Monthly Archives: March 2013

Digital Literacy – What Responsibility Do Libraries Have?

Over at the GovLoop site today, there is a post from Dave Briggs on the need for digital literacy in the general population today. He mentions that Howard Rheingold in his book Net Smart outlines five key skills needed for digital success:

  • Attention
  • Crap detection
  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Network smarts

I can see libraries at the forefront of teaching/assisting with at least 3 of these and a case could be made for library involvement with all 5. The three that I see as fundamental to library involvement at the middle ones – Crap Detection, Participation and Collaboration.

Crap Detection is just the ability to evaluate information – libraries and librarians have been teaching that for years, long before the Internet came along. We can (and most have) easily update our information literacy and evaluation lessons for academic librarians and the way we help patrons with understanding what information is valuable in public libraries.

Participation is alive and well in libraries today – the rising numbers of Maker Spaces like Johnson County’s Maker Space in Overland Park, Kansas and YouMedia in Chicago, IL. Providing our patrons with the tools needed to participate in the increasingly digital culture by making green screens, recording equipment, printing hardware and more available to patrons who want to create content and participate in the conversations happening online is something we should all be doing – in whatever form our community needs. Not every community needs a full recording studio – but offering something that patrons can use to communicate and participate in the digital culture is becoming increasingly important.

Collaboration is another skill that libraries have always pushed but one that is even more important these days. From collaborating on school projects to creating a community-written novel (see Topeka’s very cool Community Novel project), libraries can be the hub for collaborative projects large and small. Using the same technology provided for participating in the digital conversation, libraries can let folks connect over great distances via Skype or Google Hangout video conferences and give them the hardware and – most importantly – the bandwidth needed to make regular connections to far-flung collaborators.

While Network Smarts can be taught through computer classes and reference interviews throughout the library and helping folks focus their attention on what is important can be considered another library-taught skill, the three skills in the middle were tailor-made for library instruction and assistance!

Google Keep?

I’m a fan of Evernote, have been for a very long time. I’ve gotten into the habit of checking Evernote whenever someone asks me a question – chances are the answer is in there in notes I’ve taken, IFTTT recipes I’ve created to dump random info into Evernote or in something I’ve clipped from a web page. Now, Google has come out with Keep, which seems to be aimed squarely at Evernote. I’m torn. On the one hand, I have 3 “links” on my desktop to my Google Drive, Dropbox and SkyDrive folders – all of which hold various parts of my document-centric life. I don’t need that kind of fragmentation in my note-centric life, too. On the other hand, I really like Google’s services and tend to use them pretty heavily. Adding Keep to the mix may make life easier. It may also make life a bit more precarious, though, too – see the recent loss of Google Reader.

Maybe the answer is to use them all and figure out a method (work notes go here, personal notes go there or notes for training go here, notes for tech work go there, etc.) and be willing to move notes around as services come (and go). Maybe the answer is to take a page from my new System Administrator, Ryan Sipes, and use something that I can control like OwnCloud (what we are using at NEKLS these days to serve as our new File Server interface).

Whatever I decide, it’s a pretty good problem to have, really. Having too much choice is better than not enough!!

Cory Doctorow Came To Lawrence

Before the talkTonight, I went to the campus of KU and saw the one and only Cory Doctorow speak. This is the first time I’ve actually attended a speaking engagement of his, despite the fact that we both were at the Texas Library Association meeting a few years ago. I was busy with my speaking engagement, though, kicking off the inaugural hands-on computer lab sessions for TxLA that year and didn’t make it to his session(s) at all. This made me excessively glad to be able to go see him tonight!

He spoke on the issues of general purpose computers (PCs) and the fact that some – if not many – are now shipping as broken devices, already infected with the spyware and root kits necessary to make them less than fully functional computers (think anything that you can “jailbreak” or any console gaming device or any “internet appliance” that is locked down in any way). He talked about how DRM and other software locking schemes have weakened our ability to use computers and made them *less* secure. He gave a really, really excellent description of the SOPA law that nearly passed a couple of years ago – stating that the law itself would have worked. We know that because it does work – in Iran as well as China.

He spoke eloquently about the need to know what is going on in our computers and the need to be able to stop programs that work against our best interests. He talked about the fact that if the hearing aid – a general purpose computer stuck in a tiny device that will be implanted within his body – that he will undoubtedly need as he grows older isn’t open and accessible, anybody could do anything; keep him from hearing anything; make him hear things that aren’t there and more. Having open access to our computing platforms is the only sure way to knowing what is on our computers – something that will become ever more important as we have tiny computers implanted in us and as we get into large computers (airplanes, self-driving cars, etc) that ferry us around at great speeds.

Book Signing!

He made an impassioned plea to use the Ubuntu Linux Operating System – he pointed out that it is (finally) both beautiful and easy to use and is fully and completely open. He advocated Android phone OS’s and just generally being aware of what we are using in our computing lives. He also talked about how mean nerds are to their grandparents – grandmothers in particular, I think, and told the story of his grandmother who had no interest in computers, until Cory’s child was born (in England) and his grandmother (in Canada) decided she wanted to see her more often than once a year, so she got on Skype. It wasn’t that she couldn’t before – she just had no real reason to do so. The same can be said for the use of Linux-based operating systems – we can all use them and use them fairly easily; we just need a reason to do so.

Cory’s talk tonight gave many excellent reasons to do so! I’m very glad I went – it was a great reminder that we are at the beginning of the battle for control over our computers and that we need to work on making sure we retain control (see Lawrence Lessig’s RootStrikers – instead of dealing with copyright laws, Lawrence decided to strike at the root of the legal problem – the fact that corporations pay for so many election campaigns and laws are written to benefit those corps so that they will continue to contribute to re-election campaigns, ad nauseum. Fix election contribution issues, fix the root of the issue).