The good news from my visit to Ohio this week is that it didn’t feel like there was as much resistance to the Wikipedia model, even from the librarians in attendance. (At least I didn’t get yelled at like in DC a few months ago…) I totally understand the difficulty many people have with the blurring of trusted/not to be trusted sources. And I got more of a sense of “this is going to be hard work” rather than “this is something we can’t do.” That’s the bottom line. None of this information literacy stuff is getting any easier, nor will it. I thought one of the most genuine moments of the conference was when one woman said something along the lines of “I’ve been a librarian for ten years and I have to tell you, I feel like a fraud. I don’t really know where to start when it comes to figuring out whether a site is believeable or not.” It’s not an easy admission, and I think a lot of people would just rather hold on to what they are used to, sticking to what they know. Problem is, of course, their kids aren’t. And I think once people understand the inevitability of it, the conversations turns from stopping it to dealing with it. That’s an important first step.
Ken Smith says
Whether she intended it or not, whether she even knows it or not, the librarian has, I think, put her finger on one of the central failures of our education system. Adults, professionals, people who have completed their formal education and taken on their career roles, should be responsible — it is useful to pull that word apart — should be able to respond to the complexity they face as professionals, as citizens. They should be able to make judgments and do the work necessary to claim their own authority — to become one who can speak as an author does, yes?, not remain one who unwittingly repeats the wisdom or nonsense propogated by others.
So if a ten-year professional librarian can find herself saying that she doesn’t know where to begin — by the way, good for her for having the nerve to say it — then what does that say about her college training in librarianship, her college’s general education program, her high school’s advanced courses, and her profession’s daily working standards? And do we have any reason to believe that her profession and education are much different than many others?
Responsibility, judgment, authority — I don’t know which one comes first — core values of education and professionalism.
Stephen Downes says
I think this is a good point and a valid concern. To that end, I have written a short guide, Principles for Evaluating Websites, to address this.
Ken Smith says
It would be good to work with students each semester to update and extend Stephen’s guide. In every field in the university, this would be a worthwhile assignment.