By Lupita Garza-Grande — Blog #2
Dogs are interesting creatures that bring a lot of joy in into lives of humans. It is no wonder that they are popular pets with many people around the world. They are also known to be quite valuable to people with special needs, such as those who are legally blind, are handicapped or suffer from mental illnesses. Most recently, there have been news stories concerning war veterans with PTSD who have been helped tremendously by therapy dogs. The latest trend among college students is to have some “puppy time” during final exams week to help them de-stress. According to the article “Loaner Puppies” published in Bloomberg Business, “Studies have shown that interacting with an unknown dog reduced blood pressure, lowered anxiety, and reduced self-reported depression among college students” (Weinberg, 2014). What most people may not know is that dogs can also help reluctant readers overcome their fears of reading out loud with the help of therapy dogs. If dogs can help college students, war veterans and the hospitalized, why couldn’t they help young reluctant readers? Children can also become anxious and stressed, especially if they’re reluctant readers. According to an American Libraries article “Good Dog. Sit. Listen”, “Petting dogs has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress, so this physical interaction serves a valuable purpose while giving the children extra practice with their reading skills” (Hartman, 2010).
In Grand Rapids, Michigan–where I live, there are two public library systems: the Grand Rapids Public Library, that covers the Grand Rapids city proper, and the Kent District Library, that covers the suburbs of Grand Rapids within Kent County. At the Kent District Library, there is a programming service called Ruff Readers that caters to young children where they can read books to dogs. This is done in a partnership with West Michigan Therapy Dogs, and they have celebrated ten years of partnership. The program is catered for children six years and older, and it consists of reading sessions that last fifteen minutes with a well-trained therapy dog.
The Ruff Readers program began as a collaboration between the Grandville branch of the Kent District Library (also known as KDL) and the West Michigan Therapy Dogs in 2002. Since then, it has grown in popularity and has expanded to the other branches in the KDL system, as well as other libraries in Kent county. It also serves neighboring Ottawa and Allegan counties. The program helps “children gain a better grasp of their reading skills and confidence by reading to a sociable, and nonjudgemental dog…” according to a recent article published this weekend in the local School News Network (Kopenkoskey, 2015).
About 200 dogs have been trained for the Ruff Readers program, which is a testament to its popularity. The program will return this summer and parents can sign up for their children through the KDL website. Registration will be open to the public in May. Let’s hope that the other library system in the Grand Rapids areas such as the Grand Rapids Public Library will consider partnering with a local dog therapy group. This would allow those living within the city limits to have the opportunity to read to a dog. Those that do not have a KDL library card, may not be able to check out materials from the library, however, they are able to participate in the Ruff Readers program. .
Not only has the Ruff Readers program been helpful for young reluctant readers, but it’s also been helpful for immigrant children learning English as a second language. Additionally, the program can be beneficial for children with autism. This program could also be expanded to serve more people, not just children. Reading to dogs could help adult learners or recent immigrants learn English.
The Ruff Readers program is an example of a successful library program, the only bad thing about this program is that it isn’t open for adults as I would love to participate (even if I’m not a reluctant reader). It is nice to know that this program is available locally, and it is a program that all libraries should consider promoting.
DogTime Staff. (2012, December 4). “Puppy Rooms” to help stressed-out college students. Dogtime Retrieved from http://dogtime.com/puppy-room-to-help-stressed-out-college-students.html#
Hartman, A. (2010). Good Dog. Sit. Listen. American Libraries, 1. Retrieved from http://www.americanlibraries.org/
Kent District Library. (2015, April 12). Grandville Branch News. Retrieved from Kent District Library: http://www.kdl.org/branches/4/news/637
Kopenkoskey, P. R. (2015, April 10). Ruff Reader Dogs Bolster Student Confidence. Retrieved from School News Network:http://www.schoolnewsnetwork.org/index.php/2014-15/ruff-readers-bolsters-students-learning-confidence/
Weinberg, C. (2014, June 26). Loaner Puppies: The Latest Elite College Perk. Retrieved from Bloomber News: http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-06-26/loaner-puppies-the-latest-elite-college-perk
Ruff Readers. (2015, April 13) West Michigan Therapy Dogs. Retrieved from: http://www.wmtd.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=276397&module_id=44797
By Elissa Zimmer
There are many things to consider when balancing a library and its collections, and sometimes certain collections do not get as much attention as they deserve. Teen collections are often the victim of such cutbacks. When considering questions around teen collections in particular, one might consider the following question: how can libraries with small budgets still work to create a space for teens? This question hits close to home because not only am I most interested in working with teens, but one of my library positions is in a small public library with an ever-dwindling budget, so I’m happy to tackle it and to try to think about ways of using what I have to answer this question.
This question’s use of the word “space” is multifold—space can mean one of many things, from physical space in the stacks, programming space, or collection space (and what makes up the collection), all of which I will cover here. So then a related question to the first is: should preference or emphasis be placed on programming or collection development?
The most obvious connotation of space is physical space, which I take to indicate the physical space in the stacks that is devoted to YA users. One resource I found useful is the book Make Room for Teens! by Michael Farrelly. He makes the point that a dedicated teen space will make teens feel welcome and will increase circulation as well as program attendance (Farrelly, 2011, p. 73) For libraries with small budgets, it can seem intimidating to make it work to have a dedicated space for this demographic, but it’s important and it doesn’t take much. What it comes down to is having both a social and an educational element—two or three comfortable chairs or seats and a table at which to work should suffice. Teens need to feel welcomed and like they have their own place to come to where they can be with their peers, or to have a place to relax and sit to explore the books they are interested in more in depth. If the library can spare one or two computer workstations from the adult area and the physical space, having those computers just for teen use gives them more of a reason to use the space. If not, no sweat, but the library should have policies in place that consider the age at which teens or older children should be allowed to use the computers in the adult area.
I have taken part in discussions with LIS students and information professionals both about whether or not to restrict access to the teen area just to teens. I don’t think it’s helpful to keep all patrons out of the teen stacks/section because that is not granting everyone equitable access, but I do think there is something to be said for keeping the tables and chairs in the teen area available for teens only, regardless of budget. Most adults do not go and sit in the children’s area without a child, but the teen area is still a distinct place from the adult area and should be respected as such. Again, even on a small budget, small actions such as creating this space speak volumes to the teens who would use this area.
The next idea of space is space for teen programming, which can still be effective even on a small budget. Most libraries now have some sort of large meeting room or programming area that can be used for teen programs. All it takes is music or a movie in the background and minimal decorations to set the mood for an event. If the library does not have this space but has some open area in the library itself, then an afterhours program could take place, which would make the teens feel special to have the whole building to themselves. Finally, if neither of these are an option, this is a prime opportunity for the library to work with the community by holding their program in a community space like a Parks & Rec building, for example. This promotes the services of other community organizations in addition to the library.
Finally, I thought of space as the collection itself and this brings about the question of physical space vs. collections. I hope that libraries never have to choose (group members: do any of you know of this happening??) between the two, and I think there are ways around making such a solid decision between them. YA collections are really important because they serve a specific demographic. Yes, teens can get some items from the adult collection, but teens have their own distinct fiction that covers teen issues, from everyday things like belonging to harder issues such as teen pregnancy, and daily life, and their nonfiction is specific to the issues they face at their age, through characters who are their own age. Adults get characters who are in similar life stages, should teens should not be expected to make do with materials that are not appropriate to where they are in life. Teens are also really interested in graphic novels, from superheroes to graphic novel versions of classics. Not having books in or the right kind of books might be the deterrent for a teen not to return to the library. There are ways around this. Libraries should capitalize on reciprocal borrowing and library cooperatives, which expand the collection beyond what is at the home library. Such arrangements can span a handful of libraries or cover an entire county or metro area. The only thing about such services is that they need to be advertised! Patrons needs to be aware of what is available to them through signs, fliers, and word of mouth. The latter means that staff members needs to be approachable and the patron must feel comfortable going to them with questions. Participation in cooperatives also means spending less money on cataloging and cheaper access to database packages. Because of these options, collections at the home library can be somewhat minimal but should be what I like to call minimally comprehensive.
I set up the three interpretations of space as separate ideas, but I think they can all be considered to make successful use of a small budget at a public library. I don’t think teen services (any aspect of them) should be ignored just because there is a budget restraint. A lot can be done with the physical space within the library’s walls but also out in other buildings in the community. Libraries can also participate in borrowing schemes in order to expand their collection and not spend more money than they would on their own. In short, it’s less stressful than one would think. Being a little thrifty or economical might take some more time to think about and to consider, but overall it’s totally doable to make a welcome space and programs for teen patrons.
I encourage readers to check out Farrelly’s book, especially the ten-step plan for “Making Room on a Budget”.
Farrelly, M. (2011). Make room for teens!: Reflections on developing teen spaces in libraries. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
By Renee Putnam – Blog #2
Children with special needs and public libraries
In the past, most libraries’programs were not designed for children with special needs. But now more libraries are reaching out to children with special needs and are including them in their programs today. When my son, who is autistic, was younger, the libraries in my county did not have special programs. He had a difficult time learning to read while growing up and I feel that the new programs “of today” would have helped him.
But I am very happy that the programs are becoming more available now because of the rising frequency of developmentally disabled children, especially among boys. The Center for Disease Control has stated that “New data from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to rise, and the picture of ASD in communities has changed.”( Center for Disease Control, 2014)
The Brooklyn Public Library in New York is one of many libraries that are offering programs to service “special needs” children. The website has information about all the programs. It has a program called The Child’s place and a music program which serves children from birth up to age 23 with special needs. They have story time for very young children. This library also has a garden club and an after school reading program for ages 5-12. And they have a legos program which seems to be very popular in libraries currently. (Brooklyn Public Library, 2015)
Another public library, Scarsdale Public library has a program in which they work with special needs kids. They state that “We are dedicated to providing a welcoming atmosphere of acceptance, where special needs kids can be themselves. The library works in conjunction with C.H.I.L.D. (Children Having Individual Learning Disabilities) of Scarsdale in the planning of programs” (Scarsdale Public Library, 2015). This is a website just for children with special needs and their parents. It is very colorful and accessible.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library and the Autism Society of Charlotte, North Carolina has corroborated to have an online program for children with special needs, specifically for children with autism. The site has several videos to learn how to interact with children that have special needs.
Music has been found to be very soothing for autism children. The following ad was located at a website about music for autism. My son has autism so I thought it was great. He listens to classical music. Children with autism benefit by listening to quiet music. Music therapists can work with children to help soothe their anxieties and encourage them to express themselves so that they can communicate more effectively. This states the following. “Experience traditional mariachi in a brand new way! This is a fully bilingual concert; emcee, performers and announcements and written materials are in both English and Spanish. You must register for this event at www.musicforautism.org/rsvp.php” This program is co-sponsored by the Child’s Place for Children and Teens with Special Needs and Music for Autism. (Brooklyn Public Library, 2015)
In her book, Introduction to Public Librarianship, Kathleen McCook discusses the accessibilities and programs that the Wisconsin Public Library have in place. The American Library Association has a policy on library services for people with disabilities and it is not just about physical access to the library but having access to the materials. (McCook, K. 2011, pp 172-175) Children with special needs should have access to the public library, too because they love to learn as much as any other children.
Temecula Public Library in California has a great website, too for children with special needs. It has a long list of resources and programs available for them and their parents. It has a program that is called Special Needs Access at Your Public Library which includes story time, books about several disabilities and interactive play programs.
The local public libraries in Genesee County, located in Michigan have a great children’s section but nothing specifically geared towards children with special needs but hopefully that will change in the future because two of the libraries have been renovated with children and teenagers in mind. They are the libraries that I took my son and daughter to visit when they were growing up. They were very small at that time but hopefully more of the libraries will be renovated as well as the two that have been completed. I am excited that there will be programs available for children with special needs like my son in Genesee County library community.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (2014) New Data on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Atlanta, Georgia. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, (2015). Online Learning. Charlotte, North Carolina.
Retrieved from http://www.cmlibrary.org/programs/special_needs/
McCook, Kathleen, (2011). Introduction to Public Librarianship, 2nd ed. pp. 172-175. Neal-
Schuman Publishers, Inc.: New York.
Scarsdale Public Library, (2015) Special Needs Programming. Scarsdale, New York. Retrieved
Temecula Public, (2015). SNAPL. Calilfornia Retrieved from
By Emily Marsh — Blog #2
When many people think of information literacy, their first thought is of learning the best tools and practices for searching methods, but the term means so much more. Information literacy encompasses searching literacy, media literacy, and digital literacy, among others. According to an ALA taskforce, “Digital Literacy is ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” (2011) Developing digital literacy skills leads to becoming a better digital citizen. It is important for teens—and adults, as well—to work on these skills, because they will lead to better results for search inquiries, safer online behavior, and better accountability for actions making the digital world a better place for both them and others.
One can see the importance of digital literacy, but why is it so crucial for teens to learn? What role does the library play in all of this? First, look to the audience, teens. They are constantly changing their modes of communication, moving from new site to app to the next new thing. They seem to be, as a group, the ones who are most adaptive to new technology. The US Digital Literacy site says it well, “Students are wired to learn digitally. They come to us with handhelds practically attached to their limbs. Our obligation is to teach them to become responsible digital citizens as well as discerning users of everything the internet has to offer in our globally collaborative world.” Discernment is key. If a student is doing a report on the Civil War, a google search would give the 205 million results. Some of these are from reputable sources, while others may come from more of an opinion, but in the eyes of a google search list they are equal. In addition, Google does not necessarily have the best answers. Digital literacy is more than knowing how to perform a keyword search. . Digital literacy also encompasses using information and technology together. In a world where new apps are adopted by the masses of teens seemingly overnight, it is important to make sure teens are being good digital citizens with these tools.
Just because they can figure out how to use the newest tech, does not mean that they know how to use it responsibly. One major issue is they don’t always look at the big picture. A teacher’s blog addresses this when he talks about Snapchat, a chat app where messages disappear shortly after being sent. This app can give teens a false sense of the permanence of the digital world. The teacher summed it up well with his four observances of social media:
- There’s nothing on social media call private message because the receiver can always save and share and thereby has power over the sender.
- Everybody can see everything we put online.
- Everything you put online is there, always.
- If you use a free service (like SnapChat) you’re not the user, you’re the product. (Ómarsson, 2014)
Using the internet and digital technologies in a responsible, effective way is the goal of digital citizenship. Skills such as searching efficiently, using social media safely, avoiding cyber -bullying, and the ability to use and integrate new technology s can all be results of becoming responsible digital citizens.
How can the library help teens reach this goal? To begin, it is important to practice what you preach. Librarians need to be good digital citizens, who “find, evaluate, create, and communicate information” using “cognitive and technical skills” (ALA, 2011). Leading by example and creating a dialogue with teens regarding technology can go a long way. Easy access to resources is another way the library can help. An example would be creating an accessible webpage for teens with links to databases, tech advice, and reviews of current apps and sites. This way, the library can help aid teens in their searching endeavors and pursuit of new technology.
In addition, offering library programming with strong technology components can help strengthen teen’s tech abilities, both in use and discernment. Such as having programs which feature treasure hunts using QR codes (Dowling, 2013), or finding ways to integrate tablet use in programs for instructional use, all help teens develop their digital knowledge and abilities. Technology can offer so much to the library and to teens, so it is important that it is shared. By building tech knowledge and exposure, and by leading by example, librarians can help lead teens toward deeper understanding and awareness of both the dangers and opportunities available from today’s technology. With our help we can turn teens into digital citizens.
References and Related Reading
Dowling, B. (2013) Teaching Teens About Digital Literacy Through Programming. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2013/03/teaching-teens-about-digital-literacy-through-programming/
Hicks, T. & Turner, K.H.(2013) No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait. English Journal 59-65. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/nctefiles/resources/journals/ej/1026-jul2013/ej1026longer.pdf
MediaSmarts. Digital Literacy Fundamentals. Media Smarts: Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy. Retrieved March 7, 2015, from http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy-fundamentals/digital-literacy-fundamentals
Ómarsson, I. H. (2014, Jan 2). The dangers of social media. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://ingvihrannar.com/the-dangers-of-social-media/
Raising Children Network. (2013, July 5). Making sense of media messages: media and digital literacy. In Raisingchildren.net.au. Retrieved March 7, 2015, from http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/media_literacy.html
US Digital Literacy. (2015). Digital and Media Literacy for Today’s Learners . In US Digital Literacy. Retrieved, from http://digitalliteracy.us/
Visser, M. (2012, September 14). Digital Literacy Definition. ALA Connect. Retrieved, from http://connect.ala.org/node/181197
Mike (4/12/15 @ 9:09pm): Went ahead and made some suggestions. I would look at apa reference, not sure you need to include the “IN” just the name of website/journal etc.
By: Elizabeth Pitcher
Who remembers the feeling of dread when a teacher called on you to read in class? For reluctant readers this experience can be a source of panic. Just like reading quietly to yourself, reading out loud is a skill that needs to be practiced. Practicing reading out loud can increase a child’s confidence and their willingness to participate in class.
The companionship and silence of animals makes them ideal listeners. Due to this, many libraries have opted to host read-aloud programs with therapy dogs. Reading to dogs allows readers to practice their skills without the fear of being judged by their peers. Most reading dogs are certified therapy dogs.
Dogs and their owners require testing to become a therapy team. Certain personality traits are key to become a successful therapy dog. All therapy dogs must be well mannered around strangers, children and other dogs. Therapy dogs must also be good listeners and remain calm. Additionally, all therapy dogs need to be routinely groomed, be current on all vaccinations and be routinely medicated for parasites. If a dog passess these qualifications they can be tested by a trained tester/observer. Once a dog becomes a therapy dog their status is renewed every six months (Therapy Dogs Inc.).
While it is up to a library’s discretion on whether or not they choose to use certified therapy dogs for their reading programs, the screening process in becoming a therapy dog makes these dogs a safe option. Additionally, therapy dogs are insured by the company who certified them.
Reading dogs promote reading confidence and provide reading motivation. Children’s interest in reading is engaged when presented with novel situations (Friesen, 2009). Reading in class is expected and does not illicit a positive response. However, reading to a dog is new and fun. This helps students associate reading with fun as well. If the activity of reading to dogs is repeated a child can be conditioned to have a long-term motivation for reading. This can be particularly beneficial for students who are experiencing a decrease in reading motivation as they age.
One of the reasons student begin to lose reading motivation is because they do not see the benefit or the reward of reading. This is because reading rewards are generally intrinsic (Fisher & Cozens, 2014). This means that the reward for reading is internal. For example, a student is motivated to read because they enjoy fantasy character. This type of reward is intangible. Whereas extrinsic rewards are something that is given, earned or received. Extrinsic rewards is one of the reasons why the reading systems like Accelerated Reader are effective. Having a well mannered dog to cuddle with while reading occurs is an extrinsic reward. Children who are nervous or self-conscience respond well to this reward (Schwartz, 2012).
Reading programs that include therapy dogs are effective at motivating nervous or disengaged readers. Motivation is key factor is promoting lifelong literacy. Libraries will find that implementing regular programming where children can read and interact with dogs will raise the literacy rate of participating children. Also, therapy handlers are volunteers and could be willing to spend time with reading with children. The positive outcome and low cost of a pet reading program makes this an excellent literacy activity for any library.
Fisher, B., & Cozens, M. (2014). The BaRK (Building Reading Confidence for Kids) canine assisted reading program: one child’s experience. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years , 22 (1), 70.
Friesen, L. (2009). How a Therapy Dog May Inspire Student Literacy Engagement in the Elementary Language Arts Classroom. LEARNing landscapes , 3 (1), 105-122.
Schwartz, M. (2012). Therapy Dogs’ Presence Steadily Grows in Libraries. Library Journal .
Therapy Dogs Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved from Therapy Dogs Inc.: https://www.therapydogs.com/
It is generally agreed upon that libraries should readily contribute to information literacy. This is especially important with regard to younger patrons – the children and young adults who make use of the library. For many libraries, information literacy training may start and end within the library itself, through storytimes, teen book clubs, and writing groups. However, there are many opportunities to combine library outreach programs with information literacy training. By combining the goal of information literacy with outreach programs (either those already in place, or an entirely new program), the library will demonstrate its value to the parents and children of its community.
One possibility for an outreach program is for the library to become involved in the parent-teacher conferences at the local schools. Daniel Page (2013) refers to this as “back-door information literacy.” He suggests that these interactions can make an otherwise admittedly dull experience more exciting for the parents, students, and teachers. Teaching information literacy at parent-teacher conferences can take the form of brief presentations with a group of parents or conversations in the hallway between meetings. Even if library staff is only able to make contact with a few groups of parents and students, word will spread that the library is taking interest in what is happening at the local schools. This partnership can make it easier for the library and school to collaborate on other key literacy issues, not to mention making planning for homework help much easier.
Abby Brown (2014) discusses several inspiring options for community-library collaborations regarding information literacy. One that is particularly intriguing began with the Indianapolis Public Library’s (IPL) On the Road to Reading program. Through this program, the library has partnered with early childhood caregivers – both small, home-based daycares and large, licensed care centers – to offer literacy training and library materials. Because it would be difficult, if not impossible, for many of these caregivers to bring their wards to the library, the library has started bringing all it has to offer directly to them. The library has a fleet of “miniature” bookmobile SUVs which it has dubbed the “Itty Bitty Bookmobiles.” The smaller size allows them to offer more services to more people, as they are not required to have specially trained or licensed staff to drive these SUVs. Since implementing this program, IPL has visited between 130 and 150 locations each month, interacting with upwards of 2,500 children.
A major element of the On the Road to Reading program are referred to as “bunny book bags” -free bags with about twenty books in them which are delivered to the child care centers each month. These book bags allow the caregivers access to key age-appropriate materials which they may not have been able to use otherwise. The caregivers report using the book bags for story times, to read to individual children, or that they allow the children to use the materials on their own. Facilitating book reading, particularly between young children and adults, has long been known to increase literacy at a younger age (see Sullivan, 2013). Additionally, the Itty Bitty Bookmobiles and the bunny book bags will be seen all around the community, increasing the library’s visibility within the community, which will help to cement the library’s position as a vital community center.
While these are only a few of the many options available for library-community collaborations, they are certainly some of the most practical for almost any library. Naturally not every library will have the budget for a “fleet of SUVs,” but nearly any library could find a way to use volunteers to distribute books to area daycares. By carefully choosing the materials that are included in book bags, whether they are books, games, or other interactive resources, the library provides an opportunity to talk about and encourage information literacy at a young age. Through parent-teacher conferences, the library is making its presence known as a viable source for homework help and other resources. Reaching out to the major community centers where children are spending their time, such as the schools and daycare centers, demonstrates the library’s commitment to its community and the citizens within it. In this way, libraries can create an environment in which the library is a hub for information literacy, not just an advocate.
Brown, A. (2014). Library outreach as a partner for the early childhood educator. Indiana Libraries, 33(2), 16-18.
Page, D. d. (2013). Back-door information literacy. Public Libraries, 52(4), 7.
Sullivan, M. (2013). Fundamentals of Children’s Services (2nd ed.). Chicago: American Library Association.
What is information literacy? Quite simply put, according to the American Library Association (n.d.), “Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information (What is Information Literacy section, para. 1). With so much information coming at us so quickly, the American Library Association (ALA) explained the idea of a new term – “Data Smog.” The ALA asked (n.d.):
Have you ever heard of Data Smog? A term coined by author David Shenk, it refers to the idea that too much information can create a barrier in our lives. This Data Smog is produced by the amount of information, the speed at which it comes to us from all directions, the need to make fast decisions, and the feeling of anxiety that we are making decisions without having ALL the information that is available or that we need. Information literacy is the solution to Data Smog. (Why is Information Literacy Important section, para. 1).
In this blog post, I will point out the importance of information literacy in general and stress how important it is to start teaching information literacy skills at a young age so that we can find our way through this “Data Smog.” I will also explain why teaching information literacy skills and fostering growth in this area not only needs to be taught, but also needs to be a joint effort between educators and librarians, including public librarians.
Because of the Internet’s growth, many feel that information literacy, while valuable, is almost intuitive now. After all, children are growing up with tablets in their hands. They have the world at their fingertips from a very young age. In the article “Pushing a Big Rock Up a Hill All Day: Promoting Information Literacy Skills,” William Badke (2013) explained:
The new world of technology has come upon the world like a bullet train. No one could have imagined, 15 years ago, that most teens would spend enormous portions of their day texting one another. Google promises the whole world of information right on your screen. Research has become easy. Open a search box, throw some words into it, and voila . . .” (p. 66)
Is this way of thinking correct? No. It is far from correct. In the article “Teaching and Assessing Information Literacy,” Adam Blackwell (2014) did a good job of sharing some of the main problems he has encountered:
I found that my students tended to all have the same problems when it came to doing any kind of scholarly research. One big problem was that they struggled to distinguish between credible and not credible sources. The concept of ‘scholarly’ was very fuzzy to them. They thought it was synonymous with ‘serious,’ and so they’d reason, ‘The New York Times, that’s a serious newspaper- so it must be a scholarly source.’ (p. 48)
Blackwell went on to explain, “The issue arises when they take these strategies that work very well for what we might call ‘consumer research,’ and apply them when researching a question which is scholarly in nature” (p. 48). In other words, just because people know how to use the Internet to find an Italian restaurant nearby or to figure out who won Super Bowl XIV (it was the Pittsburgh Steelers in case you are curious), does not mean that they are information literate.
As I mentioned previously, children are growing up with tablets in their hands. This does not mean that information literacy is second nature. Badke (2013) iterated:
Our online culture of immediacy fosters the grand myth that skill with technology is intuitive. The fact that a 5-year-old can pick up an iPhone or an Android device and get some benefit from it right away leads us to assume that the technology teaches itself. It doesn’t. (p. 66)
If we, as students, professionals, and members of society, are going to succeed, we must start teaching information literacy skills at a young age. Lesley Farmer (2014) explained just this concept in her article “Team Up for College Readiness.” Farmer argued:
Too often, post-secondary librarians complain that teens enter their libraries with subpar information literacy skills. For students to be college ready, they need to start ‘learning how to learn’ much earlier than high school in order to grasp concepts and practice ways to engage with information. (p. 16)
Most educators and librarians agree that teaching information literacy is important and that it should start in kindergarten; who should do the teaching seems to be up for grabs. Lesley Farmer (2014) stated her opinion, saying, “Currently the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is revamping information literacy standards in light of emerging technologies and changing workplace needs. There is hardly a better time for collaboration between K-12 and academic librarians (p. 16).” I argue that the equation is not complete without factoring in public librarians as well. William Badke (2014), in the article “Who Owns Information Literacy?,” supported this way of thinking:
The information literacy movement grew up within academic librarianship for the most part, although a few public and corporate librarians have chimed in. We could safely argue that it would not have achieved the (limited?) stature it now enjoys without the advocacy of information professionals. We have created standards, methods, even a modicum of theory, all of which have been enlisted to help students in higher education to become better users of information and better researchers. (p. 68)
This “ownership” of information literacy by information professionals is not necessarily healthy. All librarians (academic, public, and corporate) act as advocates of information literacy, but we cannot do it alone. Lesley Farmer succinctly stated, “School librarians are the natural experts to guide them [students] toward college readiness, but ensuring their information literacy requires collaboration between school librarians and their academic counterparts” (p. 16).
In the end, I challenge you to understand the importance of information literacy. After all, in this Information Age, we are being inundated with information coming at us from numerous sources, via a number of different channels (print, television, online), at a pace we have never experienced before. The American Library Association (n.d.) reiterated the importance of 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. (What is Information Literacy section, para. 2)
Once we realize the importance of information literacy and realize that a gap exists in our educational system, the importance of teaching information literacy at a young age makes sense. Information literacy is important; it affects all of us; and it needs to be taught starting at a young age as a collaborative effort between educators and librarians. It is up to us to clear the “Data Smog,” giving our youth the tools they need for success!
American Library Association. (n.d.) Introduction to information literacy. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/issues/infolit/overview/intro
Badke, W. (2013). Pushing a big rock up a hill all day: Promoting information literacy skills. Online Searcher, 37(6), 65-67. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.wayne.edu/docview/1461372515?accountid=14925
Badke, W. (2014, July-August). Who owns information literacy? Online Searcher, 38(4), 68+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.wayne.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA375818127&v=2.1&u=lom_waynesu&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=af2d0b989b96396ad2efc7d037a81eef
Farmer, L. (2014, October). Team up for college readiness: school and academic librarians must band together to prepare students. School Library Journal, 60(10), 16. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.wayne.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA384339908&v=2.1&u=lom_waynesu&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=b338becca8b7b17453bf5c4c42842c75
Teaching and assessing information literacy. (2014, October). District Administration, 50(10), 48+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.wayne.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA386211437&v=2.1&u=lom_waynesu&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=0f93912df7a54cda7103805a0aebd7c8
Libraries thrive off of collaboration. We are a community center, after all and what we do should support the objectives, goals, and hopes of the community that surrounds us. When considering Tweens and Teens it is especially important to reach beyond the Library walls for inspiration, guidance, and collaborative opportunities that will help us better serve these young patrons that are learning themselves day by day. A particularly indispensable collaboration resource for Libraries who cater to tweens/teens is the very place where these youth spend the majority of their time. School.
There are several ways for a library to reach out to their local school systems to collaborate with and support each other to create a bigger support group for literacy and information literacy in youth. For example, Public Libraries should make an effort to understand what the goals are for the surrounding school systems regarding Common Core, standardized testing, and summer reading programs. Utilizing the goals of the schools may be helpful in developing programming that will focus on assisting students to thrive in their academic environments; research support, reading clubs, and programming focused on inspiring children to follow and grow their passions through books. Read-a-thons, reading-drives, and reading based challenges can be hosted by the library and utilized by a school to encourage reading and literacy. Public Libraries can also offer opportunities for older students to pair up with younger patrons for tutoring and reading buddy programs, which not only encourages older kids to help out in the community but also inspires the younger children to participate and instills in each participant a positive literacy experience.
Libraries can collaborate with upper level school systems in ways that also bridge the gap for information literacy. A great example of this comes from personal experience. A local elementary school once had a great children’s magazine, one which the students themselves created by submitting poetry, short stories and creative essays. With the introduction of the new testing system, PARCC, they were no longer able to spend their time after school working on the magazine for the children. The local Public Library instead picked up the magazine and opened it up to the entire community so that the children still had opportunities to shine, now on a larger scale and with categories that include essays and opinion pieces, both encouraging an ability to navigate information systems. This system also encourages information/literacy by keeping youth interested in both their school and Public Libraries and what they offer throughout their school years. The libraries become a place to be themselves and express themselves instead of just a place to go when they need to write an essay for a school assignment. Positive experiences will always encourage a repeating of behavior, and visiting a library more often isn’t a bad habit by any stretch of the imagination.
Another example of information literacy collaboration can be found in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) programs, which bring schools and Libraries together to create maker spaces that will benefit the children on creative and academic levels, and battle some of the negative effects of the standardized testing crazes. Deron Cameron, former UPES Principal, states:
“ STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. In essence, we dare our students to be wrong, to try multiple ideas, listen to alternate opinions and create a knowledge base that is applicable to real life as opposed to simply an exam” (STEAM, 2007)
Schools with little extra time on their hand, and very little wiggle room in the curriculum may depend on Public Library assistance when it comes to running STEAM oriented programming that will support the information literacy goals and academic values of the community.
In her article “Public Libraries – Community Organizations Making Outreach Efforts to Help Young Children Succeed in School”, Gilda Martinez states that effective collaboration between spheres of influence in a child’s life, which includes community, promotes student achievement and lowers drop out rates (2008, p 94). Showing students that the Public Library cares about their success in school is just as important as showing them how much we care about their personal interests and goals. While we are not, and should not be, an academic institution we can work with our community schools to create programs that are fun and inspiring, while also supportive of the literacy and education goals of our academic neighbors.
The key to getting started is to establish a relationship with the local school librarians, who understand exactly what is going on in their school regarding curriculum, literacy, and needs of the students. They’ll also be a great resource for figuring out what the young patrons are really enjoying. Unlike the Youth Services librarians, who are only around our young patrons when they have free time to visit the library, School librarians interact with the youth only a daily basis during the school year and may have some great insight on what new programs may be worth trying out. They also act as a key component of outreach by spreading the word to young patrons about Public Library programming. There are students who may never know there’s a “Build a Robot” or “Learn to Read Binary” workshop at their local branch except through their teacher, so get the word out! Talk to people, work together, bridge the gap and build a network that is beneficial to everyone involved, especially the kids.
Martinez, G. (2008). Public Libraries – Community Organizations Making Outreach
Efforts to Help Young Children Succeed in School. School Community Journal,
STEAM Education. (2007, January 1). Retrieved April 2, 2015, from
The importance of information literacy has been brought up time and time again throughout my educational career at Wayne State. It has been the subject of several classes as well as quite a few projects. Yet despite all the emphasis that the Library and Information Science (LIS) program has placed on this subject, it sadly seems quite underutilized in the “real world.” By the “real world” I mean in public libraries.hat is not to say that information literacy is completely forgotten once an LIS graduate has their diploma in hand. It just seems that this vitally important skill tends to take a backseat when one enters the workspace. Throughout the course of this entry we will be discussing why it is that so few libraries have any programs relating to information literacy.
I started by taking a visit to the Woods Branch of The Grosse Pointe Public Library where I spoke to their general youth services librarian Ms. Catherine Ricard. I began by asking if the library had any programs dealing with information literacy or, to be a tad more accurate, if they had any programs dealing with the teaching of it in regards to research. The answer was no, but she did mention that they tend to deal with tech or reference issues on a one- on-one basis. I went on to ask what was preventing the library from offering any such programs to which she replied, “ The biggest problem is a lack of space and hardware. We have a handful of computers that we could give lessons on but then we’d have to set aside a time when patrons couldn’t use them in order to teach the program. What we really need is a technology lab. If we had that, it wouldn’t be an issue.”
I then asked how often did teens come to the library with questions regarding how to do research and citing. She stated, “We get about maybe a dozen a month, we try and walk them through some of the basics with a one-on-one process, but it’s hard to find the time. We are rather understaffed.”
I thanked her for her time and moved on to the next library, the St. Clair Shores Public Library, where I spoke to the head of their youth services Ms. Liz Driewek. Once again I asked if they had any programs dealing with information literacy in regards to research and once again the answer was no. I then moved on to ask how often teens ask for help in regards to research and/or citing to which she said, “Not too often. The public school seems to do a pretty good job of teaching the students how to do it on their own. Most of the questions in regards to how to cite things in MLA format tend to pop up once during the school year when one of the teachers assigns a paper on the Greek Gods and wants them to use several physical reference resources. Other then that, they tend to come in and do their own thing.”
I found what Ms. Driewek said about the school teaching information literacy to be quite interesting and rather hopeful, but at the same time it must be stated that the St. Clair Shores School District is an exemplary district in the area. It is not surprising that the students have a much better understanding of information literacy then some in other districts. One such district would be the Harper WoodsSchool District., Awhile back, I spoke to one of the teachers there about the state of information literacy in the school and this is what she had to say, “The students don’t know how to do proper research. They rely on Google for most of their work, they restrict themselves to the first ten Google results (if even that) and they treat all sources of information as being equal.”
It is in school districts like this where a public library offering programs dealing with information literacy could really make a difference. Sadly, it seems that many of our public libraries do not practice what they preach when it comes to information literacy.
Ms. Catherine Ricard general youth services librarian at the Woods Branch of The Grosse Pointe Public Library. Interviewed on March 23rd.
Ms. Liz Driewek head of the youth service at the St. Clair Shores Public Library. Interviewed on March 23rd.
Ms. Lenhard Teacher At The Harper Woods Public High School Interviewed on March 6th
The early childhood years are crucial for developing the basis for literacy skills. Although much depends on the readiness of the child, parents, caregivers, and librarians should be working together towards a common goal – literacy. As role models for children, we should all be practicing positive behaviors and instilling the importance of reading and writing.
One way to do this is through story time with the child. The adult, whether it is a teacher, parent, librarian, or caregiver, should hold the book properly, read aloud clearly, and turn the pages of the story. The child will begin to mock the behavior he or she is seeing. Research has shown that “3 to 5-year-olds who had been read to at least three times per week [were] two times more likely to recognize all letters, have word-sight recognition, [and] to understand words in context” than their peers who were not read to on a regular basis. (Early literacy) While it is important to read to the child, ideally the reading will be interactive. It is important to engage the child, “so he or she will actively listen to a story. Discuss what’s happening, point out things on the page, and answer [the] child’s questions. Ask questions of your own and listen to [the] responses” (Tips for parents, 2003) This allows the child a chance to better comprehend the plot of the story, as well as predict what may happen next, which creates excitement. However, it is also important to know when the child has lost interest. It’s okay to put the books away for a while and move onto another activity!
Another easy way to encourage literacy is for parents to point out the words they see everywhere they go, such as stop signs, exit signs, enter, open, and closed. This can turn into a game where the child is asked to “find a new word every time you go on an outing.” (Tips for parents, 2003) The child will have fun pointing out the words he or she has learned. This helps to build comprehension skills. In the library, staff can continue this by labeling common items in the children’s department such as bookshelf, desk, chair, book, computer, etc. The child will begin to identify the words on his or her own and become more confident in their ability to read.
To help ensure the child is off to a successful start parents and librarians should form a relationship to work towards literacy for the child. Each can provide valuable insight and knowledge to encourage emergent learning. A librarian will be able to help locate books based on the interests of the child and provide recommendations. By hosting storytimes and programs for young children at the library, librarians can help parents get ideas for promoting literacy at home. This also allows parents to meet other local parents and develop a network and support system to share their successes and learning experiences amongst each other. Working together as a team helps to set a child up for academic success.
Early literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2015, from http://www.ala.org/united/products_services/booksforbabies/earlyliteracy
Tips for parents of preschoolers. (2003). Retrieved March 29, 2015, from http://www.getreadytoread.org/early-learning-childhood-basics/early-childhood/tips-for-parents-of-preschoolers