Are Libraries the Key to Teaching Digital Literacy?
Public libraries and school libraries are crucial for teaching digital literacy. Libraries offer much more than books. Today’s libraries are technology hubs where anyone can access and use technology daily. As more technology emerges and the amount of online content grows, libraries are at the forefront of teaching library patron’s digital literacy.
Digital literacy extends beyond the classroom walls. Public libraries are essential for teaching digital literacy to the public. For example, American Library Association (ALA) explains, “Pew research […] shows the connection between library support of digital literacy skills and employment. Contributing to the economic health of the community, and the economic success of individuals, are major reasons that teaching digital literacy skills is important.”
Considering the connection between digital literacy and success, it is easy to see this is an essential skill. Since libraries provide access to technology and teach patrons how to be astute information seekers, libraries are the key to teaching digital literacy. Let’s look at more ways libraries fill this necessary role.
Provide Access to Technology
Libraries are most often the first venues to introduce new technologies and provide access to technology to the public. Within school environments, librarians curate technology and online resources for educators and students, and the libraries offer the spaces for individuals to use the technology and create content.
Teach Technology Users How to Use It Appropriately
As patrons and students use technology in libraries, librarians are at the ones tasked with teaching them how to use it appropriately. Digital literacy involves knowing how to use technology appropriately. This includes teaching individuals how to navigate new websites, new devices, and computers. If a library amasses a collection of digital resources, but students are not taught how to use them, the resources are worthless.
Stress the Importance of Evaluating Content
The key to digital literacy is understanding how to find and evaluate digital content. Librarians have always been the ones teaching the masses how to be smart consumers of information by assessing one’s sources. However, with the alarming number of students who cannot differentiate between real news and fake news, it is more important than ever before to stress the importance of evaluating content.
Librarians are the most skilled educators in this area. According to Professor Nicole A. Cooke, librarians have always been tasked with teaching people to be “savvy consumers of information.” Now, this involves teaching individuals to recognize a website’s reliability.
Finally, a strong library educates educators. By allowing librarians to take on a leadership role in their schools, librarians can curate educational technology and online content that supports teachers, as well as teach them how to use it in their classrooms.