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Librarians Still Relevant to the Google Generation

google_chalkbrdIn a recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, public school librarian Sara Scribner emphasizes the importance of libraries, librarians and teaching today’s children to be information literate. Though the Google generation, children in grades K-12, is more tech savvy than previous generations, the huge amount of data available on and off-line makes it difficult for anyone to parse and analyze. Google has become an integral part of our lives, and most kids now head straight for this search engine when doing any kind of research. Yet because of all the false or misinformation on the web, this is often not an effective strategy. Young students need to learn to craft successful search terms, utilize a variety of different search engines and databases, and use critical thinking to decide whether the source provides reliable information.

“An info-literate student can find the right bit of information amid the sea of irrelevance and misinformation. But any college librarian will tell you that freshman research skills are absolutely abysmal. Before they graduate from high school, students need to be able to understand the phenomenal number of information options at their fingertips…” writes Scribner. Information literacy is critical in today’s society, yet a struggling economy and severe budget cuts are forcing some school districts to close libraries and layoff librarians, the very people who teach these essential skills. “Instead of closing library doors, we need to give librarians the time to teach what they know: basic research survival skills that are as important as reading, writing and math. If we don’t teach our kids to take charge of information, they will get swept aside by it.”

Read Los Angeles Times article

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  1. Joy L.
    April 9th, 2010 at 13:07 | #1

    Kudos to Ms. Scribner! As a librarian at a university library, I totally understand what she is writing. I teach library instruction to 100 level classes (generally first-time freshmen) and will usually start out each session asking students what types of sources they used when they did research in high school. They always answer either “Wikipedia” or “Google”. While each of those tools have a place in the world, they generally don’t have a place in academic research, with the exception of Google Scholar. Our library spends so much money every year subscribing to academic databases where students can find reliable, appropriate information, it makes me crazy when I help a graduating senior at the reference desk, and they tell me either 1) they have never been to the library before or 2) they have never used one of our databases before. How the heck did they make it through all of those classes?! My guess is they have turned in passable papers with help from Google and Wikipedia, and that whole mess should be saved for another discussion. Anyway, Ms. Scribner makes an excellent point. Contrary to popular belief, and to uninformed comments made to me by certain members of my family while earning my master’s degree, libraries and librarians are not becoming obsolete. In fact, with the insane amounts of information that is available at everyone’s fingertips, librarians are more necessary than ever. This tech savvy generation who can allegedly find everything on the Internet doesn’t know what to do with the information once they find it. And, Ms. Scribner is absolutely right that if we don’t teach them how to evaluate information now, we will suffer for it greatly in the years to come.

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