I had two rare treats this afternoon: I got to go into DC in the middle of the week (even if it was a little cool for sight seeing). And I got to attend a presentation by Alan November at the Library of Congress.

November covered a lot of ground in a short period of time, but what he presented to the full house actually formed the core of what should be standard information literacy skills for everyone.

Finding information on the Internet is not enough. Students need to be able to validate what they find. These include understanding how the search engine obtained the information, how the forward links on the site contribute, and how to check the “back links”, the pages linking to this page.

Everyone needs to understand how to use RSS to aggregate and organize information. November calls this an “essential” skill for students, although I got the feeling that few in room understood the concept, even after he tried to explain it.

Students need to learn how to publish to the web in an ethical and socially responsible manner. The role of teachers and librarians in this is to teach students to use their “global voice” to contribute to the common knowledge.

Although I’ve heard Alan speak several times before (and I was ready to offer multiple hallelujahs to his points) this session was a unique experience. The audience at the event was largely librarians and researchers from around the District with a few teachers from the suburbs (no teachers from DC Public???!).

It was interesting to watch the reaction as November charmed the crowd while explaining how their roles are undergoing massive change right before their eyes. Librarians can no longer be the organizers of information. The web is the wild, wild west and no one is in charge.november.jpg

But, he continued, this makes librarians more important, not less. That’s not just playing to the crowd. Librarians and teachers are needed to teach children and adults how to find, organize, and validate the information for themselves.

There’s more but I’ll need some time to interpret my notes (no laptop; had to actually write :-). But November made one more outstanding point that I will definitely steal borrow: We continue to teach children as if print will be the dominant medium of their lives.

The Library will be posting a video of the presentation on their web site in a few days and I’ll link to it when that happens.

alan november, information literacy, library of congress