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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Teaching Library Literacy

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 8, 2011

I almost overlooked the new book, but the subtitle caught my attention, “Teaching Information Literacy: 50 standards-based exercises for college students.”


It is a new revision produced by the American Library Association, and is intended for use with college-bound high school students, or for college freshmen.


College students need help separating the variety of information sources that are available in our society today, from Wikis to blogs, RSS feeds, twittering, and Google Books.


We are moving toward an era of digitization and electronic communication, and the ability of a student to be able to research and make information choices will be critical to their college success.


The days of a marathon through the library to prepare for a research paper are gone, replaced by a variety of online sources, digitized sources, and traditional library research.


The authors of the book call it, “information anxiety,” the helpless feeling that comes with the realization that there is more information than one person can ever hope to process.


The book wants you to consider:


--More new information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000 years.

--1 million books are published each year, worldwide.

--By best guess, the world now contains 750 million articles and essays, 500 million images, a half million movies, 25 million songs, 3 million videos, and 100 billion public Web Pages.

--The amount of information stored on paper, film, and magnetic and optical media doubles every 5 years.

--A weekday edition of a large newspaper contains more information than a person would have encountered in a lifetime in the 1600s.


Today, we are forced to evaluate information as never before.  The days of information being edited and evaluated before we even see it are gone.


Many factors must be considered with information, including the background of the author.  Do they have knowledge about the subject?


Is there an organization or agency supporting the author, and why is this person providing the information?


Who is the audience for the information, and where did the information come from?


What type of publication is hosting the information, and how current is the information and how accurate is the information?


Students today are savvy searchers on the World Wide Web, but are probably not well-versed in older concepts of Boolean searching.


For example, are the search tools that you use on the Internet selecting sites, or are they compiled by computer programs that “crawl” through the Internet looking for sites?  Are the directories updated frequently, and is payment accepted to move web sites to the front of a search?


Can you read a URL, and use that as a basis to judge the information you are receiving?


Some folks have estimated that only 8 percent of the information in the world is available on the Internet.


While the actual information may not be online, indexes and catalogs are becoming more common in libraries to retrieve the information from a print source.


My son at OSU was doing research on trademarks from the late 19th century, and while he could find the basics, the actual documents were not online.


I reminded him that Columbus is the home of the State Library of Ohio, a state and federal document repository, and a like place to find such information, which he did.


Information searches must be broad-based to be successful,  A Google here and a Google there just won’t do it.


Contact your library and let us help you get started with an information search.