Thing 2 – Blogging

I haven’t always wanted to be a librarian. Strangely, I did want to be a librarian when I was very young. At that stage the library was one of my favourite places and I thought that librarians got to sit around and read books all day. To be young and naive! Honestly, I suppose I never really knew enough about my options at 16/17 to really see it as a viable career choice. I could have done more research but I think that when it came to making the dreading CAO decisions I was stuck between two fairly ‘safe’ choices – law and teaching. I ruled out law because I felt it would limit my opportunity to travel. And so, ended up in Arts.

While I was studying for my degree I realised that I didn’t really want to be a secondary school teacher and so I started looking at my other options. It’s not that I didn’t like the idea of teaching but felt that maybe I would be better suited to a different type of teaching. I considered trying to go down the road of academia and so entered into an English Masters course. It was during this course that I really re-discovered and re-evaluated my love for the library and in doing a reference module I finally became aware of the interesting and diverse career I could have as a librarian. I thought it would fulfill my ambition to have a job in which I could continue to learn, it would allow me to travel if I wanted and it would also give me an opportunity to teach, or do research, if that was what I wanted.

It took me awhile after my English degree to actually get into librarianship. I researched the career extensively in that time and was fully sure it was what I wanted and so I worked hard doing various jobs to save enough money to return to college. I mainly worked in fashion retail and while it wasn’t my dream job I did learn a lot about working with people, both in terms of customer service and management of people which at the end of the day will stand to me in any job I undertake in the future.

Making the choice to go into librarianship is certainly not an easy one, especially with the way the job market has been over the past few years. The fact is you will probably have to work for free to build experience and send countless applications before your first big break. You have to want it!

I’ve been very lucky in the different range of experience I have gotten since finishing college. I feel that as I am early in my career why not try and get varied experience and make the most of it. While all my experience has been in the medical rather than academic or public etc. arena, I have worked on cataloguing projects, in research which involved project management and literature searching, and now I have a very exciting role where I not only get to work in a library but also in an archive and museum. I am learning so much!

It is obviously very difficult to know if the choices I am making are the right ones and whether they will lead to something more secure and long term in the future. However, for right now I am really happy. I feel like I’m still a student, learning all the time and asking questions. Really and truly this is all I’ve ever wanted from a career.

I hope that in the next few years I continue to learn and not be scared to take on new challenges and learn from new opportunities. There are plenty of aspects of librarianship I would love to get more experience in such as teaching, reference desk, more digital and systems work – variety is the spice of life! I hope that I continue to have the courage to go for what I want and that I don’t get jaded if it’s a difficult road. I love librarianship – that much I’m sure of. And that helps me believe that I will work as hard as I can to ensure that whatever I’m doing it involves using my librarian skills and telling the world just how awesome librarians are.

Advertisements

The Hollywood Librarian

Yesterday, as part of the Heritage Week festivities, the Royal College of Physicians opened the doors of their Heritage Centre to the public and screened ‘The Hollywood Librarian‘ in one of their fabulous lecture theatres.

They described the film as one which “focuses on the work and lives of librarians, and promises to hold some surprises for people who may think they know what librarians do.” ID-100176170

Basically, the documentary uses clips from movies and clips of ‘real-life’ librarians talking about their jobs and their love of libraries. There is even a very emotional clip of a man who is speaking about how the library changed his life by helping him to become literate and able to open a bank account and hold down a job.

The film is very sentimental. Starting with reminding us that “humans alone can save their language” and that reading is also “a uniquely human privilege.” The ‘power of the book’ is illustrated as many movie stars read the opening passage of David Copperfield in various movie scenes. This importance of books runs the whole way through the documentary. Now, I love books so it does pain me to say this but I think the importance placed on books in this film is overpowering and the makes me feel as though the documentary was filmed in a very different era, not 2007. However, you can see where the film-makers are coming from, trying to tug at the heart-strings of the general public. They are trying to get them to reminisce about how they used to read as a child, how books can make the world a smaller, safer place and how they can educate and inspire you. The nostalgia of childhood in the library. (I must admit they got me with a clip of Matilda leaving the library with her red wheelbarrow piled high – I used to think Roald Dahl wrote it just for me.)

While I was a bit peeved at all the book references – one thing I really enjoyed about the film was that it really showed the growth in the stereotypical view of the librarian, ‘the bun-head,’ ‘the irritated shusher’ and the ‘bespectacled stamper of books.’ The first librarian mentioned is Hypatia, the Alexandrian mathematical scholar and lecturer. We are told of a time when librarians were revered and held in the highest esteem by those of the highest powers, working as trusted advisers and tutors to those in the top ranks. Then we move to more recent times, clips of the stereotypical librarian like the ‘spinster’ from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They bring us to the 1800’s when becoming a librarian was one of the few positions a respectable women could hold, alluding to the fact that this is why librarians are perceived to have a ‘proper’ or ‘no-nonsense’ air. We see women shushing, and stamping and shelving books.

Now in order to dispel these stereotypes, the film-makers included interviews with librarians talking about their jobs, programmes they run in their libraries and their attitudes about the profession. Unfortunately, as far as I was concerned they really didn’t make enough of this opportunity to showcase the work of librarians outside the world of public libraries. Again, I think this was because the intended audience was the general public, most likely to come into contact with a public library service but they really had an opportunity here to show that librarians are needed in healthcare, law, special libraries and other organisations. These various paths are mentioned but not really explained in great detail. For example, a medical librarian speaks about her frustration when people questioned the need for her to get a degree but instead of taking this opportunity to show how the information she organised or provided aided in patient care, they just kind of glance over this and launch into public libraries again. I appreciate that they are trying to show that there are so many aspects to a librarian’s role and so many avenues for librarians and their skills but I would have liked them to delve a bit deeper into how the work these librarians do affects people.

The work of public libraries is beautifully displayed, everything from programmes for very young children to develop literacy, to language skills courses and cultural events, to the development of peer literacy programmes in the a prison library. They also do a pretty decent job of explaining that a librarian does more than just catalogue information. They show how librarians can be the teachers, problem-solvers, business people and sometimes all in one day. Another very positive aspect was showing the strength of librarians against things like censorship and being fiercely determined to protect their readers privacy when faced with the Patriot Act.

There was a small amount of time given to information technology, a quick mention of an information architect (with actually a rather lovely comparison between information architecture and creating ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics) and a insightful moment when a librarian talks about how card catalogues were really the first hyperlinks. Really in order to focus on the work of librarians, I personally felt that this wasn’t enough.

Something which I hadn’t noticed before but that struck me as being very poignant in this time of financial crisis for libraries was that films that deal with the end of civilisation often depict a library in ruins. “The Time Traveller,” “Battlefield Earth” and “The Day After Tomorrow” are a few examples. I really understand this motif because to me the end of libraries is in some part an end to our civilised world. People talk about cutting libraries in order to save money but by doing this the are really taking the last resource away from the poor that really and truly need it. People without money need libraries for education, for a space to go, for access to the technology that unfortunately some people assume everyone has at home, and a whole host of other reasons. Closing libraries really does mean marginalising people and it would a backwards step for all of us. The happy ending of this film saw closed libraries re-opening after community support but this is an issue that is not going away any time soon and it is something we need to be aware of.

After watching this documentary I started thinking about stereotypes and how we can change them. My go-to librarian in TV world is Giles from Buffy because I’m a total Whedonite (and I’m mentioning him here because I was disappointed he didn’t feature in the doc at all). Anyway, wouldn’t it be great in a re-make of Buffy if Giles was digitising all those old books to make it quicker to find out what monsters they were dealing with (and you-know, store them in the cloud so that they don’t all just disappear when the Hell-Mouth opens.) I mean, House should have featured a librarian, where the hell were they getting all the info for their crazy diagnoses? (I volunteer to star in Grey’s Anatomy if they’re looking.) How many movies have we seen about lawyers and yet no law librarians sorting them out with the information?

Anyway, its a very interesting 96 mins and I would recommend a watch, especially with someone who isn’t a librarian in order to get their thoughts. If you do see it or have seen it I would love to know what you thought.

Irish Library Camp 2013

On Saturday I attended the very first Irish Library Camp. The venue, ‘The Chocolate Factory,’ was actually very apt when you saw the cupcakeamount of chocolate and cake in attendance. Librarians are truly multi-talented, and they love cake! However, even though there were some truly amazing treats, by far the best thing about library camp was the informal setting and atmosphere which made it very easy to strike up conversation. From the minute I walked in I found myself chatting to people, many of whom I have ‘met’ on Twitter. It was great to finally put some faces to Twitter names. Some of my MLIS class were also in attendance so it was fun to catch up and see how people are getting on now that the madness of final assignments and exams is over and people are getting stuck into the various Capstone projects. In Ireland we know its a small world and funnily enough the first stranger I spoke to turned out to be from my hometown and there I was thinking I was the only librarian from my neck of the woods.

BellBefore we all lapsed into a sugar coma, the first event got underway. Speed networking, a pitch by Helen Kielt, was the perfect way to start proceedings. It allowed us to mingle and meet people and gave us the opportunity to think a bit about how we present ourselves. I really enjoyed it; I chatted to people I know, people I have chatted to on Twitter previously but have never met and complete strangers. Everyone had really interesting things to say and the only downside was that the 2 mins we had to chat seemed too short at times. I think this activity was particularly useful for the students who are taking their first steps into the ‘real’ world. I know I personally find meeting new people extremely nerve-wracking but situations like this force you out of your comfort zone and build your confidence.

Another fun aspect of Library Camp is that you can choose the pitches you want to take part in and that means that people can take away completely different things from the day. There were so many Tweets!! And I’m sure there will be several blog posts and they might all have something different to talk about which is great. You can check out the Storify by LAI CDG here to get a big picture of the day. I chose to attend a pitch by Laura Rooney Ferris, Marie Cullen and Aoife Connolly in the first session. Laura spoke about the issues surrounding being a solo librarian. I think the most important things I learnt from her pitch were the importance of being able to advocate for your library and your position within the wider organisation, being able to find projects where you can make a difference to show your worth, being able to multi-task or priortise projects and the importance of having a network for support. The idea of having a network for support led nicely into Marie’s discussion about membership of the Library Association of Ireland. I liked her suggestions that the process should involve more personal reflection on your CPD. On a personal note, I have found this blog extremely useful in thinking about what I have learnt this year and I intend to continue to utilise it for CPD in the future. Finally, Aoife wanted to think about our titles. I have come across a few instances this year where it seems the word ‘librarian’ may be a problematic one but how do we change perceptions? Do we try to find another word or phrase that establishes what we do in a way people can understand? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer right now but it is a something I like to think about and I love to hear other people’s opinions on the subject.

After yet more cake, I chose to partake in the pitch by Emmet Keoghan which was looking at our qualification. I really enjoyed this Diplomachat because it made me look a little deeper at what I have learnt this year and what perhaps would have been beneficial additions to my learning. I think there is a case to be made that some things are omitted from library school that would be very useful, for example some business focused modules or a module that deals with the legalities of copyright and licensing etc. However, what I think is the biggest problem with the course, as far as the discussion we were having, is the different types of student involved and therefore the different needs or expectations of the students. Many students in the MLIS this year, like myself, did not have any practical library experience going into the course. Someone mentioned that all students going into the course should have 3-6 months work experience and then the modules could be better organised to provide more practical skills. I have to admit I think this is a brilliant idea; however, it is very very difficult for people trying to get into the library and information sector to obtain entry level positions without a Masters. The students of today are between a rock and a hard place in relation to getting qualified, getting experience and having the money to live. This applies to every student not just library students. Employers are expecting more and more for less and to be honest as much I would have loved to work in a library for free and get the experience I so desperately wanted, I couldn’t afford to eat and pay rent and pay college loans without working. Now I don’t feel sorry for myself, I’m very happy that I have been able to put myself through college. I have been lucky to get some work experience that is relevant in the last few months so I have achieved a great deal in a relatively short period of time and I’m happy with my progress. Would it have been better for me to have this experience before college? I’m not sure. Perhaps the Masters in SILS has changed to suit people trying to get into the profession rather than people that have been working in a library and are looking to up-skill. I know that my lack of practical experience hasn’t affected my ability to achieve very good grades. I know that as regards trying to get work after the course more experience would have been beneficial but I’m not sure if I could have afforded both low-paid or unpaid experience and a degree. I have enjoyed the Masters; I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I look back in a year or two after working in the area but one thing it has taught me is that I can adapt and I can learn. If the Masters has given me anything, it is confidence in myself and my abilities, the determination that this is the career I want to pursue and a thirst for more. To be quite frank I’m not sure how well any degree prepares a student for life in the ‘real’ world but I feel like if the degree gives them the same sense of confidence that their skills are relevant to their chosen career and makes them strive for more then surely it is doing something right. I understand that my views on this could be very different to someone who has worked in a library and has gone back to do the MLIS.

Anyway, after this chat, I stayed to talk some more and on my walk home I found I had a lot to think about. We were discussing how certain things were left out of the MLIS and someone made the point that things like budgeting and legal issues are not things that you are likely to deal with in your first library job out of college. I began to think that because CPD is so important it would be great to be able to learn about these areas after college and when it becomes relevant. There were suggestions of being able to complete courses at a modular level, possibly negotiating a lower rate considering the huge expense associated with college tuition. However, as I strolled along I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if librarians could collaborate with other groups to facilitate learning. Librarians have a lot to offer, we could help people with their information literacy skills, or with social media and very many other things while small business owners or lawyers or publishers could contribute with their expertise in budgeting or copyright law. By collaborating with others librarians could increase the profile of the profession and begin to change the outdated perceptions. The public library would be a perfect place to hold informal ‘learning camps’ and costs could be kept low enough if people had the attitude that it would be collaborative learning, people learning different things from each other. The difficulty would be that there would be no certification for anything learnt at an event like this and it might be very difficult to get up and running.

Anyway, that is just an idea but it goes to show that Library Camp was a success because I met other library and information professionals, took part in great pitches and I came away inspired and thoughtful.

Thank you very much to the LAI Career Development Group and the Academic and Special Libraries Section of the LAI for such a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable day.

Final Reflection on the MLIS

I have mentioned in a previous post that I had done my research and I was prepared when I began this course but even still this year has been surprising for many reasons. After completing my English MA in 2009 I felt that librarianship was the next step for me but student loans meant working for a few years in order to finance another year in college. One thing I have discovered about myself in the past few years is that when I am determined to do something I will put everything I have into making it happen. Starting the MLIS was such a great day for me because after three years of working in retail I finally felt like I was doing what I am supposed to be doing. This feeling of being in the right place has remained throughout the year and the support from lecturers, fellow students, librarians and other information professionals I have met at conferences etc. has only served to convince me that I was born to be a librarian.

In the first semester I took on four modules, Information Architecture, Management for Information Professionals, Information and Reference Services and Research Methods. Information Architecture was a really eye-opening module and I found it fascinating because it was something far outside my comfort zone. It was the first time I really realised the extent of an information professional’s skills and how they can be used in different careers. In semester 2 I took on Digital Libraries, Research Methods 2, Organisation of Information, Cataloguing and Metadata, Contemporary Issue in Professional Practice and Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator. I had a class everyday and this semester was a lot of hard work and quite a bit of stress but I really enjoyed it because I really took a lot from the modules. Not to say that the first semester wasn’t very enjoyable but I found this semester I was truly immersed in the library world and I really began developing my thoughts on the profession and its future. I found Digital Libraries fascinating and it was a class where we were encouraged to read blogs and follow Twitter to follow the ever occurring changes and issues. Personally, I see librarians as teachers and collaborators so I really enjoyed my teaching module and I think that I learnt a great deal of relevant information in that class and the group work each week allowed us to be creative. However, it was my Contemporary Issues module that I was really encouraged to reflect and to go out into the world and attend events and conferences outside the MLIS bubble. This made the second semester very special for me because speaking with librarians and information professionals and being encouraged and supported by them means a lot to someone finding their feet and I only hope I will be able to provide that kind of encouragement to others in the future. There is so much benefit in having a network and I really appreciate the kindness and generosity of the library community.

I used to worry that my lack of work experience in libraries would hamper my progress in the course but I have learnt that my determination, hard work and willingness to learn and throw myself into new things is also very important in a career as a librarian. You have to be willing to adapt, ask questions and be aware of what you don’t know and find out. When I started I thought I was the opposite of tech savvy but after a few short months I can use loads of open source systems to create websites etc. I have used Google Sites, Omeka and of course, WordPress. Now I would love to do a Web Publishing course and I feel very confident that could master at least the basic of these skills.

There are a couple of things that I think would make useful additions to the course. I have mentioned I would like to see the Rare Books module brought back for those who are interested in Special Collections. Perhaps more collaboration between archives and SILS would be beneficial for both parties, where archivists could benefit from something like Digital Libraries and the librarians could get some archival expertise. I have just completed an environmental scan looking at copyright and DRM in the digital world. I feel like a module or at least some classes dealing with this would be very useful. Also, things like budgeting or proposal writing could be useful additions, even just some guest lectures by people with this kind of experience would be great.

At the end of the day I have gotten so much from this experience that I can’t even put it down in words. Like I have said, it’s been the hardest but the best year of my life so far and I sincerely appreciate all the people that have helped me get to this point. I especially want to thank my boyfriend Jono who is extremely supportive and helped keep me sane throughout the process. The next step now is the Capstone and hopefully to get some work experience over the summer to put my newly acquired skills to the test. I’m very excited about the future and although, times are tough, I truly believe this is the right career path for me so I’m more than willing to put in the hard work that is required and I know I’m going to enjoy every minute of it even when I’m stressed and tired.

So to sum up, its May, I’m finished classes and I’m exhausted, I’ve felt very stressed and under pressure for at least 4 weeks straight but I’m happy, I’m feeling prepared, I’m excited and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.

Community Repositories

This week a group from our class will be speaking to us about community repositories.

In a previous post about Digital Humanities I alluded to some of the opportunities for libraries to engage with the community. I would encourage people interested in this area to view Simon Tanner’s presentation that I have linked to on that page. It gives some excellent examples of how the library can work to create with the community. Some other excellent examples are our own National Library of Ireland which has a Flickr account where people can tag images and comment with observations, opinions or stories and which utilises social media to encourage conversation.

Recently I have just completed my own Digital Library project on Omeka which focuses on my family and our history. Members of my family have been really supportive and interested in it and I see this as something that could be expanded to a whole community. In seems that in recent years there has been a major increase in interest into genealogy and local history. This increase is probably helped by the fact a lot more information is available in an online format. There is a huge opportunity for public libraries especially to get involved in this area. Building and maintaining a local history archive could be a very useful and relevant project for an interested librarian. It would have benefits both for the library and the people it serves. We can see from some successful projects like the Hemel At War  that people are very willing to get involved and share their images and their stories. Allowing people to submit and tag items means that the library is building a collaborative community. The librarian is still essential as they are aware of the necessity for good metadata, accurate tagging and the importance of controlled vocabularies and thesauri in order to make sure the items are find-able.

From personal experience I can say that there are a lot of open source and very inexpensive ways to create and manage online content. Omeka, which I have mentioned and even WordPress can be used for these types of projects. Flickr is also very useful, Pinterest and other social media all have the ability to help engage the community. Let’s be honest people are very interested in stories and stories that involve them in some way, be it that it involves their family or the place they live or grew up, are going to draw them in. It is very likely that by getting involved in a local community project (a history project being a great example) the library will increase its membership or at the very least re-engage some of its users to be more active. I love the idea that the Hemel At War project had to get school kids involved. Many librarians will be very aware that the teenage years are were there seems to be a huge drop-off in interest in the library and a project like this would really encourage kids to come back to the library.

Of course we must be realistic, while the content management system might not be expensive, there will be expense in regard to time and staffing but with help from the community it might be possible.

Simon Tanner ask, “if you build it, will they come and help? I think the answer is a resounding “Yes!” and I think you will build the profile of the library in the process.

Building Community

Digital Humanities

I have spoken previously about how technology is changing education and I have to say I think we are headed in a very exciting direction in relation to the humanities. Digital humanities is the study of how we can use computers and technology for arts and humanities research. It is a rapidly growing area and this is important for us as information professionals because there are gaps in this area that we are very capable of filling. Digital humanities is essentially all about engagement with information in a digital form. It is about allowing people to engage with a topic in a deeper way, creating visuals or stories that are interesting and interactive. Simon Tanner gave a very interesting talk on the subject at the A&SL Seminar in March, you can find it here. The talk was entitled, “To educate, enlighten and entertain – If you build it will they come and help?” I think this title outlines some of the important factors in digital humanities and why the area is so important for the future.

1. To educate – digital humanities provide us with the opportunity to educate in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. Imagine a architecture enthusiast being able to view digital renderings of some of the world’s most famous buildings for example, perhaps a history buff being able to view the maps around the building to see how the town had changed or maybe an artist being able to study the frescos inside without them ever having to leave their seats by a laptop. These things are all possible within the digital arts and humanities scope.

2. To enlighten – Although many could say that this is similar to education, I can see this going further; perhaps explaining parts of the past that we may not have understood before, teaching us things about ourselves, allowing for insight into the future even. Read this article about Gettysburg for example where spatial humanities and technology have combined to allow us to understand the ‘why’ of the situation.

3. To entertain – The interest people have in their own histories has been well documented in recent years with exponential growth in the genealogy sector. As a personal hobby people are looking into the past to find information about themselves, their families and little nuggets of history that tug on the heart-strings or inspire them. Take a look at The Diary of Mary Martin, although entertaining may not exactly be the right word, the diary is fascinating, whether you are studying Irish soldier’s in the First World War, or the 1916 Rising, or whether you just happen upon it and are caught up in this extraordinary story.

The thing I especially love about this area is that allows people to learn things they may not even have thought about; it allows people to see things in places they’ll never visit and go back through history; maybe even be inspired to learn more, write, create art etc. I also like how there is so much scope for people and communities to get involved. Crowd-sourcing is a hot topic here and I think it provides us with an excellent opportunity because we can see from projects like the Bentham Project that people are interested in helping and getting involved.

So if people can get involved and do the crowd-sourcing part, what are the opportunities for us? Well, we need to do the digitization, we need to think about digital preservation, how do people find your project, do the items contain relevant metadata, how is the crowd-sourced information edited and verified? There are plenty of areas that need a trained information professional.

For those interested in this area in Ireland there are PhDs available in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Maynooth. See here for more info. There are many more opportunities worldwide.

The School Library Situation.

Today’s topic is something I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about for a very long time. This is something that I have been concerned about even before I decided to pursue a career in librarianship because it’s an issue that has affected me in my journey through the Irish education system. I want to talk about the lack of libraries in schools and, with it, the lack of digital literacy training.

The School Library Association has pointed out that the situation in Ireland is “highly unsatisfactory.” As it stands there is no statutory recognition for school libraries and no specific budgetary focus to maintain libraries on a national level. SLARI points out that in many cases libraries are provided by, “boards of management, school principals, teachers, librarians and parents who through dedication, fund-raising, hard work and sheer determination have managed to provide a high quality library service in a relatively small number of schools throughout the country.” Unfortunately not every school in Ireland has such dedicated members of staff and parents. Actually, more to the point, not every school has staff or parents with the time or money in the present climate to provide these services and therefore it is likely that students are receiving different degrees of education.

Many studies have shown the success of school libraries in relation to literacy levels with increased student performance in areas like reading and writing. We can see these results in the very successful Irish initiative the JCSP Demonstration Library Project which has expanded since it’s introduction in 2002. However, there is no overall call for libraries to be established in secondary schools around the country. The drop-off in engagement with libraries during teenage years is a well known phenomenon and I believe this lack of engagement leads to issues at university level. By the time students get to college the library can seem an intimidating place and although college libraries do offer support in the form of tours and liaison, it is a time in life that is very over-whelming anyway and it can all be a bit too much to take in. On a personal note this was a huge issue for me in my first years at college and I think that I lost a lot of confidence in myself as a student. I completely understand the need for us to learn some things by rote the way we do in secondary school but there is a rather large imbalance in the way that you learn things off in secondary school and the way you research for college. I truly believe the presence of a school library and some form of research as part of the curriculum would be hugely beneficial to many Irish students.

Teacher Librarian Infographic by Joy Valencia

Teacher Librarian Infographic by Joy Valencia

However, these issues are not the biggest issues I perceive in relation to the lack of school libraries. I have spoken in the past about how technology has changed the way we work as librarians. Technology has made its mark on schools too. There are new and improved teacher resources, e.g. smart boards etc. I know that there are computer science classes and that students use the internet and teachers use web resources but I still see some gaping holes in this area of education. Students today are so-called ‘digital natives’ but does this mean that they shouldn’t be taught digital literacy. There seems to be this false idea that because these children are growing up with computers and other technology that they intrinsically know all there is to know. We all grow up with a native language and yet we are still taught about English or Irish in school. I was recently speaking to two younger members of my family, both in 5th yr of secondary school, both had been given one talk about social media and cyber bullying. One hour, one day. That’s it!?! They had some idea of copyright from business class and they had never heard of creative commons. These are kids that are on the internet in their spare time, posting things to Facebook, using Twitter and yet they know relatively little about the issues of intellectual property. It is also quite clear from just looking at Facebook that there are many young kids out there that really do not grasp the reality of what it means to be posting pictures of themselves online. I find it quite scary that these kids are growing up in an online environment and yet they don’t really know how to use the internet. There is research to support my opinions that teenagers do not know how to use the internet effectively and don’t evaluate the information they are receiving. Here is a link to one such survey. I don’t blame teacher’s as they do all they can with limited time and resources they have. The answer will only come in the form of a change in the system from the top levels. There has to be an overall national initiative to bring education in this area to every student in Ireland. I know that librarians have the skills to bridge this gap and if given the opportunity I think school librarians could make a huge difference.

These skills are hugely important in later life and teenagers need to know how to navigate the digital world effectively.

In summary, school libraries can:

1. Increase interest in reading.

2. Increase reading and writing skills.

3. Make sure that students have some familiarity with libraries and research before starting in third level.

4. Teach about intellectual property and evaluating resources.

5. Tackle the issues that students of today deal with, like social media, cyber bullying and how to manage their online presence

to name but a few. Hopefully, some schools, parents and public libraries are taking the opportunity to tackle some of these issues but I believe that we need the Irish education system to do something about this and I think school libraries are the answer.

For more reading on the topic:

Libraries key destination for teens to learn 21st century skills.

School Library Information from Library Research Service.

The Guardian: “The library: beating heart of the school.”

SLARI