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Social Literacy
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386 A g r e e m e n t s u p p l e m e n t s soCiAl literACy mAp loCAtion F, G, 1 threAD loCAtion Page 76 sCApe Need for an Expanded Definition of Literacy Social Literacy such as Author Elizabeth Gall Figure 225 Agreement DesCription The Atlas defines Social Literacy as (i) the power of identity in groups, and (ii) the process of defining and expanding social groupings to further our aims (p. 93). Although the recent emergence of online social networking tools has reminded us of the need for librarians to facilitate social literacy, it is an issue that has been present and in need of attention in libraries much longer than Facebook has been around. The Atlas argues that literacy is a radical topic and librarianship is a radical profession. The truth of this statement shines through in the argument that librarians must work to facilitate social literacy within the profession in the same way they facilitate the social literacy of members. There are some serious issues with social literacy in libraries, and librarians cannot ignore them if they want to facilitate social literacy among members. In the library, there are librarians and nonlibrarians , and the groups are clearly defined. This division affects members, nonmembers, paraprofessionals, and librarians alike. If social literacy is the power of identity in groups, the social literacy of libraries is divided and ineffective. If the librarian and nonlibrarian groupings identify themselves as separate groupings that simply function in the same space, neither will be able to clearly define themselves or their aims. Ultimately, the library will not function in a way that serves the needs of its community. As librarians define their identity as separate from the rest of the library staff, members, and nonmembers, they deny those groups’ input in defining their identity. Let’s return to the Atlas’ other definition of social literacy, the process of defining and expanding social groupings to further our aims. If librarians want to play a role in this process as they facilitate other groupings’ social literacy, they must open their own grouping first so they can learn what their new role is and embrace it. A g r e e m e n t s u p p l e m e n t s 387 If librarians are to facilitate social literacy, must they participate in defining member groups? Can they define these groups if they are not a part of it? Reason says no. How can you define a group if you do not have intimate knowledge of it from within? Imagine defining a word after seeing it written alone, without a context. Instead of defining librarians based on their title, libraries are beginning to define their role based on the groupings they serve. As their role is redefined, librarians are becoming a part of these member groupings. Instead of reading one word, they are reading a paragraph. One example of active library participation in member groupings is embedded librarianship. Kesselman et al. (2009) define embedded librarians as those who provide information services as a part of the group. They further explain, “Embedded librarians are, first and foremost , integrated into their settings, be they traditional or nontraditional ” (Kesselman et al., 2009). They argue that, for librarians to find their place in our increasingly digital and constantly changing world, they must actively engage with the populations they serve regardless of their location, purpose, or aims. Embedded librarians can function in a range of intensities. They may manage a grouping’s online presence and provide digital resources to meet their needs. They may attend regular meetings or simply read a group’s monthly newsletter. No matter what, they must become a part of the groups they serve to facilitate social literacy. Forrest (2005) discusses a library that took a different approach to librarian involvement in member groups. The Generals Libraries at Emory University found that it is better able to serve the university community by creating market councils for different member groups. By becoming directly and continuously involved in the groups, librarians are better able to define them and provide services that best suit their needs. Two years after the implementation of market councils, the General Libraries at Emory University found they are an effective way to respond to and serve different member groups. Regardless of the setting, librarians must redefine their own grouping and become a part of other groupings if they want to facilitate social literacy. relAteD...



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  • Library science -- Philosophy.
  • Library science -- Forecasting.
  • Libraries and community.
  • Libraries and society.
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