Monday, August 08, 2011

Information Literacy: A Moving Target

Joe Watson logs twelve years of service in the Darling Library this month. He came to work for us after retiring from the phone company (in those days there was only one) and working six years for Radio Shack (known best for home electronics) after that. And now a real retirement could understandably be on his mind because just about everything about his job is changing.

His two main responsibilities have been cataloging and audiovisual support for the campus. As of June there isn't even a cataloging staff module within our new integrated library system and audiovisual support responsibilities have been transferred from the Library to Conference Services.

He jokes, "Can I go home now?"

I marvel when I think of how things have changed in Joe's lifetime. He recently attended his 50th high school reunion and although he did not finish college, he is a model lifelong learner.

Just for fun, let's consider "the Watson connection" in the evolution of modern technology. Seventy years before Joe was born the first words spoken over the phone were, “Mr. Watson, Come Here. I want to see you.” (Wikipedia) This year the Jeopardy! game show hosted a unique challenge in which an artificial intelligence computer system named Watson beat two undisputed human champions in "America's favorite quiz show."

Joe might not be as famous as either of these Watsons but he has experience that we can learn from. For example, before taking early retirement, Joe helped with the transition of long distance phone services from "Ma Bell" to Pacific Bell during their court-ordered break up the 1980s. Joe knows transitions.

It is our mission to develop information literacy for lifelong learning. What does that mean?

Information literacy is not like basic literacy which is something one usually achieves during their formative years by learning the three Rs: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.

Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information... it forms the basis for lifelong learning. (ACRL)

Information literacy is a moving target. It requires curiosity and critical thinking that might build on basic skills. It requires flexibility and a bit of humility.

Being information literate is being prepared for change. Joe has seen the uphill slope of that learning curve before. He has transferable skills and knows there's always more to learn.

Who says, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" So long as the old dogs are information literate they will be prepared to learn new tricks everyday!

Image from Incentive Intelligence.

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