I recently spoke with an Idaho school district superintendent enthusiastically supports the school libraries in her district as a critical part of education. I asked why, from an administrative point of view, she supports her school libraries and librarians.She replied that information literacy is essential for a 21st Century student’s success, and those skills come from the library.
The term information literacy gets thrown around a lot these
days, but the American Library Association defines it like this:
A set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”
Sometimes information literacy is confused with information
technology; they are related, but not the same. A student with information technology skills can use the computer,
databases, software, etc., and a person who is information literate can
evaluate and determine the validity and best use for the resulting information.
Since students are bombarded with information, both accurate
and not-so-accurate every day, understanding information literacy is
particularly important in the K-12 environment. Further, it is getting harder to discriminate between real credible
sources, entertainment, and hoaxes. For
example, it is possible to get a news feed on a Facebook page, but we all know not
all the information on Facebook is credible.
To further blur the lines between information and entertainment,
multiple polls tell us that increasing amounts of young adults are getting
their news from shows like The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.
In a world of millions of results from a Google search,
comedians delivering the news, and the ability for anyone to publish searchable
information, how can a student determine what information is reliable? Where is
a teacher or librarian to start? A good
place might be Idaho’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards
at https://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/content_standards/infoCommTech/K_12_ICT_StandardsOutlineFormat.pdf. The ICT Standards list clear goals and objectives
for students to master by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. It’s worth noting, also, that school
decision-makers pay attention to these standards, too. According to the 2009
Idaho School Library Impact Survey (cited in The Whole School Library Handbook
by Woolls & Loertscher), a significant finding linked how highly
administrators valued the school library with how highly they evaluated the
teaching of ICT standards. School library programs that include the ICT
Standards are highly valued by administrators.
As important as information literacy is, it can fall through
the cracks. If these skills are
not being taught in the library, where are students getting the
information? Perhaps as part of the
English curriculum, or maybe in a science or history class as part of a
research paper. But maybe not. Collaborative lessons are a great option to
solve this problem; librarians can work with teachers on research projects,
even in elementary school. Scheduling
issues can be a problem, but perhaps librarians can work with teachers and
administrative teams to find alternative scheduling options. After all, it can’t hurt to ask; an answer of
“no” is the worst that can happen. (More information on fixed vs. flexible scheduling can be found here.)
Some other resources to learn more about information
literacy, the school library, and ICT standards are:
AASL Transforming Learning at http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/learning-standards.
Dr. Roger Stewart, Boise State University, College of Education, received the Idaho Library Association (ILA) Special Services to Libraries award. This award is given to someone who has offered exceptional support to Idaho libraries. Dr. Stewart was nominated by the Idaho Commission for Libraries Read to Me team for his many valuable contributions to early literacy, including working with the “Read to Me” program and testifying before the Idaho Legislature on behalf of libraries.
The Read to Me team said, "Roger has been tireless in his efforts to help ICfL and libraries around the state do the best work they can for the children of Idaho by assessing programming and making recommendations for improvement. He has facilitated focus groups, administered literacy screeners to hundreds of children, pored over the data from thousands of surveys (literally thousands!), testified before the state legislature, and written numerous reports and journal articles about the work we are doing. We feel fortunate to have Roger as part of the team, and are grateful for the recognition he received from ILA."