Literacy for the Digital World

Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), April 15, 2013 | Go to article overview

Literacy for the Digital World


More than 350 school and public librarians gathered in Augusta on Thursday for the 24th annual Reading Round Up, a day-long conference focused on learning, literacy and the role librarians play in "building our society of tomorrow," according to keynote speaker Kate Messner.

Reading Round Up hosted presentations on how to use Skype to connect young readers directly to their favorite authors, the best apps to help children between 5 and 13 years old read better and develop their own content, and a primer on ways to incorporate electronic devices into traditional storytelling activities to promote early literacy.

The number of Reading Round Up programs focused on interactive and electronic media illustrates how much libraries have adapted to advances in information technology, recognizing the fact that schools' and public libraries' traditional positions as community centers have had to evolve because the communities they serve are now digital with global access.

In Maine, innovations like the Minerva Online Library catalog that allows patrons to request materials from participating libraries throughout the state and lending programs that make e- readers and electronic educational devices like Leapfrog available to children whose families cannot afford them reinforce public libraries' long-standing status as agents of democracy. As online information amasses value as a commodity, public libraries have modernized their function as tools to ensure the equality of access envisioned by Benjamin Franklin when he founded the first public library in America.

The Digital Public Library of America represents the next logical step in that modernization process, one that has potential for far- reaching benefits, including in Maine. The DPLA, which will be launched April 18-19 at Boston Public Library, aims to provide "a centralized portal to a decentralized network of digital media from libraries, museums, universities, archives and other local, regional and national collections."

Its proponents, a group of 40 academics and librarians who began considering the idea at a Harvard University conference in 2010, intend to uphold the traditional equal-access model of public libraries by avoiding the mistakes that stymied the Google Book Search effort to digitize all of the world's books. …

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