technology

The Necessity of Information Literacy

Warning: rant ahead!

Last week I received some excellent news. I have been offered a Reference and Instructional Librarian position at a local community college that I had interviewed for. To say that I am excited is a complete understatement and I am looking forward to moving up in the professional library world and getting in front of students and being a professor from time to time (not to mention my own office that goes with the position). I am a huge advocate for information literacy for all, not just college students, and I find it frustrating that there are those who don’t take their time to familiarize themselves with this data driven society that we find ourselves living in today. Let me explain.

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With my work at the public library (where I am a Teen and YA Librarian), I have assisted patrons, young and old, who not only rarely use a computer, but absolutely outright refuse to learn anything about them. The phrase “You do it!” has been barked at me more than a time or two (which, by the way, is a huge no no and a breach in library etiquette). The truth is that librarians are not computer servants. While we make a point to be caught up on trends, we are not IT professionals. We, as a profession, are here to provide helpful service to those who are trying to access information. The line in the sand is that we can only help you so far before it becomes the fact that we are doing everything for you. Sadly, it doesn’t work this way. Yes, we are here to help you, but only to the point where you want to help yourself. If you are extremely clueless as to how to use today’s technology, here are few suggestions I have:

  1. Check your local library to see what programs they offer on learning to use a computer, a tablet, or any other piece of technology you find yourself needing to use often. If your library doesn’t offer any, ask the librarian if they could locate some information for you on where it might be offered. A lot of this is free to library patrons, programs included, and sometimes you are able to work with the instructor in a one-on-one setting. It exists. The library I currently work at provides it via an appointment.
  2. Learn/do the following things:
    1. Obtain an email. Check it often. Learn to manage your messages. Many businesses and people refuse to communicate in any other way. Believe me. Introverts thrive on this.
    2. Learn to type on a computer keyboard. Practice it until you can manage 50 words per minute, which is the expected average for someone in the workplace. You can always take a typing test at a website like this one. No one is going to type any of your documents for you unless you pay them, and certainly not your local librarian. I can guarantee that.
    3. Obtain a USB drive/key. Learn how to save, scan, and edit documents to it. Keep it in a safe place and under good maintenance so you will not risk losing any documents that are important to you, especially if that key contains the only copies you have. Also, always back up important documents by printing them or also saving them to your email or computer hard drive.
  3. Obtain some kind of guide to look over if you ever have some kind of question about computers and technology. The For Dummies and Idiot’s Guide series are awesome at keeping up on technology trends and publishing up to date information on how to use the basic functions of computers, tablets, and a variety of programs. When in doubt, ask a librarian if any are available at your library, or if not, where you can purchase a guide about the specific topic you are researching and learning. They are always available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
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Anyone else remember this?

This topic tends to get under my skin more than others because the technology we are familiar with today is nothing new. I grew up knowing what to type in DOS in order to play an ancient version of Wheel of Fortune on an old desktop. I learned to type without looking at the keyboard thanks to programs like Mavis Beacon. I learned the basics of HTML thanks to online blogs like LiveJournal. And I have typed an endless amount of pages and reports in my academic and professional career as a student, writer, and librarian. To top it off, a lot of basic tech functions (such as using a Windows computer and typing) are taught during middle through high school. If technology has been around for so long and has become such a standard in our society, why are there still people who do not understand what an email is (or have one for that matter)? The honest truth is if you are not retired and are a functioning person in the working world of today, you should know how to use the basic tools of technology. Otherwise, you are holding yourself, and at time others, back. And with how readily available it is to everyone to learn, there is no one to blame but yourself.

The other thing that really bothers me is that there are those who know how to use technology and do not use it responsibly. And I’m not just talking about internet bullying or anything of the like. I’m talking about people who don’t check their facts and just post whatever bull to suit their own agenda. Donald Trump? Ugh. I’m already sick of seeing his face flood my Facebook feed. Half of what the man says is either untrue or the exact opposite of something he said the week before. Stephen Colbert even called him out on it on this Late Show clip and I wanted to reach through the television and shake the man’s hand. Colbert and his crew fact checked and caught him again and again and again! Politics aside, it was beautiful. The truth is there are ways to fact check what’s out there very easily that do not involve Google or Wikipedia. While those websites do provide some interesting information*, not everything that is stated on the internet is true.

What do I recommend? Do some research from a database at an academic library. See if a librarian can help you find some information in the stacks about what you are researching. And when in doubt, Snopes.com is a great website that likes to debunk pop culture news that is fake. To do anything less is careless and lazy.

So there you have it. That is my rant on information literacy. For someone who isn’t information literate, it may seem like a lot. But the truth is this concept has been around for so long that now the person can blame no one but themselves for having so much to catch up on. We are a technology based society. We function because of technology and its use. And if a person does not use that technology that is offered in this world, then they cannot function to their full potential in this world that they live in, especially when learning about it is available to them.

*When in doubt, check the footnotes on Wikipedia to see where people are quoting. I’m not saying everything on Wikipedia is untrue, but the people who cite their information are more likely to be correct than others.

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The Fascinating Growth of Technology

I recently returned to my position at the Wayne Public Library after a three week hiatus. I ended up in the hospital for an emergency gallbladder removal. Throughout my recovery (as I couldn’t do much else), I observed many different types of technology in our world today at work and I honestly marveled at how far we have come in such a short amount of time. Not only has technology caught up with us, but in some ways it is surpassing us and developing at an insanely rapid pace to a point that some of the world’s population cannot keep up.

Here’s a perfect example. A hundred years ago, if a doctor told a patient, “I am going to put you to sleep and remove an organ from your body that I believe is useless,” the patient would have ran for the hills. This wasn’t the case with me nearly a month ago. I was told that my gallbladder was full of stones, which was causing tremendous pain, and by removing this infected organ, I would be able to recover with a better standard of health. While I did have the jitters as the doctors were preparing to put me under for the procedure, I was confident that all would go well and I would wake up with a better bill of health. Three weeks later, this has been the case. I am back to work, healed, and pain free.

From diagnosing my gallbladder, to performing the surgery, to the instruments used during the surgery, to the medications used during recovery, all of this has developed more in the last hundred years than ever before. And this is just in the field of medicine.

What about some of the gadgets we use on a daily basis? A hundred years ago, computers didn’t even exist. When they were first invented, they took up the space of an entire building. Now we carry them in our pocket on a daily basis in the form of a cell phone. There is more developed technology on a typical smartphone today than what was available to the astronauts of the Apollo missions. More technology exists in our hands than the Voyager 1 satellite, which now floats in interstellar space.

We now have machines in our homes that clean and dry our dishes and clothes for us. We can view events from the other side of the globe live on our television screens, even though we are thousands upon thousands of miles away. Paper messaging is nearly obsolete as messages, texts, and literature are sent and viewed via email and tablet reading devices. We have even broken the barrier of sound.iv meds

And yet, there are few of us that are astounded by these facts! Am I getting old as I’m fascinated by what I see develop around me while my daughter wonders what the big deal is? Perhaps. But the fact remains that there are still a number of us who do not realize what this means.

What does it mean exactly? It means that we, as a people, have a responsibility to be vigilant with that technology and use it properly. For those who don’t know how to, there are ways to learn at little to no cost to the user. Books are written every few months about programs and applications and how to get the most out of them. Classes and programs are available at local libraries for patrons to bone up on their skills with using computers and the internet. There are even simple tutorials online showing viewers how to take care of certain tasks, from beginners crochet to repairing household fixtures.

In short, we have come to a point where technology even teaches you how to use technology in today’s world. And to have done so in such a short span of time is an amazing thing!

*Please note that this entry appeared as an essay on the blog for the Wayne Public Library. Adrianne Schinkai is the essay’s author and it has been cross-posted with permission. Thank you.