Monday, December 7, 2009

US Government & Information Policy

The American federal government, like all governments, consists of policies that are to aid the efficiency, direction, goals, and sustain the government. There are a wide range of policies such as education policy, economic policy, foreign policy, etc. Policy is very important for governments and information policy is exceptionally important to democratic governments.
When considering organizations that compile and disseminate massive amounts of information the federal government is perhaps at the top of the list. In order to operate effectively and intentionally the government must have a set of standards for managing all the information it possesses. Information policy which comprises of all the laws, regulations, and public policies that encourage or discourage the flow, access, and regulation of information to the public is becoming more and more of an imperative facet of our government. Ian Rowlads states, “Information access and disclosure are critical elements in the working of participative democracies and measures concerning these aspects can be found in most areas of public policy.” Citizens need to be informed in order to participate in the government and the government likewise needs to have policies established to provide the necessary information to its citizens. Information policy, which is newer in existence than other policies like education and foreign, has become a focus of attention over the last thirty years or so with the advent of the democratization of information, digitization of documents, and the Internet. Historically, the first signs of systematic US national information policies emerged in the early 1960s. The Cold War and the space race are just two large topics that exemplify the growing importance of the nation’s scientific and technical information and how that information needed to be protected and managed for the nation’s security. Politicians and policy makers needed to have well thought out policies to manage the information and as a result people began to use the term information policy. Other major events such as: the Vietnam War, Watergate scandal, the military-industrial complex, the emergence of the computer, the Web, and 9/11 affected our nation’s communal perception of information policy
One of the most important policies passed by the federal government in regard to information policy is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was enacted in “ … 1966, provides for any person – individual or corporate, regardless of citizenship -- presumptive access to unpublished existing, and identifiable records of the agencies of the Federal executive branch without having to demonstrate a need or reason for such a request.” The FOIA was passed because citizens and Congress had issue with the availability of information to the public from the executive branch and felt it necessary to begin to make official policy that would aid the democratic process. The FOIA pertains to documents that have not already been publicly published through the federal government’s information mouthpiece: the Government Printing Office (GPO). The federal government has published large amounts of literature through the GPO since 1860, and has used the GPO as its preferred method of information distribution. One of the goals of the GPO is to keep America informed, making them of specific interest when considering the government’s information policy (
The FOIA has gone through many updates as it has been critiqued and more importantly as information technology has changed. Information policy is unique to government policy in that it usually is reactive to the technologies that provide access to the information; policies have changed as print, telephony, radio, computers, and the Internet grew in popularity. The advent of the computer and the Internet put information policy back on the federal docket in the late eighties and early nineties. The government, local, state, and federal, has gone through an intense digitization of information. Naturally, this process has not been extremely smooth and has raised many other issues. Librarians have been in the forefront of these debates as they are one of the major interest groups that try to maintain and properly manage the information in order for the FOIA and other information policies to be effective for the populace. One specific issue that rose from the electronic information promotions was that after documents were digitized core information could on occasion disappear from public view or the public was forced to pay a fee to access the public funded information.
After the attacks of 9/11 the FOIA and the populaces’ access to publicly funded information came under attack. The executive branch of the federal government put national security above the established information policy. Water system plans, structural layouts of buildings, and other digitized information began to disappear in an effort to keep the wrong people from finding information that would aid them in committing terrorist acts. The administration’s ability to change their information policy and then quickly cut public access to the information because it was digitized exemplified the volatility information is when hard copies are not the norm.
Information policy should often be viewed as a verb rather than a noun according to Rowlands, and this is specifically true when considering government information policy. Policy making comprises a series of inputs (people, information, research) and outputs (access to democracy, better access to information), and when seen as this process we see that it is much more a verb rather than a thing. The information policy verb will continue to be in action as government, technology, and society changes, but its importance must never be overlooked.
Interesting sites to explore:

Clemons, C. S. A. (Summer 2009). Permanent Electronic Access to Government
Information: A Study of Federal, State, and Local Documents. Electronic Journal
of Academic and Special Librarianship,

Relyea, H. C. (April 2009). Federal Freedom of Information Policy: Highlights of Recents
Developments. Government Information Quarterly, 26(2), 314-320.

Rowlands, I. (Ed.) (2003) International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science
(2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

The Role of Information Policy in the Library

Information policy dictates the privileges and duties pertaining to the use, preservation, and distribution of information. The library serves as an important information pipeline. As such, it will need to carefully uphold the standards and policies which support its mission.

A clearly articulated information policy will enable the library to both serve its patrons in the best possible manner and answer challenges that arise regarding information access or use. Internet access, for example, is a particularly sensitive topic. However, an information policy enables the library to manage rights and user expectations. The West Virginia University Libraries created a policy outlining “the rights and responsibilities of consumers of electronic information in the West Virginia University Libraries” (Electronic Information Policy for Library Users, 2001). Visit to review the document in its entirety. Information policy enables the library to offer services while respecting the interests and concerns of all involved.

Information policy involves both patron privileges and patron duties. Patrons have privileges under such documents as the Bill of Rights, the Library Bill of Rights, et al, to freely access and express information. However, patrons also have the duty to observe library policies and state and federal laws (including copyright laws). The library can effectively fulfill its mission through the guidance of information policy.

ALA Statements on Information Policy
The American Library Association offers numerous statements and policies which address the vast scope of information policy. Librarians and patrons alike can access ALA’s resources on fair and equitable information access and management.

The statement on Intellectual Freedom says, “ALA actively advocates in defense of the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. A publicly supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of that community. We enjoy this basic right in our democratic society. It is a core value of the library profession” (Intellectual Freedom, 2009).

The Library Bill of Rights is a crucial document for information policy. It outlines six key rights of every library user (Library Bill of Rights, 2009). View the statement here:

The statement on Equity of Access guarantees every person the right to obtain information: “Equity of access means that all people have the information they need-regardless of age, education, ethnicity, language, income, physical limitations or geographic barriers. It means they are able to obtain information in a variety of formats-electronic, as well as print. It also means they are free to exercise their right to know without fear of censorship or reprisal” (Equity of Access, 2009).

The seventh edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual states: “"Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate, and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of work, and the viewpoints of both the author and the receiver of information." (Intellectual Freedom, 2009)

The ALA Policy Manual states in section 50.3 Free Access to Information, “The American Library Association asserts that the charging of fees and levies for information services, including those services utilizing the latest information technology, is discriminatory in publicly supported institutions providing library and information services” (The ALA Policy Manual, 2009).

Questions to Ponder
What is the library’s policy on computer (or wireless internet) access?
What is the library’s policy on serving patrons with special needs?
How are patrons equipped to access, evaluate, and utilize information?
What is the library’s policy on information literacy?

Electronic Information Policy for Library Users. (2001, January). Retrieved from West Virginia University Libraries:
Equity of Access. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association:
Intellectual Freedom. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association:
Library Bill of Rights. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association:
The ALA Policy Manual. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association:
What is information policy?
Information policy is more of a concept that became a policy. Information policy is the act of evaluating what kind of information will be stored, how it will be evaluated once stored as well as who has access to that information once it is stored. Information policy also determines if that information once cataloged will be free to the public or if there will be a charge for that information. Information policy is typically handled by governmental agencies and from there the government determines the rules and regulations in which private information providers and the media will operate. Information policy includes the following, intellectual property rights, protection of personal privacy, freedom of information access, just to name a few.
When we think of housing regulations, policies that govern education or legislative policies to protect citizens, we are readily able to think of laws that protect those entities. Information policy is the same concept, laws that govern information. Copyrights, surveillance videos in public places, regulation of the Internet and crimes that may occur are all a form of what information policy protects.
Why we need information policy
Information policy is less visible because there are not always clear cut laws in place. With technology growing as fast as it is, sometimes laws have not caught up with all of all of the types of crimes. Information policy tends to be a bit ambiguous because it covers decisions, interest groups and laws not yet brought into policy. Information policy affects all of us because without information, we don’t function individually and definitely not as a society. Information policy covers everything from using your credit card, voting, enrolling your child in school as well as health care. Telephone systems, cable television, HIPPAA laws (health insurance medical privacy acts) as well as Facebook are forms of information that we encounter everyday that are governed by information policies and we are protected by these policies.
It seems the difficult part is making sense of the concept of information policy, what it means and how to regulate it. A concept is difficult to understand when it constantly is growing and evolving due to the information it covers and as we know information is always changing.

Burger, R. (1993). Information policy: a framework for evaluation and policy research. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Pub. Corp., c1993
International encyclopedia of information and library science / edited by John Feather and Paul Sturges. London ; New York : Routledge, 2003. 2nd ed. 278-284

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Diversity in Elementary School Libraries

Recognition of the need to address diversity in education has steadily increased in recent years yet a clear definition of what diversity means remains elusive. The Council for Exceptional Children defines diversity as “understanding and valuing the characteristics and beliefs of those who demonstrate a wide range of characteristics. This includes ethnic and racial backgrounds, age, physical and cognitive abilities, family status, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religious and spiritual values, and geographic location” (CEC website). This broad, yet accurate, view of diversity must drive the work of elementary educators including information professionals and library staff. Specifically, the approach and strategies used by school libraries to address the needs of a diverse student population must be as wide-ranging and all-encompassing as the definition of diversity itself.

Ethnicity, Race, and Culture
Perhaps more than any other element, differences in ethnicity, race, and culture are traditionally thought of when discussing diversity. It remains critically important for school librarians to recognize and respect the needs of the increasingly diverse school population. Minority students are more likely to face challenges in accessing information, technologies, and educational opportunities. So, while important, addressing cultural diversity is more than simply stocking books and materials that reflect the cultural and racial background of each student. In addition, students from minority populations may also belong to one of the other areas of diversity, creating complications and conflicts in the librarian’s ability to meet their needs.
What is more, even in the most homogeneous school populations, the library must be the arena to promote awareness of cultural diversity. A reading program in which students are presented Cinderella stories from a number of different cultures can be used to increase student understanding and appreciation of different cultures.

Physical and Cognitive Ability
In today’s public schools, students with varying physical and cognitive abilities are being increasingly mainstreamed. This mainstreaming does not stop at the door of the classroom. School libraries can make an important contribution to the education of students with disabilities, especially in teaching them information skills that will assist them in accessing information that will be important to their daily living. School librarians must understand these needs and, specifically, work with the Special Education staff to ensure these needs are met.
According to Murray (1999), school libraries can, and do, positively contribute to students facing physical challenges, “particularly in providing opportunities for collaboration and teamwork, in exercising independence, and in creating perceptions of value and acceptance.”

Credaro, A. (2006). School Libraries: Catering to the Special Needs of Children. Warrior Librarian. Accessed November 29, 2009.

Love, E. (2007). Building Bridges: Cultivating Partnerships between Libraries and Minority Student Services. Education Libraries, 30(1), 13 – 19.

Murray, J. (1999). An Inclusive School Library for the 21st Century: Fostering Independence. IFLA Council and General Conference, August 20-28, 1998.

Murray, J. (2000). Training School Library Staff To Cater for Diversity. Education for Information. 18(4), 313-23.

Murray, J. (2001). Teaching Information Skills to Students with Disabilities: What Works? School Libraries Worldwide. 7(2), 1 – 16.

Murray, J. (2002). The Implications of Inclusive Schooling for School Libraries. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education. 49(3), 301-322.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Diversity in Law Libraries

The “information age” is upon us. With the technological advances that come with the information age, there will likely be another breakdown in society of haves versus have-nots; those individuals that have the resources and means to seek out information and those that do not. While this idea is prevalent in all areas of librarianship, it is a special concern for law libraries. “Providing access to legal information for all members of today’s culturally diverse society is, and rightly should be, a major concern and responsibility of the law library profession” (Chandler, 1998). The demographics of the United States are in flux, with a much higher percentage of the total population identifying with a minority. “Given these changing demographic patterns, the participation of minorities in the delivery of information services is imperative if librarianship is to maintain its historical mission of providing access to information to all persons” (Chandler, 1998). Additionally, “it is important that information personnel are representative of our culturally diverse society” (Chandler, 1998).

Diversity is important on many levels with some of the main benefits being that “progress will flow from the inclusion at all levels of power and decision-making of people previously and systematically excluded” (Jackson, 1998). “Institutions will mature and grow as each expands the totality of human resource polarities available to it as a source from which to draw strength” (Jackson, 1998). Jackson also notes that the number of role models for those previously without them will increase, which is very important for the recruitment and retention of law librarians (Jackson, 1998). Many law librarians indicate that they found this profession by either working in a library or by being acquainted with a current professional. This is where the importance of a law librarian role model will come into play. If a minority librarian mentors a minority candidate, it is more likely that the minority candidate will view the profession in a good light and pursue the means necessary to become a member (Chandler, 1998).

Today’s law librarian generally must obtain both a Juris Doctor and Master’s of Library and Information Science, and the pool of potential minority candidates is dismally low. Graduation rates for both library schools and law schools demonstrate an underrepresentation of minority entrants (Chandler, 1998). Because of the problems with recruitment and retention of minority law librarians, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has responded by creating a Committee on Diversity where the goal is to “recruit and foster the preparation of ethnic and minority law librarians” (Chandler, 1998). AALL has created a strategic plan “to foster diversity in the profession by increasing minority membership and participation with the following objectives: A. [i]ncrease the Associations’ minority membership as a percentage of total membership; B. [s]upport the professional development of minority law librarians; C. [i]ncrease minority participation in AALL leadership” (AALL, 1990). Through the strategic plan, AALL has tried to “make law librarianship more attractive to a wider range of potential members” (Jackson, 1998).

Most of the current data shows that minority law librarians are still hovering around only 10% of the entire profession. This number needs to change to be more representative of the population as a whole. The recruitment and retention policies need to be fostered, and librarians need to recognize the value of diversity and offer mentorship to those that may be interested in the profession.

Questions to Ponder:
What actions could law librarians take to effectively mentor minority candidates?

Do minority representatives in law librarianship differ from other librarian positions? Please explain why.

Chandler, Y. (1998). Why is Diversity Important for Law Librarianship? Law Library Journal, 90 (545), 545-561.

Jackson, G.R. (1998). R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means to Me. Law Library Journal, 90 (579) 579-584.

Multiculturalism and Diversity

Main Entry: mul·ti·cul·tur·al
Pronunciation: \ˌməl-tē-ˈkəlch-rəl, -ˌtī-, -ˈkəl-chə-\
Function: adjective
Date: 1941
— mul·ti·cul·tur·al·ism \-rə-ˌli-zəm\ noun
— mul·ti·cul·tur·al·ist \-rə-list\ noun or adjective
— mul·ti·cul·tur·al·ly \-rə-lē\ adverb

Miriam Webster

multiculturalism [ˌmʌltɪˈkʌltʃərəˌlɪzəm]
1. (Sociology) the state or condition of being multicultural
2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the policy of maintaining a diversity of ethnic cultures within a community
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

mul·ti·cul·tur·al (m l t -k l ch r- l, -t -)
1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.
2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.
mul ti·cul tur·al·ism n.
mul ti·cul tur·al·ist n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The variations in these definitions demonstrate the difficulty that people sometimes have in understanding the term multicultural. While all have a similar description they also demonstrate the variety of ways in which the term can be used. The context in which the word is viewed and/or used will vary the meaning and perhaps will change the way the term is heard.
Part of the difficulty for Americans has been that the term is not understood in a global fashion but in a personal or economic one. For libraries it is imperative that all effort is made to not only be aware of different cultures but to furnish materials that will enhance understanding and allow patrons of all nationalities to explore materials that will be of interest to them.
The Joyner Library of East Carolina University began a two year long program with various deadlines in order to complete three main goals; Goal 1 – Promote diversity of library personnel, Goal 2 – Promote diversity of library services, and Goal 3 – Promote diversity of library collection and resources (Diversity Plan, Joyner Library, 2009 – 2011) . Each of these goals has a strategy that will be developed by various committees. The target dates set seem to be realistic each plan taking the proper amount of time to meet the goals. It is of interest to note that the term “diversity” is used and not the term “multicultural”.
The article “From Inside Out: Promoting Diversity Awareness in Ourselves and Our Library Users” (2009), the writers show the challenge that libraries face in demonstrating true multiculturalism and diversity while keeping personal values and those of the patrons. The article further explains what to each library should do prior to setting up a committee. Points that stand out are:
Determine the needs of your library.
Take stock of the community you serve.
Search out learning tools.
Make your diversity statement one that fits with your environment.

All of these points are excellent and can be applied to any learning institution. The learning curve of students, staff, and faculty can be raised by using proper teaching methods and the best resources available whether it is with books, videos, CD’s, DVD’s. Another point made in the article is that user friendly signs are a huge part of welcoming everyone to the library itself and hiring policies that offer employment to all persons is critical. Using handouts in simple friendly English to guide patrons in their library use is another top notch suggestion.

The diversity committee began with an Ad-Hoc committee in 2004 and through the hard work of many individuals along with the university has accomplished several critical goals so that they can now move forward with their plan which should be completed in 2011. Just in time to begin looking at more goals. By moving forward slowly but steadily the committee hopes to include items they may have overlooked and it will give time for people to learn what true diversity is.

Listed below are some of the questions the committee must ask before setting any goals.

How will you begin community building?
What type of partners will the committee seek?

The next questions are to consider who could be partners with you. The article lists the following suggestions.

Other Campus Committees
Departments that focus on Diversity
Student Groups and Organizations
Student Affairs Divisions
Other libraries

All of these are for an academic library and will change if you are a public library.
The points discussed in this article all circle around setting up the committee, determining the needs, teaching everyone about Diversity, setting the programming goals, and finally implementing the practices and policies developed.

Multiculturalism and Diversity are experienced every day by every person we come in contact with. How they see us (librarians and staff) depends on practicing what we preach and never allowing patrons to feel unwanted because of faulty programming, personal prejudices, or lack of training.

Questions to ponder

When visiting a library or perhaps a museum for the first time. How were you treated? Did the experience leave you feeling as though you had found a new and exciting place or did you feel that once was enough?

If you were Director of Library services at a University, how would you go about forming a committee on multiculturalism/diversity? What do you think would be the most important function of the committee?


Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003. Downloaded 11/20/09

Diversity Plan. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. 2009-2011. Downloaded 11/18/09

Edward, J. et al. From Inside Out: Promoting Diversity Awareness in Ourselves and Our Library Users. PNLA Quarterly (2007). Downloaded 11/17/2009

Miriam Webster Downloaded 11/18/09

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. Downloaded 11/23/09

Friday, November 27, 2009

Multiculturalism: Languages in Libraries

Creating and maintaining a connection with the community the library serves is an important role of today’s librarians. The demographics of the population of library patrons provide clues to how the library can achieve this goal. As such, it is important to learn about and understand the people and cultures that exist in the community the library services as it can be quite diverse and multicultural.

Often those most in need and perhaps most unaware of the services the library has to offer are people from other countries and other cultures. These patrons may not realize what is available to them due to cultural or language barriers. Padma Polepeddi emigrated from India and now is the Supervisor of the Glendale Library in Colorado. She recalls crying for joy when she learned that the public library was a free service, as it is not in her home country of India. She says she “loves telling other immigrants about the amazing world of public libraries” and saying “All this is free!” Her library is known for extensive collections in Spanish and Russian and also has expanded its diversity programs. She also travels around Colorado, visiting other libraries to help them develop their diversity programs.

Developing Multi-lingual Collection

This cultural divide can take the form of simply not knowing of the service or knowing that the public library is free to the more difficult obstacle of language barriers. Another concern for librarians is how to develop the collection for other cultures. It can be a tough question for librarians to weed and cull a collection of just one language but when the space and energy is needed for books and materials of another language(s) more problems can arise. On the other hand, providing service and materials is important as well and should be carefully considered. The language people learn at birth has a strong hold, it is the language that they begin to see and interpret the world in, the language they use to communicate with friends and family, and can be a strong cultural identity holder.

There are three ways to think of developing the collection for multiple languages. The first way is to think of building two separate collections, one in each language. The second is to create the primary language collection and build the second with text in both languages. The third is a combination of the two. People learning English as a second language benefit from having the ability to read in their own language both as affirmation and to bolster their confidence in learning to read in the new language.

A few other tips to help the process of introducing new languages to the library are to start multi-lingual book groups, using interactive books for children, and research reliable materials. Just as there are vendor resources for selecting English language books there are resources for selecting quality materials in other languages as well.

IFLA and Language

The Internal Federation of Library Associations works with libraries around the world trying to promote diversity and collaboration. Language is an important aspect of achieving these goals and has always been a key factor as an international organization. There are seven official languages used, which means any formal communication can be handled in these core languages, and all materials are printed in each. The conferences held all over the world are staffed with volunteers from the library world who work as interpreters. The IFLA has a strong commitment to diversity of language in the library community and promoting access to information for all, enriching the library world by bringing many different views and words from around the world.

Questions to Consider:

What issues do librarians face introducing multiple languages to their library?

What are some ways to let the community to know the library has gone multi-lingual?


Diversity, P. f. (2008). Passion for Diversity. Library Journal Movers and Shakers, 15.

Gail Dickinson, K. H. (2008). Celebrating Language Diversity to Improve Achievement.

Library Media Connect, 26(7), 5.

Kapnisi, S. (2009). IFLA and Language Diversity. IFLA Journal, 35(2), 183-185.

Patton, J. A. (2008). You're not bilingual, so what? Library Media Connect, 26(7), 22-25.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Diversity in Academic Libraries

Diversity and multiculturalism have become important issues within the academic community and have a great influence on academic libraries in many ways. Academic libraries not only implement diversity initiatives in hiring and retaining a diverse workforce, they must also promote awareness of multiculturalism and diversity in their collections and programs for patrons. The ALA's Library Bill of Rights states that "books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves…a person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background or views" (ALA, 1996). Academic libraries must always strive to not simply talk about diversity but also exhibit a clear commitment to building an environment that is inclusive for all races, religions, sexual orientations, and abilities.

There are several avenues through which libraries can promote diversity and provide an example to the larger academic community. Libraries must strive to recruit and retain a diverse work force. Beyond hiring, libraries must collect materials that reflect the cultural background of the community they serve. Having a diverse collection and demonstrating a desire to preserve and collect the materials of minority cultures will aid in effort to reach out the community as a whole. Libraries must also strive to be equitable in outreach programming. Applying the principles of diversity to outreach efforts is an important way for libraries to reach the largest population possible (Orange and Osbourne, 2004).

Diversity in outreach is all about equity in services. In the introduction to From Outreach to Equality: Innovative Models of Library Policy and Practice, Satia Orange and Robin Osbourne(2004) discussed the pitfalls of only providing outreach programs to "underserved populations" with limited funding and little to no support (Orange and Osbourne, 2004). The funding for programs like this can dry up quickly (as I am sure we are all aware in the current economic conditions) so relying on special programs to reach minority audiences can be a slippery slope.

Orange and Osbourne emphasize the importance of tailoring all outreach programs to the broadest possible population in order to ensure that they are equally accessible for everyone. The practice of using special funding for outreach programs gives the impression that these programs are extra and not essential to the daily routines of librarians. Thus in times of economic uncertainty, the programs disappear, often when they are needed the most (Orange and Osbourne, 2004). Separating programs for regular library users from "underserved populations" creates an environment of inequity. The remedy to this problem is to view outreach as one of the primary responsibilities of the library and to then direct outreach efforts to the whole community, thus ensuring that all will be treated equitably no matter the circumstances.

The common message throughout all of my reading about diversity has been focused on equity; equity in hiring, equity in service, and equity in collecting. The objective to being aware of diversity is not to create an environment where minorities are given better or special treatment, but where everyone is treated the same (Peterson, 1999). Diversity in librarianship is not about quotas or statistics; it is about living up to the standards set forth by the American Library Association. When the Library Bill of Rights says equal access for all, the library should be made equally accessible for everyone.

Discussion questions:

Are there similarities/differences between how diversity programs should be implemented in the different types of libraries?

What are some examples of outreach programs that cater to a broader population?


American Library Association Council (1996). "Library Bill of Rights." Retrieved November 21, 2009 from

Orange, Satia and Osbourne, Robin. (2004) Introduction. In Robin Osbourne (Ed.), From Outreach to Equity: Innovative Models of Library Policy and Practice (xi-xvii) Chicago: American Library Association.

Peterson, Lorna. (1999) The Definition of Diversity: Two Views. A More Specific Definition. The Journal of Library Administration, 27(1), 17-26.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology: A Necessary Tool for Information Literacy


Information literacy, the ability to access, evaluate, organize and use information from a variety of sources, is a necessary component of education that must be implemented in curriculum for maximum student success. Though there are many different mediums through which to gain access to information, a major tool used in today’s school systems other than the printed word is technology through the use of computers. Why this shift?  According to Holly Barton, in her article “Information “Literacy: Learning How to Learn”, the use of technology “provides acquisition to greater volume and depth of information than was ever possible before”(Barton, 2009, p.2). This has made it vital to educators, teachers and librarians alike, to shift the way they allow students to engage in learning.

If schools and libraries were incapable of providing technology, then it would be near impossible to create the type of lifelong learners that we envision our world to be full of in the future. Technology has allowed us to shift from direct instruction to discovery by “doing”, from teacher centered to learner centered activities, from learning as torture to learning as fun, and from teacher as transmitter to teacher as facilitator. When this type of learning is established, we are creating students who learn faster and more in depth, which is more motivating and encouraging for students, teachers and parents. (Barton, 2009)) Technology for information literacy is necessary for both schools and libraries to help our youth master the critical thinking process.


What does this mean for schools?


Schools will have to be capable of providing technology to make it possible to produce information literate students and it will have to begin at the earliest grades. In her article “Understanding Information Literacy”, Barbara Humes insists that students need to learn early on “how to learn” so that they can be independent seekers of information throughout their lives. In order to do this, teachers of all subjects must “blend their traditional fact-based approach with an emphasis on learner-based inquiry and the scientific inquiry process” (as cited in Lennox, 1993). This is more of a self-discovery type learning that would be beneficial for the student to master.

The fight for information literacy is being tackled on all fronts in the school as well. This isn’t just a job for the teacher. The principal is at the forefront of the process and is to advance resource-based learning by providing ample planning time and a respectable budget. Humes also cites, “As instructional partners, the classroom teacher and library media specialist are actively involved in identifying the learning needs of the students, developing teaching units that facilitate activities which offer meaningful practice in using a variety of information resources, and guiding student progress” (as cited in Wisconsin Educational Media Association, 1993). With all of these positions hard at work, information literacy is something that a school should be able to accomplish. Schools can become a place where learning is fun and teachers act as facilitators more than anything. The idea is to get the ball rolling for the students and allow them to take it from there.


What does this mean for libraries?


            As more schools make this shift to include information literacy in the curriculum, we will see a more active role for librarians. This type of learning will create a demand for varied media sources, and in turn will create the need for staff to re-evaluate how money is disseminated between text books and library media resources. Not only will school libraries be affected, but public libraries will have more responsibilities as well. They will have to work harder to keep up with what the surrounding schools are studying to ensure that students and parents will be able to locate necessary materials outside of the school atmosphere. Librarians will also be called upon more frequently than ever to provide guidance to teachers and learners to facilitate information literacy and lifelong learning. (Humes, 2003)

            Librarians will have the opportunity to use their skills to the fullest to help these kids succeed. Imagine walking into your public library and seeing students hard at work with their local librarians. You might see the hustle and bustle of excited students searching through information and sharing it with each other while looking to the librarian for verification. You might also see siblings helping each other become problem solvers through the use of media equipment, maybe even with the help of mom or dad. This is what a community library should look like, especially when we are promoting life long learning.



Something to consider:

Schools are currently cutting media specialists and replacing them with non-certified people to save money. How will this affect the progress of information literacy in schools?


Barton, H. Information Literacy: Learning How to Learn.  Rhode Island Network for Education Technology.  Retrieved on October 20, 2009, from

Humes, Barbara. Understanding information literacy. Retrieved on November 15, 2009,  from

Plotnick, Eric. Information Literacy. Retrieved on November 15, 2009, from




Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Information Literacy in the Classroom

Information literacy is defined by the American Library Association as “the ability to seek and effectively utilize information resources, including knowledge of how to use technologies and the forms in which information is stored” (Ercegovac and Yamasaki, 2003). Information literacy is a tool of empowerment for all learners, reached through a research based approach to learning. It requires skills to adapt to new technology in order to use a variety of information sources and effective search strategies to learn independently, solve problems and make decisions. Information literacy forms the basis for life-long learning. Basically, it is the result of learning how to learn. A person uses their information literacy skills to derive meaning from the learning process, and there is today a greater focus on teaching all students to think critically, to become independent lifelong learners, and to proficiently use a variety of technologies.

Students today must learn to access needed information effectively and use appropriate investigative methods. Information processing and problem solving skills are essential to a student’s future employment success. More than half of the United States job force is composed of employees known as “knowledge workers” whose primary marketable skills are associated with information literacy. In the past, when students primarily looked to their school or public library for information, the concept of information literacy was not yet born. Here in these libraries sat selected collections of reference materials and authoritative texts deemed worthy to be included in the collections by librarians trained to evaluate the value and credibility of the sources. In today’s web-driven world, how is a person to know what information is valid and what is not? Individuals posting information on the web are (often) not required to pass through traditional editorial constraints or undergo fact-checking such as required in conventional published print media.

Today’s teachers are faced with the challenge of teaching their students the skills of information literacy. Although textbooks, memorization and testing still exists, more and more the process of learning is going toward self-directed learning, information processing and organizing on the part of the student. The role of the teacher is becoming less of a fact-based provider of knowledge to more of a facilitator for learner-based inquiry and search methods. Educators help students to develop cognitive strategies for selecting, retrieving and evaluating information. A basic objective of today’s education is a process-oriented one which enables students to learn how to identify needed information, locate and organize it, and present it in meaningful way.

Educators have many options to present information to students in addition to the traditional textbook method. Technology plays a huge role in information literacy, and students who use technology effectively tend to become better at managing information, communicating and presenting ideas. Applications such as blogs, podcasts, streaming videos and webcams are frequently used in schools these days. Consider the French teacher who can treat her students to a “trip” to Paris via a webcam that is positioned at the Eiffel Tower. Students can view French newspapers online to both learn the language and gain knowledge about current events in the country. Students can utilize podcasts of language lessons to learn the language. Instead of being limited to class time in a language lab, a student can bring the podcast home and listen to it as often as they need to. This same French teacher can coordinate conversations using the Skype application so that students in America can speak with students in France. Such interactive technologies can be so much more effective than strict textbook reading.

Consider the history class here in Michigan that is studying the Civil War. Michigan is not particularly rich in Civil War history, but what if the teacher wanted to give his students the opportunity to experience the locations of some of the major events in the war. Videos could certainly be shown in the classroom, but selection may be limited. Much more is available online. Students could view historical sites, battleground locations, stops on the Underground Railroad or re-enactments of warfare via the internet. Streaming videos and even YouTube presentations can be used to view historical presentations, interview accounts and recreations of period events.

Many teachers create web pages where they can post lesson plans and course documents. Students are able to check homework assignments and information from their home computer. Interactive online quizzes are often used to give students immediate feedback and correction explanation on errors. Computer labs are available at most schools for students who do not have internet access at home. Students learn about computer networking and telecommunications for data access and participation in learning communities. Presentations of softare packages, multimedia technologies and applications are taught so that students are prepared for employment after graduation.

Educators need to teach students how to evaluate information and question authority. How current is the information? How reliable is it? Is it biased? Will different people perceive the information differently? What are the qualifications of the author and what are the author’s sources? Is the information linked to a site that is being used to sell a product? Teaching students how to identify the information that they need, how to locate it, how to choose reliable sources, and how to blend the information into a final product is the basis for helping to ensure that they will become masters of information literacy and successful life-long learners.

Thoughts to consider: Teachers are becoming very creative in using a variety of resources to teach their students information literacy skills. What are some other resources they could use? What might the future of technology bring that will be helpful in this endeavor?


Barton, H. Information Literacy: Learning How to Learn. Rhode Island Network for Education Technology. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from

Dolnicek, B. (2009). Information Literacy. Nebraska Library Association Quarterly, 40(1), 3-4. Retrieved October 19, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.

Ercegovac, J. and Yamasaki, E. (2003). Information Literacy: Search Strategies, Tools & Resources. Library Instruction. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from on October 19, 2009

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, American Library Association, Retrieved on October 19, 2009 from