Session: How do we foster information literacy and media literacy in our libraries and in our communities?

Host: Catherine Odson
Reporter: Anna Raya Rivera
Participants: Kristin Charles-Scaringi, Dietmar Wolfram, Louis Battalen, Jamie Helgren, Amy Penwell, Colin Rhinesmith, Mary Thomason, Denise Blumendel, Tina Stewart, Suzanne Sullivan, Katy Aronoff, Jan Harrington

A. Issue of perception. No one really knows what a librarian does, or what a librarian studies in order to wade through all the information that is out there and find the most reliable, relevant, and timely resources for patrons. No one knows what journalists really do, what their motivations are, how they report the news, how they maintain balance in their stories, how they find reliable sources. Another perception problem is that people don’t think librarians are necessary anymore. Everyone thinks they’re an expert. We need to change that. People want public space in their libraries. People want computers. They don’t only just want books. We need people to look at the library as more than just a building with books.

B. By providing more transparency we can help change the misconceptions about who we are, what we do, and who we serve (we serve all of you!). Journalists can better explain how they do what they do. In turn, users will better understand how journalists come to truthful information. Librarians need to better explain how they find information for their patrons, how they decide what is a reliable source and what isn’t. If we’re more open about our day to day process, we can gain the trust of our patrons and readers, and, hopefully, in turn, show them how they can use the same tools to do their own information seeking.

C. Schools really have the captive audience to teach information literacy. We need to teach literacy at a younger age. Teach kids the difference between a news story and an op-ed piece. What’s the diff between reading a blog versus something from a creditable source? Can you get a creditable source from Google? Teach literacy with the subject teachers. Have the school librarian collaborate with the science teacher, social studies, etc. A school librarian in the group (grades 4-6) says her school starts at around grade 5. By grade 5 it should be happening.
D. Shouldn’t just be focusing on kids. Digital immigrants need literacy instruction. But there’s the issue of literacy skill (how to wade through information) and actual computer skill (using a mouse). At the public library we can teach tools on social media such as FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. If you call it a workshop on “information literacy” no one will attend. So you teach information literacy indirectly. Have a “Consumer information online” class or one on “Job hunting.”

E. Someone in the group suggested the website, Rheingold, a journalist, founder of Wired, prof. at Berkeley, Stanford, created a Wiki-based, asynchronous online classroom on “infotension.” How to control info overflow. Questions of transparency come up a lot in these classes.

F. What else can we do at the library to get people in the door? Fitness classes. Public forums (on issues like healthcare). People want to talk to each other to find information. Get library more integrated in instruction. Someone in the group writes a blog about what the academic librarians do over winter break (weed books, work on subject guides, etc.) to build awareness of the librarians’ roles.

G. How do we get the community in the library not just to borrow books? Can we use the library computer lab to get patrons in to collaborate on projects together (people learn better in groups). Example of dedicated study areas in public library during high school’s midterms and finals. Someone suggested the “One Course, One Community” model that is based on the “One Book, One Community” projects you see in towns. Libraries can bring the experts and host the discussion. Pull out the relevant books from the collection and articles from the databases for this class, and show users how to find them on their own. (Open Course Ware @ MIT, look it up; Yale also does this, Carnegie Mellon; Hewlett funded the MIT Open Course Ware program.) Can libraries develop their own “One Course, One Community” type of project?

H. Someone in the group suggested the work of Henry Jenkins and Erin O’Reilly—two experts on media literacy. They could be resources for this type of “One Course, One Community” type of program.

I. Another program that could be used to indirectly teach literacy and technology skills would center around the town’s local history. Get patrons to bring their old family photographs and artifacts. Teach them how to digitize the images. Teach them multimedia so that they can tell their family histories. Contract with the local public access channel to showcase these histories. Archive these histories at the library. If there’s a local history center in the town, collaborate them with them for this type of project.

J. We need to rethink programs. Don’t just have someone in the front of the room giving instruction. Figure out ways to “add value” and subliminally teach a literacy/technical skill, without the patrons even realizing it.

K. Another idea: curate useful apps and showcase them for patrons. Catalog useful apps, get feedback from users on which ones they use. Good apps for kids. Good apps for productivity. Good apps for personal finance.

L. Another idea: using games to address literacy issues. Use games to engage groups. Example of Jane McGonigal’s game for the New York Public Library:

M. Someone in the group recommended the website by Andy Carvin, about going through the muck to find the right answers. Going to Twitter to find on-the-ground reporting.

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