A posting about this subject has been bouncing around in my head for awhile, but without adequate time to fully develop my thoughts on paper, I’ve hesitated jotting something down for fear that I wouldn’t have time to do the subject justice. And then … while catching up on all the information bits in my news aggregator that had accumulated while my family vacationed along the west coast (BTW: I highly recommend Humboldt County, CA as a great family vacation spot), I came across these two thought provoking posts that also in a way touched upon this idea - that is that the impact of “2.0” in libraries goes far beyond libraries merely figuring out ways to take advantage of these new technologies; it’s about acknowledging, understanding and adjusting to the fundamental changes that are rapidly changing the way users receive and assimilate information. This to me has a far greater effect and impact to library users (both current & future) then merely getting your library to blog or create a Flickr or MySpace account.
A few months ago, I started down this path with a post I labeled “Information Literacy 2.0”, but since posting I’ve come to think about Literacy 2.0 as more then just understanding and exploring the tools and channels that information that can travel, it needs to also involve developing new skills within the profession that can teach users (including librarians) how to decipher garbage from gold in a literate world that is exploding around “soft information.”
When I really begin to ponder this thought, I am reminded that nearly all information starts out “soft” rumbling around inside someone’s head as thought, story or idea. The only difference between the way users received and consumed information almost exclusively in the past and the way that many users are consuming it today is through the channels. In the past (loose definition of past: before blogs, wikis, and social software or pre-2001) information was only really available to the mass mainstream user via the publishing and news media markets (Web 1.0 is included here) which acted as validaters and fact checkers for us. But with information these days being more time sensitive then ever and online networks providing the conduit to transform tiny social grapevines into full-fledged vineyards for mass media consumption, the need to figure out the means to authenticate and validate soft information will become more important than ever.
Just because the source of the information comes from a user generated blog or a wiki doesn’t necessarily mean it should automatically discredited. It merely means that a different set of skills and criteria need to be applied in order to validate it. Journalists and newspaper writers have been taught these skills for years, but have librarians?
I already blogged this a few days ago, but it’s worth noting it again here …
As my husband and I tuned into CNN over the two week course of our vacation to catch up on world events, we were surprised to find a good deal of their news coverage showing and acknowledging the power of “soft information” as they shared quotes from bloggers caught up in the conflict and videos posted on YouTube about the crisis in middle east. Why, because information is time sensitive.... because CNN didn’t have enough reporters in the area yet to cover the complete conflict... and because human interest/frontline experiences are worth their weight in advertising gold. (It might also help that they don’t cost the network a cent to air.) Anyway, CNN was very upfront about the airing of these videos as undocumented news sources, but even so they were information and they filled the great need for the “first person” experience.
So what am I getting at?? Simple, it’s this … 2.0 is radically changing the way users get information and that means big, BIG, BIGGG fundamental changes to the information profession and libraries as a whole. As I said to a group of librarians attending a recent presentation I gave … "I believe right NOW is the most exciting time to be a librarian in the information profession because information is changing!!" And not only is it changing, the channels are changing too!!! And what’s most important about this change is that users now are not only able to consume information while it’s still “soft”, they also have a way to participate in its creation and validation too! If that’s not earth-shattering-exciting to an information professional, then I can’t imagine what is!
So to this end, I’m curious … are there guides with criteria out there yet that help everyday users (& librarians) wade through the means to evaluate, validate or decipher reputable information found on blogs, wikis, etc? Ten years ago, I remember a flurry of online guides to help users evaluate websites. Many of the these techniques and criteria definitely still apply, but are there now other things we should be considering as we pull more and more information from blogs, wikis, and user generated content. I don’t have the answers and I definitely I hope I'm not the only one asking. :)
So what are your thoughts? -- should libraries be learning and teaching journalism techniques or developing new criteria for evaluation and fact-checking of these new information channels? Or do our traditional information literacy programs already cover social networking tools? I tend to think the former … for if traditional techniques held true I wouldn’t be hearing this roll off some tongues so easily ... “You can’t trust that information source because it’s a wiki/blog.”
PS: Thanks for making it to the end of this long rambling post. I try not to do these to often, but sometimes the thoughts and questions just have to get out. :)
Technorati Tags: Information Literacy, Library 2.0