Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Information Literacy

According to The National Forum on Information Literacy, “Information literacy is defined as the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” (NFIL, 2009) Information literacy requires that a person not only has the technical ability to ascertain information, but that they are also critical thinkers who can evaluate the validity of that information.

The current group of college aged students are definitely technically savvy having grown up with computers and web availability, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are information literate. Surprisingly, a report conducted by the Joint Information Systems Committee, a British higher-education research institute, found :
1)Young people don't develop good search strategies to find quality information.
2)They might find information on the Internet quickly, but they don't know how to evaluate the quality of what they find. (see
3)They don't understand what the Internet really is: a vast network with many different content providers. (Goodall,2008)

Academic and Public libraries can become valuable tools for lifelong learning if they take this opportunity to become “the place” that people choose to go to in order to learn about or expand upon their information literacy skills.

Information literacy is of increasing importance to libraries and librarians as libraries are poised to transition between primarily physical media to increased digital media. The uniform methods of organization, such as Library of Congress cataloging or the Dewey Classification system, are not readily adaptable to online sources, since hypertext blurs the finite forms of a journal or book. Moreover, online media can utilize even more powerful search engines and classifications, such as tagging or metadata. Because of this transition, traditional ways of teaching information literacy must be coupled with computer literacy to make them effective.

Libraries switching to, or which have switched to OPACs will still require a basic understanding of Dewey or Library of Congress classification to find physical items. In addition, basic computer skills such as using hardware and boolean search terms are necessary.

Libraries hoping to offer online services will face numerous problems even with computer literate patrons. Downloadable audio books will require each patron to use their own portable audio device. The librarian attempting to help patrons with this service may be facing a new mp3 player each time he or she helps someone. Online databases operate with different querying front-ends, and the sites they are built into often vary widely. Though basic database query rules will always apply, there are many variables in layout and appearance.

The internet offers many tools to help teach information literacy as well. There are message boards, support groups, FAQs, and help buttons everywhere with solutions to common web and library problems. The possibilities for video training sessions are amazing. There are many low cost ways of creating and editing a helpful video and hosting it on free web pages or embedding it into the library page to make sure patrons can see the steps involved in a complex task.

Using web 2.0 tools can help libraries reach patrons who are online. These tools can also be used to create a culture of information centered around the library, where patrons will use the library to stay connected with their work, school, or peers, and will hopefully help each other with information literacy, via chat groups and message boards, plug-ins and add-ons for the website, or simply by linking to or friending the library. Web 2.0 tools can be extremely effective in getting across the concept of the library as a source of information, which may be the most basic, and also the most challenging, problem of information literacy to tackle.

The emergence of digital media and Web 2.0 applications presents new areas for librarians’ expertise. Information literacy will increasingly involve authenticating the information available on the internet. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo are sufficient for casual exploration; however, “the ease of these searches may lull users into forgetting that you can't always believe what you find on the Internet.” (Credible Information: UA Libraries' Trudi Jacobson Teaches Proper Research Methods, 2009)
Patrons searching for accurate information will need assistant locating information and determining its reliability.

Libraries provide databases, such as Wayne State’s ENCORE, as reliable sources of information. Database content “is generally delivered through well-established service channels by publishers, book-houses or subscription agencies.” (Lossau, 2004) For web content, librarians can access library portals, which serve as an entry point to valid websites.

Several examples of portals include:


and Fullerton College Library
No matter how technology evolves, information will always need to be located, identified and evaluated. In order to remain relevent, librarians must possess the skills to assist in this area and be key participants in the process of information literacy.

Sources cited:
Badke, W. (2008) “A rationale for information literacy as a credit-bearing discipline” Journal of information literacy, 2(1), http://jil.lboro.ac.uk/ojs/index.php/JIL/article/view/RA-V2-I1-2008-1

Credible Information: UA Libraries' Trudi Jacobson Teaches Proper Research Methods. (2009, February 23). Retrieved March 30, 2009, from University of Albany:

Goodall, Hurley. (2008). Generation Y Reports Greater Library Use Than Older Groups. Retrieved March 22, 2009 from The Wired Campus Web site: http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/?id=2635 = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /

Lossau, N. (2004). Search Engine Technology and Digital Libraries. Bielefeld, Germany.
National Forum on Information Literacy. (2009). What is Information Literacy? Retrieved March 13, 2009 from Web site:

Shapiro, J. (1996) Information Literacy as a Liberal Art. Retrieved March 23,2009 from Web site:

The Colbert Report. (2006). Wikiality. Retrieved March 25, 2009 from Web site: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/72347/july-31-2006/the-word---wikiality= o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Intellectual Freedom vs. Protecting Children

Article V of the ALA Library Bill of Rights states “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” Under the First Amendment of Freedom of Speech, this article had the righteous standing in the eyes of the public. But, the time has changed and there came the information revolutionary technology called “internet”. Before the time of internet, when parents sent their children to the library, they were assured that their children would be safe and unharmed. Even without the supervision of the parents, the library was assumed to be reasonably safe and educational place for the children to hang out.

But as the technology advanced, the confusion and concern was raised whether the library was still safe for the children. The legislation made some regulations such as Children’s Internet Protection Act(2003), and Deleting Online Predators Act(2006), concerning the children’s use of internet in the public libraries.

But ALA disagrees with the people who assert that the public libraries need filters for the internet to protect children from accessing obscene websites. ALA argues that even the children need uncensored information to pursue their intellectual freedom. ALA’s arguments are; filters don’t work because they either overblock or underblock; CIPA is unconstitutional because it blocks legal information; libraries shouldn’t have to choose to censorship to get funding; CIPA abolishes local decision-making, since most library funding is local and libraries are locally governed. (Norman Oder, 2002)

Its adversaries are the people who argue that the public libraries which are funded publicly should listen to what their customers want for their institution and that they want filters installed for the computers in the public libraries. They want to protect their children from the obscenities of life until they are mature enough to distinguish right from wrong and decent from indecent behavior. (Gary Deane, 2004) They make it a point that they want protected environment for their children from life’s obscenities and that they want their institution which is funded by tax-payers to acknowledge their sponsers' need.

Social evolution won’t catch up with technological evolution any time soon, (Gary Deane, 2004) and for now the libraries should consider what would serve better for their patrons’ interest.


1. Colaric, Susan (Spring 2003) Children, Public Libraries, and the Internet: Is It Censorship or Good Service North Carolina Libraries (Online) 61 no. 1
2. Deane, Gary (Winter 2004) Public Libraries, Pornography, and the Damage Done: A Case Study Library Administration & Management 18 no. 1 8-13
3. Oder, Norman (May 2002) CIPA Trial Ends with Judicial Skepticism about Overblocking Library Journal 127 no. 8 16, 22
4. Pike, George H. (Jl/Aug 2006) MySpace.com and Library Filters Information Today 23 no. 7 15, 19
5. Wolf, Sara (N/D 2008) Coping with Mandated Restriction on Intellectual Freedom in K-12 Schools Library Media Connection 27 no. 3 10-12

Monday, March 23, 2009

Digital Technologies and Copyright Law

As libraries' collections shift from print to digital holdings, librarians must increasingly familiarize themselves with the vagaries of copyright law. What had, in the age of print, been barely intelligible even to those who work in the field of copyright – legal scholar Jessica Litman's assessment of the corpus of intellectual property law as “arcane” seems particularly accurate – has become increasingly murky in the digital age, just at the time when knowledge of the workings of the law has become essential to librarians.

Copyright deals, unsurprisingly, with copies. In a print environment, what constitutes a copy is not difficult to distinguish: there are books, journals, photographs and so on, and photocopies of same. In an environment where information is delivered through digital means, each iteration of a work – each viewing on a screen, each saved file – becomes, in the eyes of the law, a copy and subject to the rules of copyright. At the same time, copyright law has moved over the past hundred or so years gradually but steadily away from a model that protects the rights of creators but balances those rights with those of the public interest to one that privileges the right of the copyright holder almost exclusively. For example, the length of the term in which the creators have the sole right to their works – the time before it enters the public domain – has increased from twenty eight years to the life of the author plus seventy years.

The provision that allows for the existence of libraries, the right of first sale, which permits (among other things) one who purchases a work of intellectual property to rent or re-sell it, is on shaky ground in a world where information is contained less and less often within a physical object like a book. As a practical example, libraries are within their rights to loan a music CD to a patron, which the patron may then take home, copy, and burn to another CD for personal use, but a library with the same album in its collection in digital form may not allow patrons to download that information from the library's website, although the end result – both the library and the patron possess a copy of the work – is the same.

The implications, though, of a shift from print to digital collections with regard to copyright are much larger. As libraries shift from a print-based to a primarily digital world, and as copyright law increasingly favors the rights of corporations over the interests of the public, it behooves librarians to educate themselves and their patrons about copyright law. In The Anarchist in the Library, Siva Vaidhyanathan warns that increased restrictions on public uses of intellectual property could lead to a dystopian future for libraries. He asserts,

"Libraries are a threat to the content industries and their plans for a pay-per-view delivery system. Libraries are leaks in the information economy. [...] Because a library can lend a book at no charge, the publisher only makes money once. It can't charge per reading. The new technocratic information regime aims to correct for that market failure by regulating access. If books become streams of data rather than objects for sale, they could be metered, rendering libraries superfluous or relegating them to vendor status. What we now think of as a library--a solid building full of books, ample tables, comfortable reading chairs--might look more like a modern office. [...] A patron would enter a credit card or debit card to access databases of text, music, video, or facts. The computer would charge by the minute or by the megabyte. [...] There would be no functional difference between your neighborhood library and a Kinko's or Barnes and Noble Superstore." (123-124)

The ALA's website offers information about intellectual property rights for librarians, but it is telling that the greatest resource they offer for librarians grappling with digital copyright issues is a “Copyright Guide Slide Chart,” a bit of cardboard that indicates whether or not a work has entered the public domain. Librarians have in the past played a considerable role in advocating for the public interest in copyright, and this role ought not to be abandoned at a time when the right of first sale is threatened by a “pay-per-view” model of information and the very existence of libraries as institutions for the education of the public may be in question.

References and Further Reading:

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2001). “Copyrights and copywrongs.” New York: NYUP.

Litman, J. (2006). “Digital Copyright.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

ALA, (2009). “Copyright.” <http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/wo/woissues/copyrightb/copyright.cfm>

Copyright Management Center, (2006). “Libraries and copyright.” <http://www.copyright.iupui.edu/library_issues.htm>

Association of Research Libraries, (2006). “Copyright and intellectual property policies.”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Role of the Public Librarian

The combination of the arrival of Web 2.0 and the worst economic condition since the Depression are morphing today’s librarians into a new breed—Librarian 2.0—and the evolution will need to continue as librarians will now need to be customer service professionals as well.

Today’s librarians serve as Web 2.0 filters and interpreters, employment agents, and personal librarians—I use the term in relation to a personal shopper. High-end retailers employ personal shoppers to provide special attention and offer advice to special clients. Now, I’m not suggesting that libraries need additional staff to cater to each individual, but there should be a mind-set to really go out of the way to help people individually. In an article about customer service, Linda C. Brown and Benjamin Layne discuss one of the most important customer service tools—the pickle (Brown & Layne, 2005).

You may be wondering what pickles have to do with customer service, so I will explain. Bob Farrell owned an ice cream parlor and restaurant called Farrell’s and customer service was his top priority. One day he received a letter from an upset customer complaining that he didn’t get his extra pickle that he always got because one of Farrell’s employees wanted to charge him. Because of the attitude he received from the staff, the customer planned never to return. Farrell’s response was to, “Give ‘em the pickle!” ("Give 'em the Pickle," 2009). I have actually had the pickle training through two different companies, and I couldn’t agree more. Brown and Layne also mention Disneyland, and as a former cast member myself (Disney Hollywood Studios formerly Disney MGM-Studios) I was empowered to make decisions that would benefit the guest. If a child dropped their ice cream cone, you would just get them another one, no manager needed, no waiting, no question. People never forget this kind of service.

Even though library patrons do not pay does not mean that they don’t expect the same level of service or better than they would a trusted retailer. The pickle is the attitude that we have about serving our community. If we really want to prove the value of the library to the community, local politicians, or anyone else, one of the best ways to do that is with stellar customer service.

Part of this outstanding service we will need to provide will be a well versed knowledge of finding the most reliable information in Web 2.0 and online job applications, but also to keep a balance between technological and online services versus more traditional services like the most recent and relevant books and periodicals, newspapers with classified ads, and even add some classes like resume critiquing and job interview workshops, depending on what the community needs.
Using Web 2.0 applications to help determine what those needs might be is the most important thing librarians can do to continue down the path of change the profession is undergoing.

Librarians have traditionally had a reputation for being quiet and reserved, but a Librarian 2.0 will be an outgoing personable friend to the community, but also to individual patrons which is why public libraries will always be a valued necessity, no matter how much funding is cut.


Brown, L. C., & Layne, B. (2005). Lessons from thse Ice Cream Parlor. AALL Spectrum, 9(6), 2.
Give 'em the Pickle (2009). Retrieved February 27, 2009, 2009, from http://www.giveemthepickle.com/