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Posts Tagged ‘literacy’

In our Community Relations & Advocacy class, George posed an interesting question: “Is there a way to capture…instances where a library or librarian has made a real difference and corral that into evidence of value that would compel others to use and support the library?”

I have a couple thoughts on ways that libraries can make a real difference, some evidence that may encourage support of the library as a valuable information source.  First, libraries partner with local nonprofits and social service agencies to support the desemination of information about their services.  For instance, I have seen where Tulsa libraries provide information about domestic violence intervention services information in their public restrooms.  The idea behind this is that while victims of abuse are kept under surveillance by their abusers and are thus unable to request information about how to escape abuse, the restroom is a place where victims may have a moment of privacy.  There they can pick up a “DV restroom card” with info on how to get help and slip it in their purse or pocket without their abuser knowing.  The fact that libraries are making an effort to provide information, safely and privately, to a population that desperately needs it—I think the victims that are able to escape because of that information would say the library made a real difference in their lives.  This isn’t a small population either—statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

I think the people who learn to read through library literacy programs would say that the library made a real difference in their lives.  I think the people who get free tax assistance at the public library, and the people who find employment after using library resume writing and job searching resources would say the same thing.

What we need is a way to stay in contact with the people who have been helped so they can help us advocate for the value of the library.  Many nonprofits have speakers’ panels, people who volunteer to speak to groups of people about the value of the service they received at Domestic Violence Intervention Services, or at The Salvation Army Homeless Shelter, etc.  They speak to church groups, rotary groups, the elks, the moose, kiwanis clubs, school kids, to educate them about issues like dating violence, homelessness, hunger, child abuse, and how these groups can help.  Maybe libraries need speakers’ panels to talk about literacy, intellectual freedom and how to get help with finding the information they need?

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Literacy 2025

Does it make me a literary elitist if I find this disturbing?

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Here’s something from an online discussion I’d like to preserve here.  I’m not posting it for class credit–just for my own interest (or vanity).  These thoughts stem from reading Anthony Grafton’s article, “Digitization and its Discontents,” The New Yorker, November 5, 2007.

I agree with Grafton that humankind has struggled with information glut and access difficulties since the stone tablet libraries of Nineveh and the scrolls of Alexandria were in circulation.  True, there is more information floating around today than ever before, but that was true in every age (except maybe the dark ages, but that’s another discussion). 

I think digitalization is our newest method of coping with our informational growing pains.  It’s not perfect, but I’m not sure any of our previous methods can be characterized as perfect either.  There were access issues in ancient times in the form of illiterate populations, access issues throughout history in terms of specific populations being denied access to information (slaves in ancient Greece, Christians denied access to biblical texts in the vulgate, women and African Americans denied access throughout history).  There were access issues with microfilm and microfiche in that very few people had personal microfilm and microfiche readers.  I think this demonstrates that in the interest of the democratization of information, libraries must extend outreach efforts and strive to provide access to everyone through literacy programs, tech assistance programs, and efforts to connect the unconnected countries of the world to libraries both physical and digital.

I also think Grafton is right that all human information is not going to be captured and digitized any time soon.  Information has been “left out” throughout history, from books left out of the Christian Bible to texts overlooked for conversion to microfilm.  It is troubling to think about who is making the decisions today as to what will be digitally preserved and what won’t be.  But do we preserve everything, down to the last child’s coloring book?  One man’s trash is an archeologist’s treasure in 500 years.  But I guess that passes into archival territory.

Still, as long as people prefer reading print on paper to text on screens, as long as parents want to take their children to story-time, as long as digital information is vulnerable to a powerful electromagnetic pulse, as long as people seek that Third Place for democracy and community, libraries must persist in bricks as well as bytes.

Anyone interested in the history of libraries in greater depth should check out Library: An Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles.  It’s a facinating account.  Thanks to Doc Martens for introducing me to it!

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