Digital Literacy Corps aka Librarians

I got this in my library school listserv, and I want to amplify the message:

It’s been a heated 24 hours since Matt Richtel’s loaded New York Times article “Wasting Time is New Divide in the Digital Era” ( and public and school librarians have answered back in a big way. The FCC’s proposed $200 million initiative to develop a digital literacy corps- “hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.”

There are a great number of issues with this statement, and in the presentation of evidence in this article. Namely, the digital literacy corps already exists (they’re called librarians), and moreover they’ve been doing the job amid record high numbers of information needs that coincide with record lows in budget cuts and imploded programs. These funds could easily be reallocated to offset the deficit in promised funds in LSTA and IALA (for more information please visit, but the more chilling issue is an old problem: people clearly don’t know what librarians do.

Emphasis mine. Friends, if you don’t know how to use the internet, your computer, smartphone, e-reader, or even your tv, I can guarantee you that someone at your public library can help you learn. We love to help. Let me repeat that: WE LOVE TO HELP. And despite the stereotype of starchy old ladies with horn-rim glasses, we are usually some of the most tech-savvy people out there. We’re like IT guys, except we aren’t snobby about our mastery of technology.

Do consider sending an email to the FCC asking them to support funding libraries instead of creating an entirely new program to foster digital literacy. Public and school libraries already have the knowledge, talent, and infrastructure needed to get this off the ground.

Fran Bullington, a school librarian who writes atย Informania has already put together a sample letter:
To: Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman (

I just read the NY Times May 30, 2012 article entitled โ€œWasting Time is New Digital Divide in Digital Era.โ€ย  As an educator, I realize the importance of information and digital literacy.ย  As a school librarian, I have been trained to teach information literacy skills.ย  I collaborate with classroom teachers to teach lessons in which I incorporate these skills.

However, the recession has had an enormous impact on school libraries.ย  Many programs have been completely cut; others are being run by volunteers rather than a certified school librarian; and other programs have lost their assistants, whose job of handling routine procedures freed the school librarian to plan with teachers.

I noticed that the FCC is considering โ€œa proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.โ€

Although I applaud the intent of teaching digital literacy skills to our students, I question the expenditure of these funds.ย  Why not instead funnel these funds into school library programs to allow trained, certified professionals to teach the skills?

I look forward to hearing from you on this vital issue.


Thanks to Rebecca Oxley (@LibrariansFTW) for sending the email that started it all.

What’s new in the world of eBooks?

NPR had a segment on Morning Edition today about libraries and their struggles to provide ebooks to patrons. It’s a nice summation of the issue.

If you want to go deeper: the American Library Association just published a report on the state of ebooks and other digital content in libraries today.

Google Searching Help

Here’s a secret about librarians: we use Google just as much, if not more than you do. Yes, our most frequent remark is that libraries and librarians can’t be replaced by Google (and that’s true!), but we love Google and use it all the time.


Google loves to tinker with their search engine. Last year they purged MANY Google Labs features that they claim have been incorporated into their regular products (although I’m still bitter about Google Uncle Sam, an amazing product that has not been fully replicated, not even by But even more, they love to tinker with where they hide the extra goodies and tips about their products (and librarians love extra goodies and knowing all the search shortcuts).

With that in mind, here is where the best search help currently resides:

And they just launched a new website for educators. El Goog calls it “search education,” librarians call it information literacy. And to my surprise and delight, it is a very useful resource:

The lesson plans are glossy and nice enough, but the real gems are the live trainings. They are thorough and helpful even to people like me who think they know everything already. And there are a lot of them. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I’m eager to see more.

Happy Searching!