Librarians Score C+ in Digital Literacy
Evidence that digital literacy training is essential.
Eleven months ago I developed a free diagnostic tool to assess the digital literacy capabilities of library staff. The assessment is derived from Doug Belshaw’s essential elements of digital literacies and assesses eight fundamental digital literacy competencies that I believe ALL library staff regardless of their position, should know and practice.
To date 246 library staff have completed the assessment and the results offer a fascinating insight into the digital literacy capabilities of the New Zealand library and information profession.
With an average score of 64.1% or C+ there are certainly opportunities for improvement. Below are the top 5 areas in which library staff could do better.
1. Understand digital rights and responsibilities
Only 7% of library staff felt confident that they could provide a simple overview of an individual’s digital rights and responsibilities to others.
43.9% of library staff lack confidence in understanding their digital rights and responsibilities – a fundamental requirement to being a responsible digital citizen and participating with ease in digital spaces.
2. Save, organise and share online information
74% of library staff save and organise online information by using bookmarks or favorites and share links with others via email. These are common library practices that have probably been around since the late 1990’s when librarians discovered how easy it was to collect links from the internet.
However these practices are no longer effective in managing and making sense of the deluge of information available today. Only the top 14% of library staff go beyond bookmarks and use a digital information management tool such as Diigo or Evernote to save, organise and share online information.
3. Curate content to add value for readers
85.7% of library staff make lists (Libguides, read-alikes etc) that do not include content that adds more than minimal value for readers – such as their unique perspective or why one resource might be more useful than another.
Content curation is time intensive but it enables library and information professionals to establish and maintain their presence as a trusted filter and source of valuable and relevant information for their members – to be the filter that doesn’t fail.
4. Evaluate search engines
73.3% of library staff have evaluated at least one search engine but their evaluation techniques are questionable when it comes to applying the information literacy, critical thinking or research skills the library and information profession espouses as fundamental for all – 83% of staff based their evaluation on either the speed in which results are returned or whether the answer appears near the top of the results list.
5. Blog to share expertise
39.8% of library staff have never written a blog post. Many ask why blog when you already Facebook? To put it simply, use Facebook to grow your community and use a blog to showcase your interests, expertise and personality.
Blogging increases confidence in communicating with others in online spaces. If you haven’t written a blog post even a private one how can you expect to help community members, academics, students and clients feel more comfortable communicating their expertise and interests with others online?
If libraries are “the route to digital fluency, playing now a significant role in preparing the workforce, students and others for the digital world“, then the results show that there is an urgent need for digital literacy training for all library staff and that training is no longer optional.