Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book Reading - A Disappearing Skill?

Sunday's NY Times had an article about a local school librarian entitled "The Future of Reading - In a Web Age, Library Job Gets Update."

After talking about all the information literacy instruction now provided by school librarians the article ends by reporting this exchange:

“Does anybody like books?” Ms. Rosalia asked. Several students stared blankly. The Russians, who spoke some English, shook their heads.

So Ms. Rosalia pulled up the home site for Teen People magazine, and Katsiaryna Dziatlouskaya, 13, immediately recognized a photograph of Cameron Diaz. Ms. Rosalia knew she had made a connection.

“You can read magazines, newspapers, pictures, computer programs, Web sites,” Ms. Rosalia said. “You can read anything you like to, but you have to read. Is that a deal?”
I have sometimes thought that as librarians we hold onto books mainly b/c that is what we know and change is difficult. That is a natural human reaction. But I think we do lose something important if we lose the skill of reading and comprehending books. Specifically the ability to handle complex stories and nuanced argument as well as an important connection with our past.

I think it is important to teach what we've come to think of as "information literacy." Namely how to discern quality information from dubious facts and how to navigate the digital world. But as I suggested yesterday, I think we (academic librarians) may need to think about how to teach an older kind of literacy - the ability to concentrate and analyze long passages and digest complete works.

If we accept this as a task, I think it will inform the way we organize and present our library collections and the type of spaces we house them in. More broadly, I think that as educational institutions if we wish to encourage students to move from skimming to reading we need to look at the assignments we give and the way we assess students. I don't think we can (or should) simply go back to an earlier time but I do think identifying things we like to change can be an important first step towards bringing that change about.

h/t Owen Strachen


  • At 8:30 PM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    This is an interesting article - it does make librarians sound cool and fun! (Which is better than the usual stereotype.)

    That is always a tension in working with students - especially undergrad and younger. You want to connect with them where they're at, but also encourage them to higher levels...

  • At 4:41 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    It also makes them sound rich. Unfortunately TIU librarians don't drive BMWs...


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