Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Information Literacy and Technology-They Work Best When They Work Together

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Information Literacy and Technology-They Work Best When They Work Together

Article excerpt

"IN ORDER FOR PATRONS TO MAKE THE WISEST USE OF THE LIBRARY, THEY MUST BE BOTH COMPUTER-AND INFORMATION-LITERATE."

When I first saw this month's theme, Info Literacy/Tech Literacy, and its tagline of "testing and training students and seniors," I was instantly reminded of the Christmas when my youngest son received a Sega game console as a present. He had been playing with it at a friend's house so he was familiar with the machine and the controllers. He quickly had the Sega set up and ready for serious gaming. Since he had always enjoyed playing board games and outdoor sports with my father, he was anxious to invite him to play Joe Montana Football, the game included with the basic Sega.

My son won the first game handily because my father had never used a game controller before and had no idea how it worked. As soon as that first game ended, my father grabbed the manual to read the instructions for the controller. After he practiced a bit, they played another game with a decidedly different outcome. Once my father learned the technology, specifically the operation of the controller, his superior knowledge of football strategy gave him the advantage.

This family story is a perfect illustration of this month's theme. Many senior citizens, like my father, retired just as computers were being introduced to the workplace. They missed the opportunity to learn about technology on the job. Some have been given computers by adult sons and daughters who are anxious to set them up with e-mail and Internet access so they can keep in touch and share photographs. These children, however, often live in distant locations and can provide only minimal instructions, leaving their parents to conquer the computers on their own.

In the library, senior citizens can get bewildered when trying to use the OPAC or various databases. They often have good research skills but are more familiar with the card catalog and printed indexes such as Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. Their lack of technical knowledge prevents them from using their research skills with today's sources. Students, having grown up with computers in school and at home, feel very comfortable with the technology, but are often lacking research skills. They can type terms into a search box and get an answer, but often fail to get the best, or even the correct, answer because they don't know that all information sources aren't created equal. They need to learn to evaluate sources and look beyond the simple search box for the best ones.

In order for patrons to make the wisest use of the library, they must be both computer-and information-literate. Librarians are faced with the challenge of designing programs that fit the literacy needs of the community. Academic and school librarians may find that their users are mostly students who are familiar with computers, but need help with information-seeking skills. Of course, many learning institutions have students who are older or economically disadvantaged, so even academic librarians may encounter patrons who are unfamiliar with technology. It might seem that public libraries would have more senior citizens as patrons and therefore would have to concentrate more on technology literacy. But financially strapped schools might not be able to provide the research instruction that their students need, so the public library may have to step in to help these students sharpen their research skills.

Expanding the Definition of Literacy in the Info Age

Recognizing the need to help librarians meet these challenges, our professional organizations have developed online resources that deal with information literacy. ACRL has created Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, a document that you can view online or download as an Adobe PDF file. A printer-friendly version is also available. The document first defines information literacy and then discusses it in relation to information technology skills and higher education. …

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