Why Transliteracy? Bobbi’s Two Cents (or less)

The Fine Print:
First let me say that I’d would love to write an articulate well thought out response to all of the conversations I’ve seen popping up over libraryland the last couple of days (see list below).  I think these conversation are important and I apologize for not giving each of them the individual response and attention they deserve. Unfortunately, as they say, life trumps blogging and my time and energy is consumed by other issues right now. But I do feel I need to post something to here it goes…

Thank you Lane
I want to thank Lane for joining us here at L&T, he ha’s been a resounding success.

Our Goal(s)
When putting this project together I had two goals: 1. to bring in people who were smarter than me to work on it and 2. to bring in contributors from a wide range of prospectives, backgrounds and disciplines.  I think I’ve done a pretty good job of both if I do say so myself.   When we started this project the we said

Our goal is to be an ongoing resource for those interested in libraries and transliteracy. We will be sharing information related to transliteracy (the new literacies, media literacy, digital literacy, 21st century literacies).
If you are already interested in libraries and transliteracy we hope you’ll find useful information here. If you are not familiar with transliteracy we hope you will find the information you need to become as enthusiastic about the importance to libraries as we are.

Over the past year we have seen it develop into something more. One of the goals for the new year is more substantial posts addressing some of the issues that have been raised and Lane has us off to a great start.

What is and Why Transliteracy?
What appeals to me about transliteracy is that it is a unifying concept of literacy that encompasses all variations of literacy and does not value one form of literacy above the others.

As Renee Hobbs points out:

New types of texts and new types of literacies have been emerging over a period of more than 50 years. Many closely interrelated terms describe the new set of competencies required for success in contemporary society. These include terms like information literacy, media literacy, media education, visual literacy, news literacy,health media literacy, and digital literacy, among others. Each term is associated with a particular body of scholarship, practice and intellectual heritage, with some ideas stretching back to the middle of the 20th century and other ideas emerging in the past couple of years. These terms reflect both the disciplinary backgrounds of the stakeholders and the wide scope of the knowledge and skills involved.

These concepts must not be treated as competitors.

We can consider different types of literacy to be part of the same family. For example, information literacy has typically been associated with research skills.Media literacy typically has been associated with critical analysis of news, advertising and mass media entertainment. Health media literacy has been associated with exploring media’s impact on making positive choices related to nutrition, exercise,body image, violence and substance abuse prevention. Digital literacy is associated with the ability to use computers, social media, and the Internet”. – Digital and Media Literacy by Renee Hobbs

As for Meredith’s question:  “What real impact will it have on our patrons? How will it change the way we serve them? I feel like a cynical jerk sometimes, but I want to see results.”

Let me post a modification of my response on her blog – What sort of proof do you want?(real question, not snark) Transliteracy is a new concept in general and we are working to apply it and I’m ok with it being a work in progress (the blog is less than a year old). I understand that many people aren’t. They want clear rules, definitions guidelines, and measures and pie charts, but I’m not sure I am able to help them at this point. I’m ok with that too. Not in a mean way but in a I-can’t-do-everything-at-once sort of way.

We are reaching people and we are making them think about the needs of patrons in the 21st century and that is making a difference in the lives of our patrons or I wouldn’t be spending so much of my own time on it.

When I think about transliteracy I worry about the second class citizens the  Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, writes about:

“The information revolution is benefitting those in the middle class and up and, in a different way, many young residents of urban and suburban communities. They have never had greater access to more relevant information. But many Americans are in danger of remaining or becoming second-class citizens in the digital age, whether because of low income, language barriers, lack of access to technology, limited skills and training, community norms, or lack of personal motivation. The poor, the elderly, rural and small town residents, and some young people are most at risk. Those who belong to more than one of these groups are especially vulnerable. To take perhaps the most dramatic example of an enduring divide: “Only sixty-eight percent of households on Tribal lands have a telephone; only eight Tribes own and operate telephone companies; and broadband penetration on Indian lands is estimated at less than ten percent.” – Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age

The participation gap Jenkis et. al talk about in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins

The participation gap The unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youths for full participation in the world of tomorrow

and the digital divide and the vast number of organizations and institution that are talking about these issues and looking for solutions and never mention libraries. I think about the professional organizations both inside and outside of libraries creating standards for all the different literacies, they are all so disconnected but they are working towards a common goal. For me transliteracy is a way to bring them all together under one roof without favoring one over the other.

More on transliteracy in general:
Transliteracy lecture by Sue Thomas from IOCT on Vimeo.

Related Reading:

4 Responses to “Why Transliteracy? Bobbi’s Two Cents (or less)”

  1. davidrothman.net » Follow-up: Transliteracy, Theory, and Scholarly Language Says:

    […] Bobbi Newman writes: […]

  2. The Best of the Best: The 20 Most Important, Thought Provoking, Helpful Posts I Wrote in 2010 | Librarian by Day Says:

    […] 3. Defining Transliteracy – Any early attempt to clarify transliteracy, especially timely given the current discussions […]

  3. Meredith Says:

    I posted this to my own blog, but I thought I’d post it here as well.

    @Bobbi – I think what I’m looking for in terms of “proof” is this: what does the transliterate individual look like?

    When you have so many people taking different spins on this, it’s hard for me (and I’d assume other people too) to wrap my mind around it. To me, starting from the end point makes it much clearer and also easier to figure out how we can get there. When I work with an academic department at Norwich, I ask them what information literacy skills a student graduating with a major in their department should look like. Then I can work backwards with faculty and figure out how we can build appropriate instruction into the curriculum. Everything we do in libraries should be informed my specific goals or how do we know we were ever successful?

    And I’m not saying that there needs to be one single definition of what the transliterate person looks like that everyone must embrace. Not everyone buys 100% into ACRL’s definition of the information literate individual, but I think everyone in our profession has some conception in their head of what an information literate individual looks like and there are certain traits common to all of those definitions and other areas that overlap. I can’t picture a transliterate individual right now.

    I’m not looking for the prescription on how to make people transliterate, but I feel like if the people writing about transliteracy can’t tell me what they think a transliterate individual looks like, it’s very hard for me to buy into the term being anything more than a buzzword.

  4. Tweets that mention Why Transliteracy? Bobbi’s Two Cents (or less) « Libraries and Transliteracy -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dean Giustini and Emily Clasper. Emily Clasper said: Why Transliteracy? Bobbi's Two Cents (or less): http://t.co/PKs9lLn […]


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