Guest Column: Vt. librarians speak up about information literacy

Information Literacy Working Group

When President Obama declared Information Literacy Awareness Month in October 2009, he acknowledged that our information landscape had changed, and with it, our educational imperative: “Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation.”

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin also proclaimed Information Literacy Month in October 2014, declaring that “Information literacy is a foundation for an engaged citizenry.”

In recent years, educators across the country have become more aware of the importance of an information-literate citizenry and the challenges to reach that goal. Information Literacy has been added to the graduation and curricular standards of educational institutions, either implicitly or explicitly. This includes the Vermont Agency of Education’s Education Quality Standards, which officially went into effect on April 5, 2014, and which clearly articulate Vermont’s commitment to information literacy. The skills that make a person information literate are increasingly understood to go hand-in-hand with other critical thinking skills that children need in order to become lifelong learners.

Librarians have long embraced the role of being information “coaches” and have worked to integrate these skills into everyday instruction and interactions with patrons. Whether it’s working with a second grader to distinguish between a story and work of nonfiction, a high-school student to understand how to identify bias in a piece of journalism, a college student to differentiate between a scholarly and a popular source, or helping a senior citizen to evaluate information on a health website, Vermont’s professionally trained librarians and library media specialists are at the heart of teaching information literacy. However, we do not do this work alone. We work alongside teachers, faculty, administrators, trustees and employers who also have a stake in the information literacy skills of Vermonters.

There is still a noticeable gap in information literacy skills among young people entering the workforce or starting out in college and among citizens struggling to make informed decisions. Collaborative initiatives in other parts of the country are opening up the conversation among school, college and workplace stakeholders to address these gaps and strengthen information literacy skills among all age groups; these conversations need to happen in Vermont to ensure that our students are college- and career-ready and our citizens are well-informed.

The Vermont Consortium of Academic Libraries (VCAL), Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) and Vermont Library Association (VLA) believe that information literacy is crucial to Vermonters’ success from K-20, into the workplace, and continuing throughout the lifespan. To coincide with National Information Literacy Month, VCAL, VSLA and VLA have issued the Vermont Librarians’ Statement on Information Literacy. Visit our organizations’ websites to read our full statement, which is a starting point in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of information literacy to Vermonters’ success in school, the workplace, and society.