School Libraries Cultivate Digital Literacy 

By Tanya Roscorla


As school libraries lose funding and staff, they're looking for ways to help people understand what they do and how it impacts student learning.

And in an age where digital literacy and information access skills reign, the librarian plays an important role, said Mary Barbee, coordinator of media services and technology training at Gwinnett County Public Schools in Suwanee, Ga. Each school in the district has certified librarians and paraprofessionals in the media center.

“We are fortunate to be in a district that values media centers and media programs and the role of a professional educator as a media specialist,” she said.

In Georgia, library staff members work with teachers to mix digital literacy into the curriculum.

Digital literacy skills

But librarians struggle to define digital literacy.

In the white paper Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, professor Renee Hobbs from Temple University mentions skills that show digital and media literacy, including accessing information, solving problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, and analyzing data and evidence.

When the American Library Association asked public libraries what kinds of digital literacy training they provided, the survey answers varied greatly, said Marijke Visser, assistant director of the Office for Information Technology Policy within the association.

“So that is telling us that in the library community, we’re still trying to figure out exactly what digital literacy means,” she said.

Librarians want to help students and the general public become information literate so they can evaluate resources, she said.

5 digital literacy challenges (and how to overcome them)

But before they can teach students how to evaluate information, libraries have to overcome these five challenges.

1. Access to technology

The technology landscape changes rapidly, ...


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Great article posting Mike! Thank you for sharing!

It's so important, especially in a time when some schools are letting go of their librarians, to encourage the role to adapt and change. While some librarians have created their own cutting edge curriculum, others have lagged behind, afraid to engage in conversations about digital literacy, perhaps for fear of discovering how little they know about it.  I have found that with professional development and support, they will usually lead the way.

Include your librarians and library media specialists in ed tech professional development! Allow them to attend 21st century / ed tech conferences and workshops. Pair them with the technology specialist or lead teacher well versed in technology integration. Certainly include them in your technology committees or combine the ed tech and library meetings into one. Librarians, whose job it is to understand research, copyright and fair use (to name a few of their areas of expertise) should be allowed to expand their knowledge to include 21st century literacy. 

Just because a district has access to an abundance of information, doesn't mean they are using it properly. I have found that even in a district replete with technology, research and information fluency are still areas where students (and teachers) lack the strongest skills. Even if it takes a few extra minutes to go over in class, projects that require the use of research information should include a review of to cite information, how to search using advanced features, and how to compile information. Librarians and Library Media Specialists can (and should be) leaders in this... 






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