, information literacy emphasizes the importance of access to information and the evaluation and ethical use of such information. On the other hand, media literacy emphasizes the ability to understand media functions, evaluate how those functions are performed and to rationally engage with media for self-expression.” (Unesco, 2011, p. 18). In 2012, the Moscow declaration on MIL (Unesco, 2012), appealed to several authorities to integrate MIL in all national, educational, cultural, information and media policies. In this declaration MIL is defined as “a combination of knowledge, attitudes, skills, and practices required to access, analyse, evaluate, use, produce, and communicate information and knowledge in creative, legal and ethical ways that respect human rights. Media and information literate individuals can use diverse media, information sources and channels in their private, professional and public lives.” (Unesco, 2012, p. 2). It is this concept of MIL proposed by Unesco that guides this study.

7Integrating MIL as a core learning area in SL daily work has become one of its fundamental goals in the digital media age. The latest School library guidelines published by International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (Ifla) continue to reinforce the function of the SL “as a teaching and learning centre that provides an active instructional program integrated into curriculum content.” (Ifla, 2015, p. 17). The focus of this programme should be on some “core pedagogical activities, including those on MIL (e.g., information literacy, information skills, information competences, information fluency, media literacy, transliteracy).” (Ibid., p. 8). Following August, Valenza and Abbas (2011, p. 26) “school librarians need to take their services and programs to where today’s teens are, and today’s teens are very often online in social networks or texting via cell phones.” Indeed, the role of T-L is even more fundamental in today’s information and knowledge-based society. This is also the starting point of this study.

8Based on the role that SL are assigned in the digital age and the important role they can play with the student population in terms of MIL competences, this study aims to map MIL practices in the context of Portuguese SL. Through an online questionnaire applied to 743 T-L, it seeks to understand the current status of MIL in this educational context, identifying types of activities, areas, themes, strategies and methodologies, promoters and target audiences. The study addresses the following research question: how is MIL being implemented in the context of school libraries?

School libraries in Portugal and their role in promoting MIL

9In Portugal, the School Libraries Network (SLN) programme has been operating since 1996. It was launched by the Ministries of Education and Culture with the aim of installing and developing libraries in public schools at all levels of education. SLN, as the name implies, operates in a network philosophy, through partnerships with different educational agents. It is managed by an Office made up of a multidisciplinary team whose mission is to conceive, implement and evaluate diversified intervention initiatives in SL. Twenty-five years on and SLN now consists of 2,524 SL and has approximately 1,400 T-L. These teachers are almost exclusively dedicated to SL and are responsible for promoting literacies in articulation with teachers from different subjects and curricular areas. Thanks to the SLN programme, public schools were made aware of the importance and urgency of education for multiple literacies and conventional libraries transformed into multimedia learning centres. In this sense, as in other countries, the Portuguese SLN has taken on the promotion of MIL as one of its main functions.

10In 2011, a pioneer study on the situation of media education in Portugal, promoted by the Media Regulatory Body and developed by researchers from the University of Minho (Pinto et al., 2011), surveyed projects and activities developed in ML area and identified the different actors responsible for its implementation. SL came up as emerging actors in the promotion of media education in the country.

  • 2 The 2012 edition covered only pre-school, the 1st and 2nd cycles of basic education; the 2nd editio (...)

11Considering the impact of the technological and digital revolution in education, schools and in the lives of children, young people and their families, and bearing in mind the role of SL in promoting multiple literacies, SLN published the referential document Learning with the school library in 2012, with a revised and expanded edition coming out in 20172.

12Despite acknowledging the hybrid and multi-media character of culture in the 21st century and, therefore, the crossing and even contamination between the different literacies, the referential is nonetheless divided into three areas: reading literacy, media literacy and information literacy. For each one, learning standards are defined and operational strategies and activities are suggested. Following national and international guidelines and significant studies in the area, some of which are quoted above, the SLN referential has been structured for active and motivating pedagogies and cooperative work, involving the whole school community. Figure 1 represents the working model of SL in Portugal and the interaction between the main elements involved.

Figure 1. Working model of School Libraries in Portugal as agents for the promotion of literacies

Figure 1. Working model of School Libraries in Portugal as agents for the promotion of literacies

Source: own elaboration.

13The 2012 edition of the referential publication Learning with the school library was subject of a pilot experiment that started in 2012-13 and lasted for three academic years, having involved a total of 210 basic schools, from the 1st to the 3rd cycle (in some cases also preschool) (Toscano & Conde, 2017). A main conclusion was that ML was the least selected, with only 16% of schools working in this area. From this time on, the annual reports on its implementation show an increase in the number of schools, teachers and students involved, with a significant extension of its application from 2015-2016 onwards. Data related to the 2018-19 school year indicated that the referential was applied in 1,824 schools and 29,489 activities were carried out (RBE, 2019). The two figures below show that there are more schools working on ML Literacy (27%) if compared with 2012, but in the total of the activities ML continues to represent only 17%.

Figure 2. Percentage of schools working in each of the three areas of literacy in 2018-19 (N = 1824)

Figure 2. Percentage of schools working in each of the three areas of literacy in 2018-19 (N = 1824)

Source: Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares, 2019

Figure 3. Distribution of activities by literacy area in 2018-19

Figure 3. Distribution of activities by literacy area in 2018-19

Source: Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares, 2019

14In the past school year, the context created by the Covid 19 pandemic interrupted most activities and projects, so the numbers, still in the final counting phase, dropped. Participating schools, for example, have decreased to 1,557.

15In addition to the referential specifically designed for T-L, the Directorate-General for Education launched the Media education guidance aimed at all levels of education, from pre-school to secondary education, in 2014. It starts out from the idea that

The importance of Media Education in schools stems from the fact that children and young people are becoming more and more intensely identified as consumers and producers of media. They must therefore be equipped with the knowledge and skills for a well-informed consumption and understanding, particularly considering the growing complexity of these resources and contexts in which the media emerge and develop. (Pereira et al., 2014, p. 5).

16This guidance (currently under review and update) presents a set of guidelines for implementing media education through a progressive process, from preschool education up to basic and secondary levels, on a range of 12 topics: (1) Communicating and informing; (2) Understanding the current world; (3) Types of media; (4) ICT and screens; (5) Digital networks; (6) Entertainment and shows; (7) Advertising and brands; (8) Production and industry/Professionals and enterprises; (9) The Media as social construction; (10) Audiences and consumption; (11) Freedom and ethics, rights and duties; (12) We and the Media. Each of these topics covers sub-topics and goals.

17With the reform of the higher education system dictated by the Bologna Process in 2007, the few Portuguese universities that included ML in teachers’ initial training courses removed it from their study plans. The focus has therefore been on in-service teacher training, promoted by several entities. Although this training is still manifestly insufficient for an effective development of ML in educational institutions, greater attention has nevertheless been given to this area, particularly by SL and T-L. It was based on the observation of this reality and on the need to go beyond impressive perceptions with regard to the implementation of MIL in the SL that this study was carried out.

Study methodology

18This paper is based on a quantitative study on Media and information literacy in Portuguese school libraries conducted in 2019 by the authors of the paper. Through the online application of a questionnaire to the population of T-L in mainland Portugal, the study aims to understand the current situation of MIL promotion in SL; to identify and characterize the type of activities that are carried out in this area; and to understand some difficulties that may constrain its development. The research question that guides the study is: how is MIL being implemented in the context of school libraries?

19The questionnaire was applied between July and September 2019 to all T-L in mainland Portugal. The link for completing the questionnaire online was sent through the SLN.

20The 723 validated questionnaires were statistically analysed using the software IBM® SPSS® Statistics for Windows, version 25.0 (IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., USA). In order to describe and characterize the study sample, a descriptive analysis of the data was made according to the nature of the variables (qualitative or quantitative). The following measures were calculated: absolute frequencies (number of valid cases - No.); relative frequencies (percentage of valid cases -%); descriptive statistics of central tendency (mean, median and mode); dispersion (standard deviation); and the extreme values (minimum and maximum). In multiple-answer questions, the percentages of answers presented (% of cases) are relative to the total of valid cases.

21In the case of the question in which T-L were asked to indicate three MIL activities carried out in the last two school years (2017/2018 and 2018/2019), the answers were subjected to a process of cross-coding and consolidation by specialists. This codification resulted in eight thematic categories, as shown in the table below.

Table 1 – Thematic categories of MIL activities created from the responses of teacher- librarians. Source: own elaboration.

Thematic categories of MIL activities


Security and risks on the Internet and social networks


Disinformation and fake news


Research, plagiarism and copyright


Media and digital tools as supports or learning resources


Cinema and film literacy


Exploration and analysis of the media


Media and content production



Characterization of the sample of teacher-librarians

  • 3 Some teachers were already library/resource centre coordinators before the School Libraries Network (...)

22Of the 723 teacher-librarians who responded to the survey, 85% are female and 15% are male. The average age is 53 years old. Regarding academic training, 37% have a degree or equivalent, 32% have post-graduate studies, 29% have a master’s degree and 2% have a PhD. As far as their field of training is concerned, almost half of the sample (42%) are from the area of mother tongue and foreign languages, while 22% are from social and human sciences, 21% from pre-school, 1st cycle of basic education and special education, 10% from expressions and technologies and 5% from mathematics and experimental sciences. The most frequent number of years that respondents have held the post is 10 years, ranging from 0 (only months) to 35 years3.

23With regard to the geographical distribution of the sample, it was organized based on NUTS II (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics), consisting of 5 regions in mainland Portugal. Thus, 32% of T-L surveyed work in the North, 29% in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, 22% in the Center, 10% in Alentejo and 7% in Algarve (Figure 4) (this distribution corresponds to the percentage of SL by region).

Figure 4  Sample distribution by NUTS II regions in mainland Portugal

Figure 4 – Sample distribution by NUTS II regions in mainland Portugal

Source: own elaboration based on a map of Portugal

  • 4 Compulsory education in Portugal lasts 12 years and covers two levels: basic education and secondar (...)

24Considering the level of education of the student population served by the libraries in which they work, there are firstly those whose students are in the 3rd cycle of basic education, followed by SL for 2nd cycle students, then 1st cycle students and finally those serving secondary school students4. It should be noted that in pre-school education establishments there are no libraries, although children can use libraries in schools from the same cluster group, and T-L themselves can provide library services to kindergarten children.

25Of the teachers surveyed, 53% reported having attended in-service training courses on MIL while 47% said they had not. The main reasons given for not having attended concerns the lack of training provision in the area (N = 233), followed by the lack of knowledge of existing training courses (N = 113) and the lack of time and availability (N = 89 ). Only two teachers indicated lack of interest and 30 mentioned other reasons.

26All teachers said they are familiar with the referential document Learning with the school library and 63% with the Media education guidance. This high level of knowledge of both referential publications creates expectations in relation to the development of MIL in their professional context, a subject that will be addressed in the next section.

Findings: mapping MIL practices in Portuguese school libraries

27In this section we intend to identify and characterize MIL activities carried out in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.

28The results show that 66% of the T-L said they had undertaken or collaborated in carrying out MIL activities, while 34% said that had not been the case.

29Among the reasons for not carrying out MIL activities, 58.3% of the answers falls under the item “I do not feel able to carry out MIL activities”. This percentage leads us to assume that knowing the referential publications does not necessarily lead to the implementation of MIL and also to question if the offer of in-service training has been sufficient - or efficient. The second most stated reason (48.6%) is that they give priority to carrying out activities in other areas. The other reasons mentioned (see figure 5) obtain lower percentages and it should be noted that the reason “I do not professionally value the area of Media Literacy” obtained only six answers (2.4%).

Figure 5. Reasons for not promoting MIL activities

Figure 5. Reasons for not promoting MIL activities

Source: own elaboration.

30Let us focus now on MIL activities performed by the sample of T-L. Among those, 61% reported having performed 3 or less activities, while 39% mentioned having performed 4 or more in the two school years in study. On average, about 3.5 activities/projects were carried out, varying between 1 and 10. Seniority is not very differentiating factor when it comes to promoting this type of activity: 48% were carried out by T-L who have had the post for under 10 years while 52% were promoted by T-L with 10 or more years’ experience in the position.

31Those T-L were asked to choose three activities they considered most relevant and to characterize them. The activities were then codified in accordance with the thematic categories mentioned previously. The table below shows the frequency and percentage of activities by thematic category.

Table 2. Thematic categories of the three MIL activities indicated by T-L

Thematic categories

Activities 1

Activities 2

Activities 3









Security and risks on the Internet and social networks








Disinformation and fake news








Research, plagiarism and copyright








Media and digital tools as supports or learning resources








Cinema and film literacy








Exploration and analysis of the media








Media and content production
























Source: own elaboration.

32Three hundred and sixty-five activities were mentioned in first, 292 in second and 184 in third, out of a total of 841 activities. As table 2 shows, the predominant theme concerns security and risks on the Internet and social networks (31% of the total activities). Responding to what is currently a public concern, addressing the risks and dangers of digital media and environments through a protective approach has become very present in schools. Next are the activities that view the media and digital tools as supports, resources or learning tools (16% of the total), that is, activities in which the media are instrumental, and may not be object of critical reflection and analysis. The exploration, reading and critical analysis of the media make up only 10% of the activities carried out, the same percentage as information search activities, plagiarism and copyright. These two themes are central to MIL, the first in Media Literacy, the second in Information Literacy. It would be expected that this last area, a traditional one in the work of libraries, would have a stronger presence in the activities reported by the T-L. Disinformation and fake news, a phenomenon with strong public discussion and concern since 2016, did not go unnoticed by some teachers, despite being only 7% of the total of the activities. This is also the percentage reached by media production, a value that can be considered low given the digital tools available today for the creation and production of content. Furthermore, since this dimension is linked to expression and participation, that percentage may indicate few opportunities for students to express themselves and participate, although they may have other possibilities at school for that. Also worth mentioning is cinema and film literacy, which registered few activities despite three factors that could contribute to its further development: the tradition of film/cinema analysis in media education in Portugal in the pre-digital era; the National Cinema Plan in force in Portugal, aimed at schools; the dynamics of film clubs, which have a strong presence and articulation with schools in some Portuguese cities. Despite these apparently favourable conditions for the development of film literacy, it is still a very incipient area in the activities reported.

33Finally, also meriting attention is the percentage of initiatives classified in the ’other’ category, which reaches 16% of the total of activities, that is, the second highest value. Included in this category of the codification were all the activities indicated by the T-L which did not show any connection with MIL, nor any explicit relation with the media. Examples are activities of discovering nature or, more broadly, of natural sciences, reading stories, artistic expressions, etc. The total number of activities of this type is still high (N = 134), raising some questions in relation to its reasons. Thus, we hypothesized that the T-L, when answering the question in the survey wanted to indicate an activity, even if it was not from MIL area, for fear that it might pass on the idea of little work. The second reason, perhaps less probable, may be the lack of knowledge of what is encompassed in MIL.

34We shall now characterize the three groups of activities, without looking specifically at the themes.

35The main recipients of the activities are, as expected, the students. There is a greater number of initiatives aimed at students in the 3rd cycle of basic education, that is, adolescents between 12 and 15 years old. Of the four schooling cycles, those that come up with fewer initiatives are secondary education followed by the 1st cycle of basic education (6-10 yo).

36With regard to secondary education, which corresponds to the three years preceding entry into higher education, with exams at the end of each year, there is a strong tendency for the teaching-learning process to focus on preparing for these exams. In these three schooling years a kind of ’capsule’ is created and students seem to be kept inside it, in order to pay attention to the subjects in which they have to take an exam. Areas such as MIL end up being undervalued by teachers but also by students (Pereira, Fillol and Moura, 2019). Being an important phase in the personal, social and cultural growth of young people aged between 15 and 18 years old, this vision of the teaching-learning process ends up confining them to the syllabus of what are considered core subjects, creating few opportunities to approach other issues that are important for their citizenship. Despite this, initiatives for these students are occasionally found, as figure 6 shows.

37Regarding the 1st cycle of basic education students, the curriculum management, with a single teacher, could allow more freedom for MIL integration, however, there is sometimes the idea that MIL topics are not very suitable for children of this age, although, as several national and international studies confirm, the media are intertwined in their daily lives. The category ’others’ may include pre-school children.

Figure 6. Recipients of MIL activities

Figure 6. Recipients of MIL activities

Source: own elaboration.

38The activities directed at teachers (N = 30) are mainly training sessions, most of them on the use of digital tools as a resource for learning. As far as parents and guardians are concerned, the 10 activities aimed at them pertain to lectures, debates and exhibitions organized by SL. It should be noted that the activities meant for the educational and operational staff (N = 3) are not related to this area.

39Activities are developed in disciplinary curricular areas [N = 336); in transversal curricular areas (N = 297); and in extracurricular time (N =137) (figure 7). The T-L classified 51 activities under the item ’others’, which may refer to activities carried out with preschool children who do not fall into any of the areas mentioned.

40Disciplinary curricular activities are those developed within the framework of a given discipline. Those carried out within the scope of Portuguese and foreign languages are the most expressive (N = 96), confirming the idea that these disciplines tend to welcome MIL more warmly. The following are activities conducted by disciplines of expression (artistic, visual) and technologies (N = 75). The existence of a mandatory discipline of Information and Communication Technologies in the 2nd and 3rd cycles of basic education, with a curricular programme open to the exploration of MIL issues, could foresee an even greater involvement in this type of activities. The same number of activities (N=75) were developed within the scope of subjects that are school offerings. Fewer activities are carried out in social and human sciences disciplines (N = 55) and even less in the field of mathematics and science (N = 35) (figure 7).

Figure 7. Scope of MIL activities carried out

Figure 7. Scope of MIL activities carried out

Source: own elaboration.

  • 5 Since the school year 2017/2018, citizenship education in the school curriculum has been part of th (...)
  • 6 MIL’s approach is guided by the Media Education Guidance (Pereira et al., 2014).

41The cross curricular activities concern the areas that are treated in a transversal way, that is, in school or class projects or in an interdisciplinary way integrating various disciplines and/or global dimensions of training. In this specific context, they also concern activities and projects developed in curricular articulation with the library. An example of a cross curricular area is citizenship education. Since 2018/2019, it is a mandatory discipline in the 2nd and 3rd cycle of basic education with the title ’Citizenship and Development’, being a transversal area in the 1st cycle of basic education and in secondary education5. Since that school year, it is in this discipline/area that MIL is integrated (along with 16 other domains), being mandatory in two of the three cycles of basic education6 (previously it was optional).

42Extracurricular activities are carried out in extra-academic time and include workshops, clubs, participation in contests, etc.

43According to T-L, these initiatives are developed by the library together with teachers (N = 360), which is in line with the high number of activities carried out in curricular articulation; or just by the library (N = 328); or by the library in partnership with external institutions (N =102), for example, the Municipal Library, the Parish Council, a museum, a university, a local radio, etc.

44With regard to frequency, most activities (44%) are held annually, that is, very sporadically. Only 10% of the activities are carried out weekly or monthly.

  • 7 The gap between the percentage of activities coded as media production (Table 2) and the percentage (...)

45Regarding the format or type of activity, the range is diverse, with the 7 most mentioned formats being the following (in descending order): workshop; digital, audio, video and print production (which also includes participation in school newspapers, blogs, radio and television)7; critical reading and analysis (text, image, audiovisual); talks; search for and validation of information; content creation through web tools/ applications; and debates. Although we do not have information that allows us to know how these formats are carried out, they nevertheless suggest a pedagogy that involves students, challenges them and gives them an active role.

46In the promotion of the activities, the most used and explored means are the Internet (used in 297 activities), the computer (used in 197), the press (printed and online) (used in 103) and social networks (used in 71). Television, radio and mobile phones register a very low number - they were used in 13, 17 and 14 activities, respectively. For the volume of activities reported, any of these numbers indicates a low use of these means. This data suggests that issues related to MIL may have been addressed without the direct use of the media. The very low use of the mobile phone, a device that the vast majority of students have access to and carry with them, can be explained by the prohibition of its use in the classroom and possibly in the library.

47Finally, it is important to analyse how these activities were evaluated and the levels of satisfaction perceived by the facilitators.

48According to the data, only 70 activities were not subject to any evaluation. All others were evaluated using different instruments, shown in figure 8.

Figure 8. Tools used to evaluate activities

Figure 8. Tools used to evaluate activities

Source: own elaboration.

49Assignments/final production were the most used in the evaluation of the three groups of activities, followed by questionnaires and group discussions. Tests - assessment, self-assessment and skills - are the least mentioned, which may be understandable, given the type and objectives of the activities.

50Still within the scope of the evaluation, we wanted to know the level of satisfaction of the teacher-librarians, as promoters of the initiatives, and their perception of the satisfaction of the public involved. As can be seen in figure 9 and figure 10, the mean for total of activities is quite satisfactory, with several items above the four points (on a scale of 1 to 5 points where 1 is very unsatisfied and 5 very satisfied).

51Regarding the satisfaction of T-L, the items below the four points relate to the skills promoted and to the technological means available and access to the Internet. This last item receives 3.7 points on the mentioned scale, showing some dissatisfaction on the part of the T-L. The problems existing in many Portuguese schools concerning access to the Internet and the scarce technological means available to work with students are not new, therefore, this discontent is not a surprise.

52With regard to skills, those values reveal some uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of activities for the development of technical, critical analysis and content production skills. The evaluation tools used, mentioned above, may not have had the level of accuracy necessary to gauge this effectiveness. The T-L show greater satisfaction with the motivation of the participants, which is the most valued item, alongside the school’s receptivity. They also show satisfaction with the level of preparation of the facilitators and the conditions of the spaces where the activities were carried out. In general, the level of satisfaction is very positive.

Figure 9. Level of satisfaction of teacher-librarians in relation to the activities carried out

Figure 9. Level of satisfaction of teacher-librarians in relation to the activities carried out

Mean of the three groups of activities in which 1 = Very unsatisfied to 5 = Very satisfied

Source: own elaboration.

53Concerning the perception of T-L about the level of satisfaction of the public who participated in the activities, as figure 10 shows, only one item receives less than four points (for the same scale). The least satisfactory item is related to the technological means available and the access to the Internet. This is a structural factor of the schools, and of the Ministry of Education itself, which is beyond the control of the T-L, but it can be an impeding factor, or at least demotivating, for the performance of this type of activities. Regarding the other items, the T-L perceive the recipients’ level of satisfaction to be high, namely in relation to interest in activities, themes, strategies used, space conditions and even learning. In respect to the latter, teachers’ perception of the recipients’ level of satisfaction is slightly higher than their own.

Figure 10. Perception of teacher-librarians about the satisfaction of the public involved in the activities

Figure 10. Perception of teacher-librarians about the satisfaction of the public involved in the activities

Mean of the three groups of activities in which 1 = Very unsatisfied to 5 = Very satisfied

Source: own elaboration.

54Finally, we focus on the added value of the performance of MIL activities in the SL context as pointed out by the respondents (figure 11). The item that receives the most answers (65%) is related to a main objective of MIL: to develop critical analysis, understanding and evaluation of media content/messages/products. This answer reveals that a significant percentage of T-L have, after all, the purposes of MIL’s work very much in mind. This objective is followed by the raising of students’ awareness of the risks and dangers of the media - a concern that is general to the school and to parents and which has been well received in the activities reported by teachers, as stated above. The development of participation skills, as well as research and information processing skills, received 38% and 37% of responses, respectively. The percentage of this last dimension is noteworthy since it can be considered as a purpose of the school library itself. As for the percentage of responses related to the development of student participation skills as citizens, it is an answer that deserves some reflection if we consider that participation is essential to the exercise of active citizenship and that this is one of the great purposes of MIL.

Figure 11. Added value generated by carrying out MIL activities in the SL context

Figure 11. Added value generated by carrying out MIL activities in the SL context

Source: own elaboration.

55Regarding the referential frameworks within which these activities fall - Learning with the school library and Media education guidance 76% were based on the former and 24% were based on the latter (N = 626).

Discussion and conclusion

56This study allowed one to better understand the situation of MIL in the context of SL. It showed MIL as a growing and developing area, confirming what the study on Media Education in Portugal (Pinto et al. 2011) had revealed almost a decade ago - SL as emerging contexts in the promotion of Media and Information Literacy. Since then libraries have consolidated their work in this area by the action of the T-L who affirmed themselves as important agents in implementing MIL in the school community. We verified that the number of years T-L hold this post is of little relevance with regard to performing MIL activities (the mean of years in office of those who promoted activities is 9.26 and that of those who did not is 8.85). However, it was proved that the frequency of MIL training courses for in-service teachers is associated with a greater performance of activities in this area (p < 0.05). In addition to this statistically significant result, the qualitative analysis of the reported activities reveals that they are very marked both by the training carried out (and by the themes) and by the initiatives that are launched annually for schools/SL, as is the case of competitions. These data point to the importance of what is proposed and to the need for greater attention to be given to the type of initiatives launched.

57As mentioned earlier, the referential document of the SLN, the Media education guidance of the Directorate-General for Education (although more the first than the second, as noted above), in-service teachers training courses, as well as the greater profusion of seminars and congresses that debate MIL, contributed to the advancement of the MIL situation at school. However, there is still a long way to go, not only to raise awareness of contexts and agents that still do not consider MIL as a working area, but also to improve, deepen and broaden the work that is already done, in terms of themes, skills and strategies.

  • 8 See

58The results show that there is a very positive articulation with several disciplinary curricular areas, which means that T-L play an important mediating role in relation to other teachers. This collaborative work is important at several levels but, in the specific case of MIL, it can help to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning. In a previous research project carried out in Portuguese schools within the scope of the European project Transliteracy8, a gap was observed between what students learn at school and in the classroom and what students learn outside of school, namely with and through the media (Pereira, Fillol and Moura, 2019). The work to be done within MIL can help to link these two worlds, which increasingly need to meet and promote mutual reflection. The permanent connectivity; the proliferation of information and contents; the way in which children and young people are informed about the world today and build their identity and citizenship cannot leave the school indifferent. Reading the world, and reading the media that present and represent that world, requires the development of transliteracy skills, that is, the use of grammars from different literacies. As Herring says (2007, p. 35), “Developing future information literate students will mean that teacher librarians and teachers will have to teach students how to apply their information literacy skills irrespective of what technology they are using and where they are finding and using information”.

59Data show that T-L recognize the MIL purpose of developing competences of analysis and critical understanding of information and media, however, the activities developed give priority to addressing security issues and risks on the Internet and social networks. Not forgetting the importance of this topic, it is important to bet on a more empowering approach, which protects but also prepares them.

60Another result worth highlighting is the observation that there is not always a direct use of the media in the activities undertaken. This situation can be understood by the difficulties of access to the Internet and technological means in schools, as has also been reported. In the 80s/90s, several authors (Lazar, 1988, for example), regarding the use and analysis of television and its absence in many schools, considered that, in these cases, television could be explored based on the experiences of the viewers that teachers had before them - students. Agreeing with this perspective, we would say that it is better to develop MIL activities even without access to the media than not to promote them. However, work in this field can only be effective, interesting and motivating if students can use and explore the media. When searching for and validating information, for example, there can only be significant learning if students puts the task into practice and are confronted with the situation; the same can be said of the analysis of a film, a series or a YouTuber. In this regard, it will be up to schools to review their policies and practices for using mobile phones in the classroom for educational purposes. Rehearsing new strategies to encourage students to develop critical perspectives, attitudes and practices in relation to the use and analysis of information and media in the various facets of their lives, inside and outside the school, is today an unavoidable challenge for educational institutions. If the school does not incorporate the new interactive, hybrid and multi-media culture in its pedagogical processes, it runs the risk of not having any attractiveness for the young and also losing its usefulness as a place for acquiring helpful knowledge for life.

61Another aspect that merits highlighting from the results is the need to create more opportunities for children and young people to express themselves and participate in and through the media, thus contributing to the compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the rights of the child (Comité Português para a Unicef, 2019). We stress, in this regard, the importance that school media - newspapers, television, radio, blogs - can have in the development of production and citizen participation skills and in the promotion of those rights. The students of the 3rd cycle of basic education emerged as the main target audience and although students from other levels of education were also involved, it would be important to reinforce this work with the whole student population, involving preschool children.

62The aspects to be implemented and improved as a result of the conclusions of this study are in line with the principles of the National strategy for citizenship (GTEC, 2017), in force since 2017, which “integrates a set of rights and duties that must be present in the citizen formation of Portuguese children and young people.” (Ibid., p. 1) and which, in fact, fit the curricular exploitation of the media. However, the media formulation followed in this document appears to confine the use of the media allows to a learning resource and not in a MIL perspective (see GTEC, 2017, p. 7). Those aspects are also contemplated in the document The profile of students leaving compulsory education (d’Oliveira Martins et al., 2017) which advocates that on leaving compulsory education the young person is a citizen “equipped with multiple literacies that allow him/her to critically analyse and question reality, evaluate and select information, formulate hypotheses and make decisions based on his/her daily life” in addition to being “capable of thinking critically and autonomously, being creative, and having the ability to work collaboratively and with the ability to communicate.” (Ibid., p. 15).

63Based on these two guiding documents, as well as the MIL referentials that already exist in Portugal, it is important to coordinate strategies and policies. An aspect that has been constantly highlighted (Frau-Meigs, 2019; Unesco, 2011) and that appears again in this study is the importance of teacher training – investing in in-service training programmes, but also including MIL in initial teacher training. This is a fundamental aspect for the successful implementation of MIL plans because, as stated by Hobbs (2011, p. 15), “transformational change does not come about simply by generating documents or developing written standards”.

64Therefore, as any form of educational practice, MIL needs clear and consistent policies that frame and support its development and implementation. From the practices mapped by this study, there is a need to define, promote or consolidate the following policies:

  • Redefine and affirm MIL’s place in the school curriculum;

  • Bringing together the MIL approach and the ICT approach (or technological and functional digital literacy);

  • Improve access to the Internet and technological means in schools;

  • Update the initial training of educators and teachers to include the MIL approach in their study plans;

  • Continue to invest in the in-service teacher training in this area;

  • Deepen a culture of collaboration, sharing and articulation between teachers and between teachers and SL;

  • Strengthen the school’s partnerships with the local community (local media, universities, research centres, municipal libraries, etc.) for a more effective promotion of MIL.

65This study contributed to the analysis of what is happening in Portuguese SL in the specific area of MIL, making known a reality that was not yet extensively studied, contributing, in this way, to filling a gap in the research. It contributed as well to gathering evidence for decision making in this field. As various studies cited previously pointed out, the SL is an important centre for multiple learning and by redesigning its role to face the challenges of the digital age, it is today an important context for the development of MIL. It is therefore a context that deserves the attention of researchers, in order to continue studying, accompanying but also supporting the work that is developed there. As stated by Mihailidis and Diggs (2010), “silence is no longer the absolute mandate of the school library” and “the existence of media literacy in our education systems is no longer optional.” (Mihailidis and Diggs, 2010, p. 289).

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1 Consult. Information power: because student achievement is the bottom line.

2 The 2012 edition covered only pre-school, the 1st and 2nd cycles of basic education; the 2nd edition (2017) includes also the 3rd cycle of basic education and secondary education.

3 Some teachers were already library/resource centre coordinators before the School Libraries Network programme began.

4 Compulsory education in Portugal lasts 12 years and covers two levels: basic education and secondary education. Basic Education is divided into three cycles: the first cycle is four years long and is attended by children aged between 6 and 10; the second cycle takes two years and is attended by 10 to 12-year-olds; the third cycle lasts three years, being attended by children between the ages of 12 and 15. Secondary Education takes three years and is for students aged between 15 and 18. Before compulsory schooling, children may attend pre-school from the age of 3 to 6.

5 Since the school year 2017/2018, citizenship education in the school curriculum has been part of the National Citizenship Education Strategy developed in 2017 by a working group created by the Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality and the Secretary of State for Education.

6 MIL’s approach is guided by the Media Education Guidance (Pereira et al., 2014).

7 The gap between the percentage of activities coded as media production (Table 2) and the percentage of digital, audio, video and print production activities with regard to the format, is explained by the fact that production is also included in the categories ’media and digital tools as supports or learning resources’ and in ’others’.

8 See

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Working model of School Libraries in Portugal as agents for the promotion of literacies
Crédits Source: own elaboration.
Fichier image/jpeg, 325k
Titre Figure 2. Percentage of schools working in each of the three areas of literacy in 2018-19 (N = 1824)
Crédits Source: Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares, 2019
Fichier image/jpeg, 61k
Titre Figure 3. Distribution of activities by literacy area in 2018-19
Crédits Source: Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares, 2019
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Figure 4 – Sample distribution by NUTS II regions in mainland Portugal
Crédits Source: own elaboration based on a map of Portugal
Fichier image/jpeg, 138k
Titre Figure 5. Reasons for not promoting MIL activities
Crédits Source: own elaboration.
Fichier image/jpeg, 94k
Titre Figure 6. Recipients of MIL activities
Crédits Source: own elaboration.
Fichier image/jpeg, 157k
Titre Figure 7. Scope of MIL activities carried out
Crédits Source: own elaboration.
Fichier image/jpeg, 135k
Titre Figure 8. Tools used to evaluate activities
Crédits Source: own elaboration.
Fichier image/jpeg, 246k
Titre Figure 9. Level of satisfaction of teacher-librarians in relation to the activities carried out
Crédits Mean of the three groups of activities in which 1 = Very unsatisfied to 5 = Very satisfied
Fichier image/jpeg, 170k
Titre Figure 10. Perception of teacher-librarians about the satisfaction of the public involved in the activities
Légende Mean of the three groups of activities in which 1 = Very unsatisfied to 5 = Very satisfied
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Titre Figure 11. Added value generated by carrying out MIL activities in the SL context
Crédits Source: own elaboration.
Fichier image/jpeg, 174k
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Sara Pereira et Margarida Toscano, « Media and Information Literacy in school libraries in Portugal: mapping practices to improve policies »Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication [En ligne], 22 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 mai 2021, consulté le 29 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Sara Pereira

Associate Professor with Habilitation in the Department of Communication Sciences and researcher at the Communication and Society Researcher Centre, University of Minho. Co-coordinator of MILObs - Observatory on Media, Information and Literacy and co-author of the radio programme Critical Ear. President of the Media Education Research section of IAMCR - International Association for Media and Communication Research. Member of GILM - Informal Group on Media Literacy. Coordination of national and European projects on children, youth and media and media literacy. These are also the main topics of her scientific publications. Mail:

Margarida Toscano

She holds a master’s degree in Communication Sciences. She is a member of the SLN Office and also a regional coordinator of SLN. She collaborates in national and international Media and Information Literacy (MIL) projects developed by SLN in partnership with other institutions. She is a member of Milobs and a member of GILM - Informal Group on Media Literacy. In this group, she has co-organized activities such as congresses, forums and the initiative 7 Days with the Media. She regularly participates in MIL initiatives and she is author of some papers on this subject. Mail:

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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