Thursday, January 25, 2007

What's In a Name?

If Arts and Letters isn't in your blog reader, you might have missed this Washington Post piece titled A Librarian's Lament:Books Are a Hard Sell. The A&L lead was '“Information literacy” is all the buzz among librarians. It’s about mastering computer skills, not promoting a love of reading and books.'

Is it? It's a long time since I did "bibliographic instruction" (the phrase--not in vogue anymore--tells you it's been a while) and I don't think it was ever just about mastering computer skills as I distinctly recall hauling very heavy books to my classes, wa-aa-ay back in 1988. Yes, there were computers then.

But if I read author/librarian Thomas Washington correctly he is actually mourning something akin to "close reading" . Mind you, literary criticism was never about promoting a love of reading and books (and if you ever had to read a lot of, say, Jacques Derrida, you might have completely lost your love of reading) and literacy was about acquiring a skill not a love, although that might have been a happy by-product.

I am not fond of the term "information literacy" but surely, whatever the practice is, it's not about mastering computer skills, nor is it about fostering a love of reading and books. Mr Washington writes well, but it's a shame he used his bully pulpit to make it sound like these are the choices.

And quite frankly, "mastering computer skills" and "promoting a love of reading and books" sounds so last century....what fifteen year old is ever going to talk about mastering computer skills? Be like me deciding to pull the wiring out of the walls so I could master electricity.

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