Update: Librarians ARE the Digital Literacy Corps

Wow.  Joyce Valenza noticed my little post last week (Calling School Librarians to Action) and reposted it on her NeverEnding Search blog.  It then grabbed the attention of thousands of librarians as well as the American Library Association.  I was pleased to notice that ALA  responded quickly to the same newspaper article that had grabbed my attention (see “ALA Wastes No Time – Our Work on Digital Literacy“).

I was informed today that Matt Richtel, author of the article and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist,  provided us with misinformation.  The digital literacy corps referred to in his article has NO money associated with it.  I have sent him an email through the NY Times requesting more information. (You may request the same information from him here.)

Although the article was misleading, it hit a nerve among librarians who feel that the public still does not have a clear up-to-date understanding of our profession.

Evidently many of you are contacting the FCC as I requested. Deb Logan, one of the co-founders of Act4SL, contacted me yesterday and has given me permission to share part of her email here:

“The great news is that people are inspired to action… In all advocacy efforts, speaking up is important, but it is critical to not put people on the defensive…Communications need to be persistent, professional, positive and polite…This situation, in particular, is a great opportunity to position ourselves as part of the solution.”

Let’s keep in mind that all of us are working towards a common goal:  to teach our citizens digital literacy skills. 

Please continue to exercise your right to communicate with our governmental agencies and let the FCC know that librarians are trained information professionals who already address their concern that our citizens need to be taught digital literacy skills. Our efforts here may well help lay the foundation for future partnerships to better prepare Americans to navigate the digital landscape.

May the Digital Literacy Corps be with you! (With apologies from a former English teacher who cannot pass up plays on words.)

Image used through a Creative Commons license:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/starwarsblog/793008715/

Calling Public Librarians to Action! FCC’s Digital Literacy Corps Proposal

After reading my last post, my friend Jennifer Tazerouti (who can be reached through the Auntie Librarian blog and through her Twitter handle @AuntieLibrarian) suggested I should expand my call to action to public libraries.  When you are right, you are right.  Thanks, Jennifer!

The FCC proposes to send its digital literacy corps into schools, libraries, and community organizations. The difference between the organizations and schools/libraries is that the latter already have digital literacy gurus in place.  This seriously undermines our authority and the public’s perception of librarians.

Evidently the old stereotype of librarians is still hanging on.  We all must do a better job to dispel it.

Connect 2 Compete

Jennifer’s suggestion and introspection on my part motivated me to discover more about the FCC’s proposed digital literacy corps.  What I found was both reassuring AND upsetting. The proposed digital literacy corps is NOT something new, but it is new to me (upsetting). How have I missed something so threatening to my profession?

Perhaps it is because it is part of the Connect 2 Compete initiative that is limited to a small fraction of public schools.  Information on it needs to be shared with families whose children who attend these schools (any child attending one of these schools who receives free lunch is eligible to participate in this program that offers inexpensive refurbished computers and $9.95 a month hi-speed Internet access).

Many companies support training our citizens in digital literacy (reassuring) including Best Buy, Microsoft, CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, and Metrix Learning. (Check out all the Connect 2 Compete partners here.) I am pleased to notice that Discovery Education is on board – but it is bittersweet pleasure.  As a Discovery Education DEN STAR educator, I know that DE is well aware of the school librarians’ role in our schools today.  I would hope that they have voiced a concern that a treasure trove of experts is being overlooked in this initiative.

Public Librarians

I am extremely fortunate to live in a county with a strong public library.  The Spartanburg County Public Library System consists of one main branch and nine other branches spread throughout the county.  One look at their events calendar will convince you that they are a vital part of our community, reaching out to all age levels. The dedicated staff responds to community needs and would gladly (I am sure) include digital literacy training for families meeting the requirements of the FCC’s digital literacy corps.

I’m sure my public library system is not an anomaly; public libraries throughout the country make it their mission to improve the lives of those in their communities. The FCC needs to use the sense of community each library’s staff has created and provide them with the funds to train their patrons in digital literacy.

Please email Chairman Julius Genachowski (Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov) to share your concerns about his plans for a digital literacy corps.

Calling School Librarians to Action! Another Attempt to Undermine Our Jobs

My blood is boiling.  I read this article online today after it was shared on Twitter by Rebecca Oxley (@LibrariansFTW).  This excerpt is what got my dander up.  And that is a dangerous thing to do with a Southern gal:

“The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a 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.”

Looks like the FCC has no idea that our schools have a ready-made “digital literacy corps” in place.

Chairman Julius Genachowski was quoted in the article.  He recognizes the importance of digital literacy, but he is ill-informed. He does not know that there are already trained professionals in many schools who work, against great odds at times, to train our students and who volunteer to teach parents these skills.

Let’s not let him claim ignorance before spending this money.

Send him an email( Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov) informing him that WE ARE THE DIGITAL LITERACY CORPS (feel free to copy or adapt the following):

I just read the NY Times May 30, 2012 article entitled “Wasting Time is New Digital Divide in Digital Era.”  As an educator, I realize the importance of information and digital literacy.  As a school librarian, I have been trained to teach information literacy skills.  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.  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 “a 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.”

Although I applaud the intent of teaching digital literacy skills to our students, I question the expenditure of these funds.  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.

Will you contact the FCC?

Image used through a CC license:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5683575389/