Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Death of the Library: Read It and Weep

While the conventional wisdom these days seems to be "Who needs libraries when you have Google?," the truth is that Google is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research skills. As Sara Scribner, a children's librarian in Pasadena, California, notes, "In a time when information literacy is increasingly crucial to life and work, not teaching kids how to search for information is like sending them out into the world without knowing how to read."

Among other skills she teaches her pupils are how to sift through different kinds of reference materials (e.g. books, online resources, academic databases), how to tell good online information from bad and how to save time by optimizing search terms. In a country where education reform remains an ongoing -- if unresolved -- priority, you'd think that teaching our children basic library skills ought to be paramount.

Libraries are also crucial for adults. I have a good friend who's a reference librarian at one of the major urban public libraries in the United States. Day in and day out, she answers an enormous range of questions on every subject under the sun from people from every age (from 7 to 70) and race and occupational and income group you can imagine. Some of these people don't speak English very well or are too old to be computer literate. They come to the library because, as she put it, "it's the poor man's university."

More HERE.

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