Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
The need to develop 'information literacy'
TO THE EDITORS:
I would like to clarify one of my comments in the April 24 story, "Ephrata quiets rumors about library changes." My description of public school library programs as "antiquated" was meant to illustrate the administration's misunderstanding of their value, not to indict existing efforts.
To quell rumors, the school district posted the following statement on its website:
"(We are) not considering any options that will decrease student access to the library or any of its related resources." It defines the library as a place and as a repository of "stuff." It says nothing about how libraries -- or librarians -- contribute to student learning. Access to "stuff" is meaningless if students do not know how to use it in academically appropriate ways.
The purpose of the modern library is to help students develop their "information literacy." Defined by the American Library Association, it is "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."
As a college librarian, I witness the difficulty students experience with these tasks. Had this kind of education started earlier in their academic careers, they might be better equipped to cope in an environment of abundant resources and evolving technology.
Information literacy's purpose is not simply to prepare students for college, it should also prepare them to participate in democracy. Good citizens are critical thinkers, capable of making informed decisions that contribute to the well-being of society. That is increasingly difficult to do in the modern world. Yet, it is a responsibility we cannot shirk.
Citizenship demands the ability to effectively locate, evaluate, select and use credible information. I thank the district for maintaining staff levels in the elementary library programs. But I want to stress: Now is the time to invest in these programs. Without them, I fear students will be neither prepared nor competitive.