Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Role of Librarian in Information Literacy

It is challenging, if not exciting, to be a librarian these days. We cannot afford to let this evolving landscape pass us by. Our professional expertise is needed all the more to enrich this landscape. We have a contribution to make in the development of this landscape. It is about time that we make a loud noise for its advocacy and the role we play in its implementation.

My lecture for today’s forum will focus on three things; 1) borderless society; 2) Information Literacy and 3) the role of librarians. The ideas I will be presenting may not be new or fresh, some of it may seem to be radical and too idealistic. But whatever these ideas are worth, I hope that it would inspire you to reflect, or possibly move you into action to make a difference in your own little way. It doesn’t have to be enormous or magnified a hundred fold. The important thing is, you, me, us, we are doing whatever we can to touch lives and affect change.

I. The Lay of the Land - A Borderless Society

What exactly is the borderless society? By the word border, we mean limits, demarcation lines and boundaries. The suffix “less” breaks the boundary, crosses the demarcation lines and allows limits to be extended. For a society to have no limits, no boundaries and no demarcation lines can be frightening. For a country like ours, whose educational history reflects that of subjugation, we value limits, borders, boxes and demarcations.

Advances in technology fuel a borderless society. We did not immediately jump into the bandwagon of the techies. It took us some time before we embraced technology. We wrestled with technology, only to find out that we are fighting our own demons. The technology that moves a borderless society is merely a gadget that can be manipulated. What matters is the mind set or the philosophy to which we apply in using the tools.

A lot has changed and continuously so. The concept of a borderless society we so feared in the late 80’s and the early 90’s is already upon us. It is known by many names; age of ICT; electronic era; global community and information society. The tricky part is, it does not have clear definitions, only signs and elements. It does affect our lives, our modes of communication and our thought processes. There are three characteristics that constitute a borderless society or an information society. These are information and knowledge; proliferation of ICT’s and access to and use of ICT’s (Singh, 2003).

The presence of these characteristics permeates all aspects of society and human activity. It has an effect in teaching, in learning and in the way information is created and communicated.

More and more teachers are exploring ways to improve instruction using ICT’s. Learners today are very much different from the ones we had ten years ago. They are more visual, more interactive and are able to tap different modalities for learning. The basic skills of reading, writing and mathematical reasoning remain paramount as foundations for learning. However, different kinds of literacy are inevitably emerging in this borderless society. Computer literacy, technology literacy, family literacy, cultural literacy, media literacy are examples. Information is present in all these. Somehow, the ability to read, write and compute is not enough to be able to understand and appreciate them.

In an information/borderless society, the need to handle and use information and the acquisition of these competencies is intertwined with another kind of literacy – INFORMATION LITERACY (Duesch, et all)

II. Information Literacy

Information literacy is the ability to access, evaluate, organize and use information from a variety of sources. The American Library Association (ALA) specifically defines Information Literacy as a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) provides a conceptual framework and guidelines for describing the information literate student. It has three categories with nine indicators. The three categories are a) Information Literacy Standards; b) Independent Learning Standard and c) Social Responsibility Standards. Below are the nine indicators:

The learner who is information literate
a. accesses information efficiently and effectively
b. evaluates information critically and competently
c. uses information accurately and creatively
d. appreciates literature and other creative expression of information
e. strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation
f. pursues information related to personal interests
g. contributes positively to the learning community and to society and thus recognizes the importance of information to a democratic society
h. practices ethical behavior in regard to information and information technology
i. participates effectively in groups to pursue and generate information

If you take a closer look at these indicators, you may simply say that it is but a set of research skills or higher order thinking skills. But Information Literacy is also a philosophy or a way of thinking. It goes beyond the confines of the classroom. It is best applied when it is integrated with other literacy and content area.

III. Role of Librarians

By going back to the indicators, you must have observed that these are the core skills required of librarians as well. It is what we do. We have in our libraries information and ideas. We evaluate our collection and we organize it. We write abstracts, make indexes – this is a way of analyzing and synthesizing information. Finding, locating and gathering information is a basic readers and reference services. We campaign for the ethical use of information. We are involved in networking and resource sharing. We are models of Information Literacy. We are living testimonies of Information Literacy and how it works. Therefore, we have a role in advocating and fostering Information Literacy. In this case, we are information specialist who are called upon more frequently to consult with teachers and learners, and to provide training and guidance toward the sharpening of information literacy skills not only in school and academic libraries but in public and special libraries as well (Deusch, et all).

Christophers (2004) identifies four roles that librarians play in Information Literacy.

a. Teacher and Consultant– one who designs instruction; one who collaborate with teachers in the planning and implementation of lessons; one who has a grasp of the curriculum able to match and fill the needs of clients.
b. Instructional Technologists – a provider of different technology for teaching and learning processes as well as resources of varied formats.
c. Manager of computing services – a creator of databases and knowledge resources.
d. Manager of learning resources collection – content managers of information systems that facilitate the efficient and effective storage, retrieval, use and communication of learning resources and instructional media

Since our roles change, our libraries also do. Libraries are no longer repositories of materials but activity centers. It is an extension of the classroom and a laboratory for life long learning. Now let us reflect. Are we prepared to face these roles? Do we adhere or agree to the philosophy and skills that Information Literacy present? How are these possible in our own context and culture?

In a borderless society, an information literate person is more likely to succeed. The information literate person may have gone to a good school and it is possible that he develop skills for life long learning. The librarian is part of the process by which he acquires and applies these skills.

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