By Crystal Logan-Syrewicze
In their policy manual on National Information Services & Responsibilities, the ALA states that literacy is a basic right for all individuals in our society and advocates that libraries have the responsibility to make literacy a top priority (50.6.2).
It is necessary to understand that literacy encompasses more than the basic understanding of the written word. Thomas Frey (2010) posits that there are as many as 18 different types of literacy. Frey writes, “Basic reading and writing forms of communications will no longer be sufficient for the workforce of the future.” It is then our priority as librarians to provide the information necessary to combat illiteracies in these proficiency areas.
Child literacy is of paramount importance, as it is the building block for adult and other forms of literacy. Libraries are information centers for parents, providing books, early childhood programming (MacLean, 2008), and summer reading programs with incentives and rewards to make reading engaging (Celano & Neuman, 2001).
In regards to health literacy, a library should offer materials that will educate people, such as the Memphis Public Library’s Health Information Center, which includes local health information, general health concerns, pharmaceutical information, and more. However, patrons may not always have the skills necessary to understand the information presented. Many libraries cannot afford to employ staff that are health specialists, so libraries should reach out to non-profit organizations such as the Health Literacy Wisconsin coalition to provide further education.
Libraries are critical in technology literacy if only that they are the only access to high-speed internet for 28% of Americans who do not have home access (Dewey, 2013). But there is much more libraries can offer – computer classes, database coaching, instruction in job search retrieval and material creation, device education. Technology literacy can even be introduced in childhood, with libraries offering computers and devices for their younger populations to become acquainted with.
Celano, D. & Neuman, S.B. (2001). The role of public libraries in children’s development: An Evaluation report. Retrieved from http://www.ifpl.org/Junior/studies/Role%20of%20Libraries.pdf
Dewey, C. (2013, August 19). The 60 million Americans who don’t use the Internet, in six charts. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/
Frey, T. (2010, June 28). Next generation literacy. Retrieved from http://www.futuristspeaker.com/2010/06/next-generation-literacy/
Haycock, K. & Sheldon, B.E. (2008). The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
MacLean, J. (2008). Library preschool storytimes: Developing early literacy skills in children. Retrieved from http://www.ed.psu.edu/goodling-institute/professional-development/judy-maclean-library-preschool-storytimes