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Information Literacy Part I

What is information literacy, and why should you care?

Because we’re all absolutely drowning in a sea of information, and information literacy is the skill of getting yourself into a boat.  It’s not optional for anyone living in this culture today, and it’s especially important for children to learn how to evaluate the credibility of information from the start.  (If your child’s school doesn’t have a trained school librarian, find out how they are being taught this.)

The National Forum on Information Literacy defines information literacy as being able to identify the need for information, find it, assess it for credibility, and use it to learn or problem-solve.   It also involves the skills to stay safe in the digital world (identifying scams, identity safety, etc.).

Think of all the information you receive in a day.  Unsolicited information from radio, tv, email, Internet, your kid’s school, work – it goes on and on.  Or knowledge you seek from books, Internet, other people, etc.  What is true?  What is biased?  What is useful?  How do you find what you need easily and sort through the rest?

Find out how literate you are.  Here’s a quick quiz for you and yours to take.

Or take a look at this great site.  Click on some of the sites listed under “Hoax Sites.”   If you came upon one while browsing the web, would you have any idea it was a hoax?

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how to become more information literate.

-Mary Beth


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So there.

About once a week I have an interaction that goes something like this:

Patron: “Well, I guess we won’t need libraries much longer, huh?”
Me: “Oh?  Why do you say that?”
Patron:  “Well, we can get everything we need from Google and e-books now!”

Oh really.  What springs to mind are responses like “Oh yeah?  Can Google protect your civil liberties?”  or “Can Google stand up for equal access to information in this country?”  or even “Can Google help your child gain literacy skills, or teach you English, or guide you to find a job, for free?”  But leaving aside such juicy topics, let’s just look at getting information from Google, in a very brief and simplistic way.

a) Please remember that you can’t trust everything you read.  Do you have the skills to be certain you can trust the information you find on the web?  No?  Well, guess who does.   😉

b) Go read the November 10 entry of this blog: http://senseandreference.wordpress.com /

I’ll summarize it for you: a basic search from a library database yields 5,272 academic journal articles, 3,531 magazine articles, 11,875 news articles, and 669 other credible sources.  The same basic search on Google delivers 868 web pages, an unvetted jumble of information which may or may not be trustworthy and may or may not be about what you’re looking for.

We’re drowning in information these days, and librarians are running the rescue boats.  Glad to have you aboard.
—Mary Beth


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