I was just reading Bobbi Newman’s post about the lack of recognition of the role of libraries in 21st century literacies. This resonates strongly with me and the work I do; libraries often seem like natural partners for many development projects that promote civic engagement or media literacy, but are rarely considered or included.
There’s no question that media/ICT/21 century literacy is a critical issue. A recent white paper titled Post-Crisis: e-Skills are Needed to Drive Europe’s Information Society [pdf] states that “in five years, European employers expect less than 10% of jobs to be available to people without ICT skills.” That libraries are being overlooked as a key player in this area is of grave concern – redundant systems are being created, time is being lost.
I was pleased to see Amy Gahran’s follow up to the Knight Commission report referenced by Newman that suggests specific ways for media outfits to partner with libraries. The final recommendation is encouraging:
Finally, talk to local librarians about their civic engagement efforts, needs, and goals. Offer to help. Be proactive. Often news organizations only approach local librarians when they need information, not to offer to help (beyond publishing news stories). Go to their meetings, and consider participating on their boards or committees. Librarians aren’t just resources—they’re potential partners.
I think the flip side of that – and a partial answer to Newman’s closing question about how librarians can communicate their value and relevancy – is that librarians need to get outside the library. We need to be actively working with media and education partners. I know many librarians who do a fabulous job of this on a local level, but there also has to be at least a core group of people dedicated to doing this on the national level. Like Gahran says, go to meetings, participate on boards or committees.
We may feel like we already do this, that we’ve been at it for ages, but it’s kind of like that 25th person to ask the same question at the reference desk – we may be tired of answering that question, but for the patron it’s the first time they’ve asked.
So my question is, which organizations do we need to engage with?