#CILDC Live Blogging: Rethinking Digital Literacy

I’m at Computers In Libraries conference (#CILDC) in Washington, D.C. Here are my notes from today’s session E301, Rethinking Digital Literacy for All Ages. (10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.) Two pairs presented.

First presenter pair:
Michele Farrell, Senior Library Program Officer, Institute of Museum & Library Services & Enid Costley, Children’s & Youth Services Consultant, Library of Virginia

Defining Literacy
First, Farrell talked about how IMLS defines children’s literacy. In the view of IMLS, literacy refers to how children hear stories, how they listen to conversations, and includes reading books.

IMLS wants parents to be able to teach their children. Partnering with orther orgs can help make literacy projects successful. IMLS wants to see hands-on, mentor-led environments that nurture the inner inventor. IMLS’ ultimate goal is for every child to be successful. To this end, IMLS has partnered with the Department of Health & Human Services, with the campaign for grade-level reading (http://gradelevelreading.net/). (Check out IMLS report on early learning due at the end of May.)

Digital literacy refers to the skills associated with using technology so users can find, evaluate, organize, and create information.

Planning is Key
One way to create a healthy community is to plan. When IMLS looks at grant applications they see great ideas, but often they don’t see the planning needed to bring these ideas to life. Proper project planning often reveals a need for further training. If you’re planning a photography program, you may need to train a librarian in photo editing software or digital cameras.

Some digital literacy initiatives mentioned:

  • Utah Kids Ready to Read is an IMLS -funded program that provides information, training, and technical support for StoryBlocks is a project in Colorado, collection of short videos for parents to model songs, rhymes, and finger plays for young children.
  • DaybyDay is a project in South Carolina that provides a daily video or tip for parents to help their children prepare for school. This program incorporates information from other agencies, so health tips—how to brush your teeth, etc.—are included. This program was shared with a library in Virginia and with Idaho. Each place used the basic model and adapted it for their own communities. In Idaho, for example, resources for Spanish speakers were highlighted.
  • EveryoneOn.org (search on the website by zipcode to find computer classes, job search help, and library internet access)
  • DigitalLiteracy.gov  (a website emphasizing adult literacy information)
  • ProjectEnable.syr.edu was funded by IMLS to help train school librarians and other librarians in providing effective library services for students with disabilities.

IMLS is considering forming a community of practice around early learning. Contact Farrell to learn more about getting involved: mfarrell@imls.gov

Second pair of presenters:
Matt Montgomery, Technical Services Librarian & Jeremy Snell, Web Librarian, Mechanics’ Institute Library

About the Library
The Mechanics’ Institute Library is a library in downtown San Francisco with 4500 members and seven librarians. Most members are over 50 years old and live and/or work in San Francisco. The library has computers for community use, and most of the computers are in use all day and many people using them do not have computers at home.


Montgomery and Snell noticed concerns and questions about Internet privacy pop up during group classes. And, after implementing eBooks about two years ago, in working with folks to set up Overdrive and orient themselves to library resources on this platform, they were working with individuals for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, one-on-one. . And, since the reference desk is right in the middle of the library, it’s not so private. They saw a need for private, one-on-one service. The library has a cafe where evening events—speakers, films, poetry readings—are held. During the day it’s underutilized, so Montgomery and Snell decided to use this area for their one-on-ones.

Their Digital Literacy Training Experiment
Montgomery and Snell began with a one-week trial run. They invited people to email for an appointment at a specific time, and announced certain hours during the day during which they’d be camped out in the cafe, ready to help. They found 15-minute sessions were not nearly long enough, and they didn’t get any drop-ins. Instead of one hour here and there throughout the week, they decided to have a one-day six-hour block of time. They actually did get drop-ins, and some people did email to schedule appointments.

Librarians would mention the one-one-one options during reference interactions if relevant, and they did an email blast. They didn’t simply advertise “ask your technology question.” They provided prompts including eBook readers, but also included an open invitation for help with computer questions. Members could request help with any computer issue, from installing Linux to help with Gmail.

There were three library employee instructors. They set up a Google Doc schedule and all there shared it. As they received requests for appointments, they would add details to the shared schedule.

So far they’ve had six sessions, approximately every other month. So far they’ve assisted 69 people, and it took 38 staff hours. The learners were mostly older users. The most popular topic was email how-to.

Reasons to do this sort of service include more one-on-one time with service population and a chance to learn about unique digital literacy needs.

Follow me on Twitter: @MiaBreitkopf

See other live-blog notes from #CILDC:

Michael Edson: Collaborating On a Large Scale

Seven Deadly Sins of Websites

Flipped Learning


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