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« Grateful for Gary | Main | Libraries for a post-literate society I »
Thursday
Aug142008

Libraries for a post-literate society II

In last Wednesday's post, I began the argument that libraries, if they are to remain vital, need to recognize and support a "postliterate" user-base, defining...

the postliterate as those who can read, but chose to meet their primary information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming.

What might be the hallmarks of a "postliterate" library? These come to mind...

  1. PL libraries budget, select, acquire, catalog and circulate as many or more materials in non-print formats as they do traditional print materials. The circulation policy for all materials is similar.
  2. PL libraries stock without prejudice age-appropriate graphic and audio-book novels and nonfiction for both informational and recreational use.
  3. PL libraries support gaming for both instruction and recreation.
  4. PL libraries purchase high-value electronic information resources.
  5. PL libraries provide resources for patrons to create visual and auditory materials and promote the demonstration of  learning and research through original video, audio and graphics production - and physical spaces for the presentation of these creations.
  6. PL libraries allow the use of personal communication devices (mp3 players, handhelds, laptops, etc.) and provide wireless network access for these devices.
  7. PL library programs teach the critical evaluation of non-print information.
  8. PL library programs teach the skills necessary to produce effective communication in all formats.
  9. PL library programs accept and promote the use of non-print resources as sources for research and problem-based assignments.
  10. PL librarians recognize the legitimacy of non-print resources, and promote their use without bias.
While I recognize this may look frightening, even culturally destructive, to many of us "print-bound" professionals, we cannot ignore the society of which we are a part - and are charged with supporting. I believe culture determines library programs, not that libraries create the culture.

School libraries are often the bellwether programs in their schools. If we as librarians support learning resources that are meaningful, useful and appealing to our students, so might the classroom teacher as well.

In Phaedrus, Plato decries an "alternate" communication technology:
The fact is that this invention [writing] will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it. They will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written, calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves.
Plato might well approve of our return to the oral tradition – in its digital forms. But his quote also demonstrates that sometimes our greatest fears become our greatest blessings.


So what qualities do you believe define a postliterate library? A postliterate classroom? A postliterate school?

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Reader Comments (1)

I really enjoyed this post and the one last Wednesday. Thanks.

August 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

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