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Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
Literacy For Public Libraries
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Literacy For Public Libraries


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  • 1. Defining Literacy for Public Library Service
    Vanessa Irvin Morris, Asst. Professor
    The iSchool at Drexel
    Philadelphia, PA, USA
    © 2008 – 2011. Defining Literacy for Public Library Service by Vanessa Irvin Morris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at
  • 2. Literacy Defined
    Gordon & Gordon (2003) define literacy as: “the degree of interaction with written text that enables a person to be a fluent, functioning, contributing member of the society in which that person lives and works” (17, italics mine).
    They also say that literacy is contextual, based on social, economic, and technological demands (17).
  • 3. Literacy Defined
    Hilyard (2004) cites the Workforce Investment Act of 1998’s definition:
    “An individual’s ability to read, write, speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual, and in society” (18).
  • 4. Literacy Defined
    Freire & Macedo (1987) see literacy as transformational, democratizing and social justice oriented. In short, they call for “a view of literacy as a form of cultural politics” (viii).
    Furthermore, they say that literacy is more than just the mechanical ability to read letters and words; literacy is about the “relationship of readers to the world” (viii).
  • 5. Literacy in the Public Library
    Q: What is literacy for the librarian?
    Q: What is literacy for patrons?
    Q: How do librarians perceive literacy service as
    library service?
    Q: How do patrons perceive literacy service from
    the library?
  • 6. In a Nutshell
    “Every experience is ultimately the answer to a reference question.”
    ~ Vanessa Irvin Morris.
  • 7. Multiple Literacies
    Thus as public librarians, we are in the position to promote and support multiple literacies:
  • Information Literacy Defined
    Eisenberg (2004, p. 5) cites Lenox & Walker’s definition of information literacy:
    “Implicit in a full understanding of information literacy is the realization that several conditions must be simultaneously present. First someone must desire to know, use analytic skills to formulate questions, identify research methodologies, and utilize critical skills to evaluate experimental and experiential results. Second, the person must possess the skills to search for answers to those questions in increasingly diverse and complex ways. Third, once a person has identified what is sought, be able to access it.”
  • 16. Information Literacy Defined
    Source: Durham District School Board Information Literacy Skills Continuum @
  • 17. Literacy meanings
    Alan Rogers (in Street, 2001) reminds us that while literacy has varied meanings it also has different purposes for different groups and individuals (Rogers in Street, p. 209).
    Brian Street (2001) tells us that literacy as a cultural model brings up issues of power. Researchers now embrace an ideological model of literacy (p. 9) to highlight this power dynamic honoring the situated and lived literacies as articulated by people’s lives.
  • 18. Templeton’s Challenge
    “Vitalizing a library requires us to step outside the sphere of our habitual familiarity and to explore other places. How can we prepare a place for other people if we do not know where they are going and where they have been? Per functory surveys of the landscape may be inadequate to genuinely expand the network of our acquaintance. To proactively situate the library involves proactively collecting the experience of others” (2008, p. 206).
  • 19. References
    Eisenberg, M. B., Lowe, C. A., & Spitzer, K. L. (2004). Defining information literacy. In Information literacy: Essential skills for the Information Age (2nd ed.) (pp. 3 – 11). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
    Durham District School Board Information Literacy Skills Continuum. Available: Accessed 03 April 2008.
    Freire, P. & Macedo, D. (1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world. Critical Studies in Education Series. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.
    Gordon, E. E., & Gordon, E. H. (2003). Literacy: A historical perspective. Principal Leadership, 4(3), 16-21.
    Hilyard, N. B. (2004). Perspectives on literacy. Public Libraries, 43, 18-23.
    Street, B. (2001). Literacy and development: Ethnographic Perspectives. London: Routledge.
    Templeton, Thomas Clay. (2008). Placing the library: An argument for the phenomenological and constructivist approach to the human geography of the library. Library Quarterly 78(2): 195-209.