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Libraries and Literacy in the Digital Age

digital literacyLibraries are leaders in literacy. That in itself shouldn’t be surprising. However, literacy is now much more than being able to read standard print. Literacy now includes the ability to use digital, as well as print, resources. To succeed in the 21st Century, digital literacy is essential. Whether applying for a job online, house-hunting, taking care of your health, or catching up with distant friends and relatives, life is much easier if you know how to navigate in a digital world.

Although defining digital literacy is no easy task, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Digital Literacy Task Force (which is led by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy) has developed the following description to convey its meaning:

Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information, an ability that requires both cognitive and technical skills.

A digitally literate person:

● Possesses the variety of skills—cognitive and technical—required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats;

● Is able to use diverse technologies appropriately and effectively to search for and retrieve information, interpret search results, and judge the quality of the information retrieved;

● Understands the relationships among technology, lifelong learning, personal privacy, and appropriate stewardship of information;

● Uses these skills and the appropriate technologies to communicate and collaborate with peers, colleagues, family, and on occasion, the general public;

● Uses these skills to participate actively in civic society and contribute to a vibrant, informed, and engaged community.

Nationally, much is happening in the realm of digital literacy. Thursday, April 18, the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) launched.  The DPLA is a platform that enables new and transformative uses of our digitized cultural heritage. The DPLA’s application programming interface (API) and open data can be used by software developers, researchers, and others to create novel environments for learning, tools for discovery, and engaging apps. Other major initiatives include Connect2Compete’s EveryoneOn campaign, DigitalLearn, and the Microsoft IT Academy.

At the Washington State Library, we have been following trends in digital literacy and evaluating a wide variety of digital literacy tools to create a portal that focuses on local resources as well as major national digital literacy projects. The Digital Literacy Advisory Team, made up of Washington State Library staff and representatives from the library community, have collaborated to make our new digital literacy resource page a valuable resource for all. Check it out here.

“For more information about WSL Digital Literacy project, please contact Jennifer Fenton, jennifer.fenton@sos.wa.gov.”



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