Monday, December 1, 2008

Intellectual Freedom as Information Policy: Web Content and Filtering

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a much-debated Act that demands web filters to be installed on all school or public library computers, including patron and staff terminals, that receive federal funding. Its purpose is to protect minors from images that are 1) obscene, 2) child pornography, or 3) harmful to minors. Libraries that refuse to comply with this Information Policy will lose federal Internet funding. Due to this, some libraries have elected to forgo funding in order to maintain un-filtered web access. Within the libraries that have restricted web access, a recent stipulation to CIPA allows adult patrons to access restricted web content. However, the patron needs the permission of a librarian to do so, who must un-block the material in a timely fashion. Web software filters can vary in restrictions, with much innocent material being filtered in the process. An overview on different vendors available, along with the exact nature of what is being filtered, can be found at

There has been much resistance to this Act, including from ALA and the National Coalition Against Censorship. The NCAC states, “…every trip to the library may entail a Big Brother-ish experience—being protected from unseeable material that an unknown reviewer has decided to block based on undisclosed criteria” (Bertin, Joan). In addition, the IFLA Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom has also issued a statement that can be applied to this debate. The Declaration states that, “libraries and information services shall make materials, facilities and services equally accessible to all users. There shall be no discrimination for any reason including race, national or ethnic origin, gender or sexual preference, age, disability, religion, or political beliefs” (“The Glasgow Declaration”). According to IFLA, age becomes a discriminating factor with the demand of software filters on library computers that receive federal funding.

A New York Times article “Tools to Keep the Web Safe for Children” reveals another side to the filtering debate, stating, “…by relying too much on technology, rather than education and supervision, children will be unprepared to deal with exposure to inappropriate content when it does eventually occur” (Tugend, 2007). The author believes parental supervision in their children’s web activities is beneficial, while web filtering in libraries opens a controversial topic.

Further Information:

CIPA Regulations:

“Children’s Internet Protection Act”

The American Library Association’s Q and A on CIPA

Questions for Discussion:

What are your views on web filtering software?

Is it appropriate that the public and school libraries receiving federal funding must comply with CIPA regulations in order to continue the funds?


Bertin, Joan. “Court Errs on Upholding Library Web Filters.”

Tugend, Alina. “Tools to Keep the Web Safe for Children.”

IFLA. “The Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom.”

Information Technology Policy & Universal Access

One of the primary sources of information technology policy for libraries is the ALA Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP); a key element of the OITP’s mission is “to ensure access to electronic information resources as a means of upholding the public’s right to a free and open information society”. As part of OITP’s Public Access to Information and Networks programs, policy statements dealing with universal access to electronic information, services and networks are provided for the purpose of educating ALA members on implications of information policy. The office also monitors federal and state government policies affecting information technology as part of its Washington Advocacy initiative.

Several pieces of federal legislation have been enacted in an attempt to provide uniform access to electronic information technology; these include:

- The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which funds the E-Rate programs for libraries administered by the Universal Services Administrative Company.
- The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) of 1996, which funds the Grants to States program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Both the E-Rate and LSTA programs place priority on broadening access to electronic information technology. For instance, the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) states among its objectives: “to support programs that make library resources more accessible to urban and rural localities, low-income residents, and others having difficulty using library services.” (Source: MHAL – Introduction to LSTA).

According to Whinston (2004), the primary strategy of these programs has been to “strengthen community access points in underserved and disadvantaged areas”, rather than to increase residential access. These efforts can be viewed as analogous to telephone universal service programs of the 20th century which subsidized installation of public telephones in low-income areas.

Universal residential access to electronic information and services in the United States remains elusive. A study of internet access in U.S. households reported by Whinston shows that significant disparities in access exist based on income and education levels. As an example, households in the lowest income group (less than $15,000 annually) are six times less likely to have internet access than those in the highest income group (over $75,000 annually). Smaller disparities exist based on urban vs. rural residency.

Discussion questions:
What do you think about current federal policy on technology access? Might there be more effective or direct ways to bridge the “digital divide” than the current strategy?


ALA Policies on Information Technology and Access:
1. ALA Office for Information Technology Policy,
2. ALA - Principles for the Networked World,
3. ALA - Economic Barriers to Information Access,
4. ALA - Access to Electronic Information, Services, and Networks,

Digital Divide in the U.S.:
5. Whinston, A. B. (2004). IT policies and issues: US and the Americas. In M. Kagami, M. Tsuji & E. Giovannetti (Ed). Information Technology Policy and the Digital Divide: Lessons for Developing Countries (pp. 81-87) [electronic resource]. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, c2004.

Federal Programs for Information Access:
6. Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund (“E-Rate”),
7. McCallion, G. (2003). Federal Aid to Libraries: The Library Services and Technology Act. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA.
8. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) – State Programs,
9. MHAL – Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA),

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Collection Development Policy and the Challenged Book

As a librarian seeking to develop the library’s collection, you have performed a detailed community analysis, set service priorities, and determined the role your public library will play. You have carefully reviewed and selected materials to ensure they meet both the needs of your community and the criteria set forth by the ALA, stating that “Librarians have a professional responsibility to be inclusive, not exclusive, in collection development and in the provision of interlibrary loan. Access to all materials and resources legally obtainable should be assured to the user, and policies should not unjustly exclude materials and resources even if they are offensive to the librarian or the user. This includes materials and resources that reflect a diversity of political, economic, religious, social, minority, and sexual issues. A balanced collection reflects a diversity of materials and resources, not an equality of numbers” (Diversity in Collection Development: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights). Yet, even after such careful consideration, you are now facing a challenge to a “controversial” book.

According to the ALA in Reporting a Challenge, “a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.” Whether a religious group is decrying a moral affront, a parent thinks that content will corrupt their child, or there’s a question of compromised national security, most reasons for challenges boil down to fear. “Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad” (ALA, Freedom to Read Statement). Challenges often occur when books contain violence, sex, profanity, homosexuality, occult themes or rebellious youth. The result of restricting access to certain books often backfires. Staples (1996) states “for one thing, librarians say the primary effect of keeping kids from reading a book is that they want to read it above all others.” The NCTE’s Students Right to Read Guideline further asserts that “Censorship leaves students with an inadequate and distorted picture of the ideals, values, and problems of their culture.”

Robert P. Doyle (2008) documented over 80 books on this year’s list of challenged books, though it includes only the known challenges. He states, “Surveys indicate approximately 85 percent of the challenges to library materials receive no media attention and remain unreported. Moreover, this list is limited to books and does not include challenges to magazines, newspapers, films, broadcasts, plays, performances, electronic publications, or exhibits.” In addition to challenges, “stealth censorship,” occurs when books quietly disappear from our libraries’ shelves in various ways. Parents often choose to forego a formal challenge, and simply slip a book off the shelf. Librarians, either fearing controversy, loss of employment, reduced funding, or pressure from administration, may contribute to censorship by being overly cautious about the books they order, or physically flagging controversial books already on the shelves. Publishers contribute to censorship by avoiding stories on controversial topics, and authors censor themselves by changing content, even if it affects the credibility of their work.

One of the main sources of help in defending a challenged book is the ALA, which has set forth many policies and posted links to other resources on its website. Some of the most important links to the ALA, The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and others, are included in the sources section below.

Discussion Questions:

A patron approaches you, explaining that a specific book shouldn’t be available for young people due to violence and sexual situations. What do you, as the librarian, do now? Do you think that there circumstances in which censorship would be necessary?


American Library Association (ALA)

Support for dealing with or reporting challenges to library materials. Accessed November 30, 2008.

Reporting a Challenge. Accessed November 30, 2008.

Workbook for Selection Policy Writing. Accessed November 30, 2008.

Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Accessed November 30, 2008.

The Library Bill of Rights. Accessed November 30, 2008.

Diversity in Collection Development: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. Accessed November 30, 2008.

The Freedom to Read Statement. Accessed November 30, 2008.

Random House Children’s Books. First Amendment First Aid Kit. Accessed November 30, 2008.

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), Guideline on The Students' Right to Read. 1981. Accessed November 30, 2008.

Staples, Suzanne Fisher. What Johnny Can’t Read: Censorship in American Libraries. The Alan Review, Volume 23, Number 2, Winter 1996.

Robert P. Doyle, Books Challenged or Banned in 2007-2008, 2008.

Information policies: Services

Technology has played a major role in the change of how information is accessed, but it also has created new ways for libraries to make it easier for patrons to request and receive materials. Government largely affects policies within libraries as well. While the most apparent influence in this realm is copyrights, other factors that may not be as apparent can affect how libraries can serve patrons.

One of the most current trends in services has been the integration of self-services for patrons at the library. Today many libraries offer the services of remote renewals or place holds over the internet; self-service in libraries has the ability to enhance the ease in which patrons can access materials to loan. The patron can now come to the library and retrieve the items from hold by themselves, as well as check them, and any other additional material out using self-scanners. These machines are like those used in stores and offer freedom and security for the patrons. With this system, holds are securely kept in an area that requires your library ID to access, while giving patrons the freedom to access these materials themselves; it also allows the staff to process requests quickly, and as one library found out when implement the system, saved the processing area from being over-run by returned and requested materials.

As stated, other policies and services can be affected by current government actions. Last year in Virginia, two counties tried to limit illegal immigrants’ access to public services. In an article published in American Libraries, it states that “Administrators in both counties must report back to county official s on any services that can legally be denied to anyone residing in the country unlawfully.” For the library this means that they must reexamine their policies on issuing library cards.

As previously discussed, policies relating to services are an important part of library “life”. We have seen how intellectual freedom is affected by various policies, concerning both web use and circulation of materials. As new technologies and issues arise, libraries must consider how to best serve their patrons by changing or creating new policies.

Question: Have you ever witnessed a change of policy within any type of organization because of technological or political changes or issues? How did it affect the patron, customer, or user?


Werne, Ken. (2007). Self-service works! Public Libraries, 46 (3), 19-20.

G.M.E. (2007). Libraries examine policies as counties target illegals. American Libraries, 38 (8), 20.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Going In and Coming Out: Libraries and the LGBTQ Community

Imagine that you are a 17-year-old (or even younger), living in a conservative (often hostile) household and/or where any discussion of your sexuality is forbidden. For many members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual/Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) community this is a disheartening and painful reality, so where do they go to learn about themselves and find solace in personal accounts echoing their own: the public library. The public library interacts with the LGBTQ community in three core ways: (1) LGBTQ employees; (2) LGBTQ patrons; (3) LGBTQ opposition. Over the years, libraries have vacillated between the suppressive and the progressive; in light of this, libraries still play an integral role in educating the public on LGBT issues for better or for worse.

In the 1970s, the LGBTQ community faced a disparaging relationship with public libraries, with almost no LGBTQ-centric collections, minimal service (forced upon even LGBTQ librarians), and having Homosexuality-related works listed under “sexual perversion.” The American Library Association (ALA) acted progressively in 1970 by forming the Gay Liberation Task Force of SRRT (Social Responsibilities Round Table); their mission was to improve services to the LGBTQ community and open access to LGBTQ materials. The task force was met with opposition; one such instance concerns the remarks of David K. Berninghausen, director of the now closed University of Minnesota Library School, where he argued that the ALA had no right promoting the Homosexual lifestyle or meddling in social issues. Conversely, the argument was made that the ALA was not promoting a lifestyle, but providing a “politically and socially marginalized population” with access to quality information (Joyce, 2008). The ALA continues to be progressive and proactive by putting national conferences in cities without discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community and have pushed for a growth in LGBTQ collections and archives (James V. Carmichael, 1998).

Norman G. Kester illustrates the importance of access to LGBTQ materials by stating, “Books—reading and the pursuit of discovering who I am as a black gay man and librarian—brought me to libraries and librarianship…I recall the incredible joy I found reading these writings: I was so overwhelmed I wanted to tell someone how important it was to find these ideas in a public library” (Kester, 1997). A multi-cultural and socially diverse library affects us all, but is even more important for those who cannot afford to secretly buy materials at the bookstore or who cannot keep these materials at home for fear of a severe punishment from violence to abandonment. This is one of the most serious issues for librarians, and for the LGBTQ community it can mean life or death; lack of such materials and feelings of alienation have led to an unfortunate number of suicides. With this in mind, making quality LGBTQ materials private and easily accessible becomes not only a Librarian’s concern, but a Human one as well.

Discussion: Is it possible for neutrality and LGBTQ concerns to co-exist within public libraries?

James V. Carmichael, J. (1998). Homosexuality and United States libraries: Land of the free, but not home to the gay. from

Joyce, S. (2008). A few gates redux: an examination of the social responsibilities debate in the early 1970s and 1990s. In A. Lewis (Ed.), Questioning library neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian (pp. 33-66). Duluth: Library Juice Press.

Kester, N. G. (1997). Out and proud in the public library. In N. G. Kester (Ed.), Liberating minds: the stories and professional lives of gay, lesbian, and bisexual librarians and their advocates (pp. 182-189). Jefferson: McFarland and Company, Inc.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Poor Culture and Libraries

The poor form a culture in society because they have similar problems and needs, with require various solutions. Most libraries acknowledge that poverty is a problem that relates directly to the library. Certainly when Andrew Carnegie had a vision of the library as putting all people on a level playing surface, he had in mind poor people as well as immigrants. ALA’s Policy 61 starts out:

The American Library Association promotes equal access to information for all persons, and recognizes the urgent need to respond to the increasing number of poor children, adults, and families in America. These people are affected by a combination of limitations, including illiteracy, illness, social isolation, homelessness, hunger, and discrimination, which hamper the effectiveness of traditional library services. Therefore it is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies (ALA website).

The library can be a crucial resource for poor people. Librarians can notice the trend that as more people become poor, more people come to the library for various needs: to access a computer, to help find a job, to utilize the programs offered, etc. Of course, this is especially relevant to our current economic troubles.

How, specifically, can libraries accommodate the poor?

Well, going back to Policy 61 quoted above, a group called the Social Responsibilities Round Table started up a task force, called the Hunger, Homelessness and Poverty Task Force designed specifically to promote and enforce ALA Policy 61 in libraries and beyond. But here are some specific things that ALA suggests: removing fees and fines; having materials specifically about poverty; promoting laws that help poor people; educating library staff to the problems and solutions of poverty; programming designed for the poor.

The library I work at, Kalamazoo Public Library, recently hosted a “poverty simulation” for its staff. It was an enlightening look into how it feels to be poor, and a closer look at some of the tough decisions that poor people have to make daily.

Discussion question: if you work at a library or visit one frequently, how has that library helped to accommodate the poor? Or, how can it? Or, how can we as future librarians?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patrons should be treated equally, right?

One of the most important things I’ve personally learned in Library school so far is that judgment is a very bad thing. This should be common sense and I’ve always thought of myself as non-judgmental but perhaps it was na├»ve to think everyone would be this way. The library I currently work in, Library X, is a public library that serves a very diverse population. There are refugees who relocate to the surrounding area from countries such as Iran and Afghanistan. There is also a significant inner city population that comes to use the Internet and very rarely check books out.

One girl, I’ll call her Alice, hangs out at the library almost every day for hours. She’s a young African-American female and is particularly fond of one of the children’s librarians. Alice will sit by the librarian’s desk and talk to her and even helps out on occasion when the librarian can find her something to do. This situation has caused some issues with other members of the staff, especially senior staff members. They see Alice’s presence as a nuisance and will sometimes snap at her to move or get out of their way. I do believe that her being African-American has nothing to do with the attitudes but mostly the fact that she’s young. It’s still a problem because library workers should be non-biased toward all patrons, regardless of race, gender or age.

While reading Brian Soneda’s article, “Diversity: try standing in their shoes” he describes being at a conference panel about helping diverse patrons. One of the speakers, Sayumi Irey identified some common myths people have about non-English speakers, “’English is superior to any other language” and, “If you speak really loudly and really slowly, people who understand no English will understand you.’” In the short time I’ve worked at Library X, I can definitely say that I have experienced both myths from my co-workers.

The interesting and sad part about this is that libraries in general should be places the entire community should feel welcome in and be able to use. I firmly believe that prejudice should be kept out of libraries. Librarians should be able to help all patrons with any request, no matter how small or easy they think it should be.

So, as future librarians, are they any moments you can think of where it’s been hard to relate to someone who doesn’t speak English? Where do you see Multiculturalism and Diversity fitting into the library settings? If you were a library director and one of your staff members seemed to treat people of a certain race, gender or age differently, would you say something?

Soneda, B. (2005) “Diversity: Try Standing in Their Shoes” New York: The H.W. Wilson Company.

Diversity in the Library

The issue of diversity within the library profession has become a topic of discussion in recent years. According to the article Racial and Ethnic Diversity of U.S. Library Workers the problem is not a lack of diversity amongst library staff, but rather the lack of racial diversity among those holding a masters degree in general. The need to hire and retain a diverse workforce will be important for the profession to thrive. Libraries can be a welcoming place to visit, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, etc, but to achieve this it helps to have a diverse staff.

When the question of diversity in libraries is raised, the focus tends to be in the discrepancies between the racial and ethnic composition of the community and that of library staff, especially librarians. Mr. Lance instead suggests the comparisons should be between the racial and ethnic composition of the adult population, those over 25 and those having the appropriate level of education within that population. He believes that educational goals need to be instilled in the Hispanic and African American populations at an early age. This would help each racial group to attain more educational degrees, which in turn would provide a more diverse pool of applicants to select from for library employment. Public libraries are essential to the education of all people.

In the article, Texas Librarian Promotes Diversity, Miriam Rodriguez came from Cuba in 1983; she could barely speak a word of English. She turned to the local library for help. Since then she has become a librarian and advocates for the multilingual and multiethnic community in Dallas, Texas.

In the book The Nexgen Librarian’s Survival Guide, by Rachel Singer Gordon, the author mentions that the library profession is pursing recruitment of new, young, and diverse professionals. It encourages libraries to appeal to their communities. Librarians need to become proactive with their community needs. For example, if city has a growing Hispanic population, they may want to consider ordering materials in Spanish for those patrons and create book discussion groups and other programs that would encourage these patrons to use the library. Furthermore, Gordon mentions that the ALA and other organizations are seeking to recruit diverse librarians through initiatives such as the Spectrum Scholarship program. As the profession of the librarian changes in the next few years, so will the publics concept about the profession.

How can ALA, local libraries, and other organizations encourage the education of all racial and ethnic groups?

Gordon, R. (2006). The Nexgen Librarian’s Survival Guide. New Jersey: Information Today.
Lance, K.C. (2005). Racial and Ethnic Diversity of U.S. Library Workers. American Libraries. 36, 41.
Ishizuka, K. (2004). Texas Librarian Promotes Diversity. School Library Journal. 50, 21.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What is information Literacy?

The Association of College & research Libraries defines Information Literacy in the following manner, “Information literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.” They also state the following about why it is important be proficient in information literacy, “The beginning of the 21st century has been called the Information Age because of the explosion of information output and information sources. It has become increasingly clear that students cannot learn everything they need to know in their field of study in a few years of college. Information literacy equips them with the critical skills necessary to become independent lifelong learners.” Gavin (2008) states, “In this so-called information age , students, like the public, often mistake data and information for knowledge and, if they consider it at all, misinterpret knowledge for wisdom.” As librarians we must understand the implications of her and other professionals statements in this field.
Information literacy is assessed based on the Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education, as developed by the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2000:
-Determine the extent of information needed
-Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
-Evaluate information and its sources critically
-Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
-Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
-Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally


American Library Association. (September 01, 2006.) Information literacy competency standards for higher education. In American Library Association.Accessed November 02, 2008, from Document ID: 185693

Committee, I. L. A. Introduction to Information Literacy. Retrieved 10/16, 2008, from

Gavin, C. (2008). Teaching Information Literacy A Conceptual Approach. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

What are the implications of the lack of proficiency in information literacy on American society?

Information literacy enables an individual to make informed decisions and become a productive member of society. Unfortunately, as the Association of College and Research Libraries states in their Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report, “the very people who most need the empowerment inherent in being information literate are the least likely to have learning experiences which will promote these abilities. Minority and at-risk students, illiterate adults, people with English as a second language, and economically disadvantaged people are among those most likely to lack access to the information that can improve their situations.” (ALA, 1989)

In their report the Association of College and Research Libraries mention some examples of situations where information literacy would be helpful.

Can you think of any situations in your own life where information literacy has helped you make the right decision? Can you think of any situation where someone without these skills could make the wrong decision or not be able to make one at all?

The expansion of the internet, has made the availability of information seem almost limitless and libraries offer free access to this. In many cases the internet is a great tool however one must be able to differentiate between what they need, what is truth and what is opinion, and how to use it effectively. Without these skills it is easy for one to become misled.

The following article is about some Easthampton fourth graders who were using the internet to research Ancient Egypt, and found that the Ancient Egyptians worshipped Chihuahua Pharaohs. The fourth graders thought they had found something for their research project, however, "a closer investigation of the fictional Chihuahuas revealed they were in fact intended as a fun graphic-design project, not an Egyptian history lesson." (Scherer, 1999)

One example of uncertainty on the web would be Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia. Many mistakenly trust Wikipedia as a reliable source however, their own disclaimer states, “anyone with an Internet connection” can alter its content and they cannot guarantee accuracy. (Shaw, 2008) This means anyone can post something claiming that it is truth and without the skills to verify the information one can be terribly misled.

The article below from the New York Times discusses one case of incorrect information appearing on Wikipedia . The former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville, John Seigenthaler Sr., discovered after reading his own biography on Wikipedia, “that he ‘was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother Bobby." (Seelye, 2005)In addition he found, “that the false information had been on the site for several months and that an unknown number of people had read it, and possibly posted it on or linked it to other sites.” (Seelye, 2005)

On the other hand many newspapers will cite Wikipedia as a source for the information they are reporting on. In this article author Donna Shaw discusses the controversy surrounding the use of Wikipedia in news stories. While many newspapers do not have any specific policy banning the use of Wikipedia, many will use this as a starting point for their research. One editor is quoted as saying, “Trained journalists have better resources available to them than Wikipedia.” (Shaw, 2008)

What if you weren’t a trained journalist, how do you determine if what you are reading on the internet is accurate?


American Library Association. (1989, November 2, 2008). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report. Washington D.C.: ALA.

Scherer, M. (1999, November 2, 2008). Internet not always good source. Daily Hampshire Gazette, from

Seelye, K. Q. (2005, November 8, 2008). Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar. New York Times,

Shaw, D. (2008). Wikipedia in the Newsroom. American Journalism Review, 30(1), 40-45

Information Literacy: Considering the World Wide Web

Information literacy has become a complex topic because it is imperative that people become information literate in order to successfully navigate the wealth of information on the web and decide whether or not it is credible. In “The Nation: Course correction; teaching students to swim in the online sea” Geoffrey Nunberg says: “The trusting nature is partly a legacy of the print age-if we give the benefit of the doubt to the things we read in library books it is because they have been screened twice: first by a publisher, who decided they were worth printing and then by a librarian who acquired them or a professor that requested their purchase”. (Nunberg, 2005, para. 3). This tells us that we have left information literacy to the Information professionals and therefore have not learned the proper ways to evaluate sources. College students have turned to Google as their main research source and simply click the first links that appear on the page, assuming that the information is credible because it appears first. This limits the scope of student research because they lack information literacy. Carie Windham, author of Getting past Google: Perspectives on information literacy from the millennial mind says: “students often limit their search options by relying on digitized sources when more relevant, hard copy sources may be found on the libraries shelves”. (Windam, 2006, p.5) The objective of information literacy education is to produce citizens who are informed, able to succeed in society and who can evaluate information in beneficial ways. Using Google as the sole source for academic research (even though it does contain products such as Google Scholar) is not enough.
This is one reason why Information Literacy tutorials such TILT (Texas Information Literacy Tutorial), developed by the library system at University of Texas at Austin are important for educating students in Information Literacy. Tutorials integrate new, flashy, technology with traditional research questions and answers such as: “how do I evaluate this source”?, “Is this source credible”? “What sources are best for certain types of information”? It attempts to provide a focus for student research and show them that both the Internet and the library are valuable research tools once you have the skills necessary to navigate them. TILT won the Association of College and Research Libraries annual “Innovation in Instruction Award. (University of Texas Information Literacy Tutorial Wins More National Honors, 2000). According to the article: “Texas information literacy tutorial wins more national honors, from the University of Texas at Austin’s website, TILT is:
“a modular, Web-based tool designed to teach undergraduates fundamental research skills, covers the selection of appropriate information sources; effective searching of library databases and the Internet; and the location, evaluation and citation of information. In each module students learn concepts and practice them through interactions.” (University of Texas Information Literacy Tutorial Wins More National Honors, 2000). This tutorial is a great example of how librarians can help students become more information literate. (Click on this link to check out the Tutorial).
Do you think this tutorial supports information literacy learning? Do you think other college students would be responsive to this type of product if it was featured in your library? This was originally designed for students in an academic library, but how could you adapt it for a general population within a public library?

The New York Times also has a position on information literacy in its current series called “The Future of Reading”. The article entitled: “Online, RU really Reading” addresses how the Internet is affecting literacy for children, teens and college students. Researchers argue that web-reading promotes traditional literacy and information literacy at the same time because students are engaged in reading the content they are most interested in, such as fan fiction and blogs. In effect, they are reading and engaging with information even though it may not be in traditional formats. Additionally, “some literacy experts say that online reading skills will help children fare better when they begin looking for digital age jobs” (Rich, 2008, Setting Expections section, para. 1 )This is one pro for on-line reading and literacy, because it promotes information literacy, but there are also cons. One con is that it ruins concentration and changes the way the brain processes the act of reading. “Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, videos and sounds…distracts more than strengthens readers”. (Rich, 2008, Setting Expections section, para.14) As we move into the digital age of libraries we must recognize a variety of ways to promote information literacy.
Can you think of other pros and cons for the idea that online/digital reading supports information literacy?


Nunberg, G. (2005, February 13). The Nation: course correction: Teaching students to swim in the online sea. New York Times. Retrieved, October 28, 2008, from,

Rich, M. (2008, July 27). Online RU Really Reading. New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2008, from,

University of Texas at Austin. (2000, April 19). Texas information literacy tutorial wins more national honors. In Office of Public Affairs News. Retrieved October 28, 2008, from,

University of Texas System Digital Library. (16 June 2003). Texas Information Literacy Tutorial. Retrieved October 25, 2008, from,

Windam, C. (2006). Getting past Google: Perspectives on information literacy from the millennial mind. Educause Learning Initative, 3,1-10. Retrieved October 28, 2008, from,