The convergence of literacies in the 21st century
The Oxford dictionary (2013) defines literacy as ‘the ability to read and write’. However, literacy as it was 20-30 years ago is not literacy as it is in today’s society and correspondingly neither is the role of the teacher librarian in response.
In the wake of vast information changes Bush (2012, p7) suggests “Literacy has changed to include information fluency, technology, and media literacy”. Langford (1999) describes literacy as an ‘evolving state’ inferring that literacy is evolving with technology as it is created. Langford also states that because of this ‘ literacy has become a dynamic concept’.
In the 21st Century, to be academically and socially successful, students need not only the ability to read and write but to interact across a range of platforms, tools and media including print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. (Libraries and Transliteracy, 2005). Thomas and Jolls (2005, p6) suggest that these requirements present a major challenge to the world of formal education.
Some schools believe that librarians are outdated and librarians ‘have been warned of their irrelevance, with some school libraries also having been closed'(O’Connell, 2012). This thought is a misguided one, as it is librarians who are most relevant and can help more than ever before in this always evolving and changing world of illiteracies.
School libraries now house online journals , articles , videos, podcasts and search engine data bases in addition to traditional text to support learning , but having the resources does not mean they will be used or used effectively. This is where the teacher librarian adds significant value.
Teacher Librarians provide information, share expert knowledge and support student learning. As Herring, J. (2007, p35) suggests “Teacher librarians will have to teach students how to apply their information skills irrespective of what technology they are using”. It is they who can help students understand and use new technology, for example, e-books or online journals and how to effectively search the web. It is part of the Teacher Librarians role to encourage students to find and use the most relevant resources, whether they are online or in hardcover form.
O’Connell (2012) states that ‘the iPad and other mobile devices have changed school libraries forever’ and that while the changed outcomes have yet to be determined it is certain that the ‘iSchool library has definitely arrived’. Whether it is using interactive whiteboards to tell stories or using the computer system to look up an e-book for a project based at home, Teacher Librarians are at the forefront of technology changes.
While books are useful in research and study, journals and e-books and other resources are sometimes better suited to a research or project needs. Naude (1999) states that it is ‘our responsibility to provide students with the skills to determine which is the best resource or combination of resources for the particular objective they wish to achieve’.
The Teacher Librarians’ role includes maintaining different and accessible types of technology that cater for all students and all types of work. This together with the integral part they play in supporting students and developing their understanding of how this technology can be used as an essential part of learning, makes them an invaluable member of school staff.
Bush, G. (2012). The Transliterate Learner. School Library Monthly, 29(1), 5-7
Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Langford, L. (1999). Information literacy? Seeking clarification. In J. Henri & K. Bonanno (Eds.), The information literate school community: best practice (pp. 43-54).Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University
Literacy (2013) Oxford Dictionary .Oxford University Press. Retrieved from: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/literacy
O’Connell, J. (2012). Change has arrived at an iSchool library near you. In Information literacy beyond library 2.0 (pp. 215-228). London: Facet.
Naude, S. (1999). Maximising the benefits of information technology: one library’s attempt to ensure its students are on- task and information literate. In J. Henri & K. Bonanno (Eds.), The information literate school community: best practice (pp. 285-290). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University
Thoman, E. And Jolls, T (2005) Literacy for the 21st Century. An Overview and Orientation Guide to Media Literacy Education. Centre for Media Literacy. Retrieved from:
What is Transliteracy? Libraries and Transliteracy (2013) Retrieved form: http://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/what-is-transliteracy/