Information Literacy: Building the Bridge of Knowledge
by CINDY KITZROW
Principal, Cannonsburg Elementary School
Director of Library & Media Services
Information literacy rose to national consciousness in the U.S. with President Barack Obama. His proclamation stated, “Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate and evaluate information for any situation… Though we may know how to find the information we need, we must also know how to evaluate it. Over the past decade, we have seen a crisis of authenticity emerge. We now live in a world where anyone can publish an opinion or perspective, whether true or not, and have that opinion amplified within the information marketplace. At the same time, Americans have unprecedented access to the diverse and independent sources of information, as well as institutions such as libraries, that can help separate truth from fiction and signal from noise.
The role of the school library/media center has changed drastically in the last decade. It is no longer just a place to go and check out books or to look up information for research in the encyclopedia. We have become the “Information Literacy Partner” in our schools. We build the “bridge of knowledge” by providing the right resources needed for teachers and students to achieve their goals.
Reading has always been the heart of education. The knowledge of almost every subject flows from reading:
• One must be able to read the word problem in math in order to understand it.
• If you cannot read the science or social studies chapter, you cannot answer the content questions.
• One can arguably state, “Reading is the single most important social factor in American life today.”
School library media specialists not only promote the love of reading, they also support the entire school program by applying their “knowledge about resources, teachers and student needs, the processes in instruction and technology.” The library promotes, supports and strengthens the entire school curriculum.
Our goals are to develop lifelong learners by teaching the love of reading and information literacy. Helping students become information literate involves teaching students how to learn: to recognize how knowledge is organized how to find information, how to use the information to answer any question or solve a problem. This prepares students for lifelong learning because they can find the information needed for any task or decision at hand.
Student achievement is our bottom line. Several state studies have shown test scores increase as library media specialist spend more time teaching literacy skills to students, identifying materials for teachers, and planning with teachers.
Teachers and students have been faced with the explosion of information technology. It has transformed the way our students do research. On our library Web page, www.rockfordschools.org/?i=Library, we give students access to our research databases from school and home. The Web page is designed with sites for all ages and subject areas. Its purpose is to empower our students with the information they need to become “information literate.”
“Building a bridge” to an unknown and unpredictable future is the great challenge of our age. As literacy partners, library specialists build our classroom knowledge and teach students research and problem-solving skills. Regardless of where this bridge leads and the challenges the future may present today’s students, if they are taught problem-solving and critical thinking, they will be prepared for success.