Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's Not Nothing

There's been an interesting conversation going on recently regarding "transliteracy."

Medical librarian David Rothman questions whether this concept is any more than a new buzzword for the same type of information literacy with which librarians have always been concerned. Rothman's stance is that "the world changes as technology changes. Education and libraries adapt (well or poorly, but they adapt). There’s nothing new here. There’s no need for a new movement, a new term, or so much discussion about nothing."

I strongly disagree.

The location, evaluation and aggregation of factual information will always be an essential component of the library experience, whether in a K-12, university, specialized or public facility. Providing materials for scholarly and recreational reading, listening, or viewing is a second key service.

But modern life require something beyond accessing and searching resources...and that's where transliteracy skills become necessary. Our students, our citizens must be skillful in collaboration and creation. They are expected to process, reconfigure, transfigure raw materials (be they data or ideas), sometimes while working with virtual colleagues across the world. They don't just find information: they create and disseminate it.

And they must perform these tasks with tools that are rapidly evolving. Information users need to be adept at learning new skills in a constantly changing information landscape, able to identify, investigate and utilize powerful new instrumentality for storing or communicating information.

In “The Librarian Militant, The Librarian Triumphant," Dr. David Lankes says
"What will kill this profession is not ebooks, amazon, or Google. It will be a lack of imagination. An inability to see not what is, but what could be. To see only how we are viewed now, but not how that is only a platform for greatness... It [librarianship] only survives if we, librarians and the communities we serve, take it up, renew, refresh it, and constantly engage in what is next."

There's an army of librarians working to keep librarianship relevant.

Bobbi Newman has given the term translitercy new traction with her Libraries and Transliteracy blog. Buffy Hamilton's Unquiet Librarian blog and innovative SlideShares highlight the elements of both transliteracy and participatory librarianship. Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones, Shannon Miller, Carolyn Foote, Cathy Nelson and others model the rich, multi-layered learning that can take place when transliteracy is regarded as a medium for learning.

Perhaps Mr. Rothman, Information Services Specialist at the Community General Hospital Medical Library, doesn't see evidence of transliteracy in his professional life. But any K-12 teacher/librarian can testify that information literacy is only a part of what their students need to learn. Exemplary student projects demonstrate mastery of the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

In a world that demands learners and creators, not just consumers, "transliteracy" makes sense to me.

"Lighting enTrails/Tunnel Trails/Tunnel Vision" by Mr Magoo ICU

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