Information literacy in real life

I’ve become a student again this fall, taking an online master’s degree program at University of Edinburgh. Approaching research and citations (in Harvard style, something I’d never seen before) from a student viewpoint has made feel for my information literacy students even more than I already did. It really helps to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

One thing I’m surprised about is that while some of my classmates cite academic sources, others — almost all scientists and all working in jobs that require them to seek and use information — choose what I would consider weak sources, such as websites that wouldn’t pass the CRAAP test.  On the plus side, I have some new examples to show colleagues in a couple of weeks when I present an introduction to information literacy to fellow administrative and academic support staff at work. But I’ve also gained a new appreciation for how people in their daily lives and work could benefit from thinking critically about how and where they find information and how reliable it is, which are the keys to information literacy.

Yes, I did pay attention during the last national election and realize that people relying on poor sources of information is nothing new. But I thought much of the “fake news” problem was related to the way news is shared and also the way it is marketed today. I’m aware of the importance of teaching undergraduates information literacy, as they are emerging adults who don’t have much experience thinking critically. I hadn’t considered that basic information literacy could be enormously beneficial to adults and to their workplaces and communities.

Public libraries are offering more “how to spot fake news” programming and resources, which is useful, but again this puts the emphasis on news as the sources that might be misleading or counterfactual. Perhaps this should go further. Not all adults go to college or use libraries, so who can or should teach people to find and choose better sources of information in real life — work, volunteer positions, or even just looking stuff up at home? I know that high schools are not all teaching this, since most of my students have never thought much about evaluating information. Should there be public service announcements? Training in workplaces? Pop-up workshops in public places, led by librarians? “How to find reliable information” handouts for every registered voter, or enclosed with every drivers’ license?

What do you think?

 

 

 

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A Maker Space Making a School Library

Much has been made of library maker spaces, which are part of the drive to be “relevant” by focusing on STEM. I’ve seen papers and essays galore on why STEM is Very Important for Public Libraries to Offer but I haven’t ever read about public library patrons asking for STEM. So is that relevance, if we tell the people what they want, instead of the other way around? As my last post indicated I’m not a fan of telling people, especially young people, what to focus on in their free time, hence my “” around relevant. On the other hand there’s a chicken and egg factor – if we offer it, will people discover they want it? That’s probably another blog post altogether.

You can take webinars and attend conference sessions on how to make maker spaces. I’ve always looked at them as sort of amped up crafts zones, places for creating techy projects mostly for fun, albeit educational fun. But an article in a library e-newsletter caught my eye this week because it featured a space where people were making what they really needed and wanted — a user-friendly library for their school.

At PS 721K, the Brooklyn Occupational Training Center for 14-19 year old special education students, shop teacher Charles Brown, who trained at Adaptive Design Association, helped students build furniture and accessories for their newly redesigned library. Previously, it wasn’t a space students with special needs could use. With the kind of heavy cardboard shipping boxes are made from, the students and their teacher created stools and book bins.

Photo: School Library Journal

If you look around ADA’s website you can see many more examples of adaptive furniture and kids engaging in “cardboard carpentry.” I think this is “maker” activity at its best. Seeing a problem or a lack and actually making something to fill that need seems like a much better use of time and talent than just making stuff so you can check the box on having a maker space.

That’s not to say maker spaces simply meeting the need for creative, fun activities for young people are a bad thing – if the community wants that. I just love the idea of “making” for good.