Published 1:04 am, Friday, October 23, 2009
"Every day, we are inundated with vast amounts of information. A 24-hour news cycle and thousands of global television and radio networks, coupled with an immense array of online resources, have challenged our long-held perceptions of information management. Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation. This new type of literacy also requires competency with communication technologies, including computers and mobile devices that can help in our day-to-day decision-making."
Those words, delivered by Pres. Barack Obama earlier this month in a declaration of National Information Literacy Awareness Month, express the very real concerns of many who were in school long before the implementation of the Internet. Those who pored through encyclopedias and other research collections seeking answers to questions -- academic or otherwise. Those for whom answers did not come by the click of a mouse. Just a decade or two ago, information resources were trusted volumes from libraries or home bookshelves.
Now the answers are easily found, but cannot necessarily be trusted as easily. Now information comes to us practically at the speed of thought. It's written, delivered and received faster than the time it used to take to paw through the S volume of Encyclopedia Brittanica.
For those who are in the schools now, who have known no other way to gather information than to get it electronically, it's quick and easy. Unfortunately it also has the potential to do the thinking for our young learners, if they let it.
"Though we may know how to find the information we need, we must also know how to evaluate it," Obama continued.
Our teachers work hard to reconcile the information divide, but it's not an easy task -- not nearly as easy as relying on the quick answers delivered via online searches. Our students need to know how to parse the quantity of information they can access -- good, bad or indifferent, and then learn to know the difference.
We hope that our communities will also reach out to help bridge that gap. It's also up to the parents to make sure children know how to process the vast amounts of information streaming at them all day long.
It's also incumbent on our town's other educational facilities, i.e. libraries, to reach out to our technologically advanced yet informationally overwhelmed demographic. Luckily here in Westport, the library has recognized that need and in addition to its ongoing efforts to educate the community, it has planned some events in the coming weeks to help young students discern the good information from the bad.
To reach out to the younger demographic, the library is hosting its annual Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, featuring children's book authors who will host workshops and go into the schools to work hands-on with Westport students.
On Nov. 6, the library will host a scavenger hunt designed to familiarize students with the shelving system at the library, in order to help them quickly locate the information they need.
On Fridays in November reference desk librarians will be available, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., to help people learn about using the Internet and setting up e-mail accounts.
There are many upcoming events at the library designed to reach out to our town's youth and information seekers of all ages. Check back each week in the newspaper to see listings of events, or visit www.westportlibrary.org to get more (and safe) information.