Including Information Literacy

As Part of Library Literacy Outreach

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Context

Libraries have long played a role in spreading literacy.

Due to the rapid increase in computer and internet usage, as well as the spread of patron-driven research, librarians have had to adapt their traditional roles—the definition of literacy has expanded to include digital and information literacy as well as print.

Why Information Literacy?

The increasing digital divide can have a negative impact on education outcomes, and public libraries are increasingly providing information literacy courses to help combat this.
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How Are Librarians Doing This?

  • Identifying information literacy gaps
  • Offering classes
  • Marketing information services to patrons
  • Outreach work with community organizations

Identifying Information Literacy Gaps

Information literacy gaps are not always obvious! However, there are indicators that libraries can use to identify what needs correcting.

  • Regional lack of adult education services (or long wait times for them): libraries can fill the gap by offering GED or equivalency training, as well as teach patrons how to use the computer programs for online training
  • High unemployment rate: unemployed persons who do not use computers well are at a higher risk of remaining unemployed
  • Lacking secondary education and/or language skills: it is highly likely that these persons are not information-literate. Additionally, traditional majority-language literacy skills education can be combined with digital and information literacy skills.

Offering Classes

Libraries offer numerous types of classes in order to help patrons become more digitally and technologically literate.These classes are offered in a variety of formats (e.g. online or in-library).


  1. Regular Computer Skills and Information Literacy Classes. These can be targeted to a general population or available for all patrons. Their schedule can range from months to weeks, and include series of courses as well as one-off courses.
  2. A La Carte Skills and Literacy Classes. These are available on request--e.g. a group of patrons ask for education on health information literacy. They come in a variety of formats, including individual tutoring.
  3. Targeted Skills and Literacy Classes. These are targeted towards populations who may need tailored services, such as the elderly or patrons who do not speak the majority language.

Marketing Information Services To Patrons

  • Use of surveys to determine patrons' needs: why do patrons use source X instead of source Y? What information needs do they have?
  • Targeting outreach based on survey results: How to make the library's existing services more attractive based on patrons' stated needs. E.G. offering more assistance with searching the catalog.
  • Promotion of services: done through social media, targeted emails, and the library website in order to attract patrons.

Outreach Work With Community Organizations

  • Setting up free courses for target groups (e.g. senior citizens or job seekers)
  • Working with community organizations to organize outreach efforts for target groups (e.g. immigrant services for a particular country)
  • Mobile information literacy classes

Putting it All Together: Graphs from Rhode Island Libraries

The following graphs show how adult learners used their local libraries.



  • All Access is a program where community institutions worked with the libraries to focus on certain underserved groups.
  • The Learning Lounge provided teaching and general training for a variety of computer-based topics.
  • The One-on-One Tech Appointments provided a nonjudgemental, intensive tutoring on technology and computers.

Ongoing Issues

  • Encouraging librarians to teach: librarians may think that teaching is beneath them, or may teach at a too-advanced level.
  • Funding and staffing problems: public libraries may have problems obtaining technology or educated staff.
  • Understanding patron needs: depending on the economic climate or the advent of new technologies, patrons' needs may change rapidly, and curricula must adapt to this.

Sources

Boden, K., & Tashjian, K. (2015). All access: adult education and digital literacy for workforce development in public libraries.Computers in Libraries, (10). 26.

Horng-Ji Lai. (2011). Information Literacy Training in Public Libraries: A Case from Canada. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 14(2), 81–88. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/jeductechsoci.14.2.81

O'Connor, L., & Lundstrom, K.. (2011). The Impact of Social Marketing Strategies on the Information Seeking Behaviors of College Students.Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(4), 351–365. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20865426