Digital Literacy and public libraries

Digital literacy, transliteracy, tech savvy..No matter what you cal it, understanding technology is absolutely essential in today’s world. Many services that used to be handled over the phone or in person are now almost exclusively online. Now, you need certain skills to be competitive for jobs, pay your bills, and to do research. Many resources that used to coexist in both print and electronic formats are now being made available online only. I encounter many people in my job that need to be re-taught how to do certain tasks in an online environment.

I believe public libraries have the enormous task of being centers where people go to learn skills they need to be able to function in today’s technology-heavy world. Some say that the digital divide is getting smaller as computers become less expensive; however, it still exists for many individuals who still can’t afford their own personal computer. The library offers them internet access and knowledgeable staff to help them to learn. This places a bigger burden on many who work in public libraries. For many, they started working in libraries before the Internet and the personal computer. These individuals often have to go through re-training, just to be able to help patrons.

Recently, my library began training for staff on the introduction of ebooks for our patrons. It was during a training class that I realized how much of a burden this will be for staff to assist patrons with. Patrons with dedicated eReaders and smaprtphones will now be able to use library content. Reference services now includes tech support and troubleshooting a variety of devices. The training of staff has been very time-consuming but in the end should prove fruitful. In my library, we all help each other;those who are familiar with the devices have been guiding the others in the training process.

Reference services has changed rapidly even in the short time I have been working in a library. I am not always asked things that I was trained for. More often, I am asked computer troubleshooting questions as opposed to ones involving research. To a certain point, this is to be expected.  I enjoy the opportunity to share my knowledge and teach someone a new skill that can make their lives better. I see the future of public library reference as a mixture of teaching technical skills, information literacy and research skills.

About Theresa

I am a librarian in Reference Services at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I have always been passionate about history, education and the value of books in all of their forms. I also love how quickly we can access information through the immediacy of the web, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to growing in my chosen profession.

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