Transliteracy, Customer Services and the Future of Reference

Framing Transliterate Learning Through Inquiry and Participatory Culture

From Buffy Hamilton’s blog, she includes a works cited document if you’re interested in doing more reading

My presentation at AASL 2011 that outlines how an inquiry driven, participatory learning centered environment is essential for learning experiences that honor and privilege transliteracy.

Works Cited:

Berger, Pam. “Student Inquiry and Web 2.0.” School Library Monthly 26.5 (2010): n. pag. School Library Monthly. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <;.

Fontichiaro, Kristin. “Nudging Toward Inquiry (AASL 2009).” American Association of School Librarians National Conference. Charlotte, NC. Nov. 2009. Vimeo. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <;.

– – -. “Rigorous Learning with 21st-Century Technology.” Vermont Dynamic Landscapes Conference. Burlington, VT. May 2011. Kristin Fontichiaro. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.

Harada, Violet. “Self-assessment: Challenging students to take charge of learning.” School Library Monthly 26.10 (2010): 13-15. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. >.

Mathews, Brian. “What It Takes To Become A Scholar: Helping Students Scale the Taxonomy.” The Ubiquitous Librarian. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <;.

Stripling, Barbara. “Assessing Information Fluency: Gathering Evidence of Student Learning.” 21st Century Learning in School Libraries. Ed. Kristin Fontichiaro. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2009. 166-170. Print.

– – -. “Teaching Students to Think in the Digital Enviornment: Digital Literacy and Digital Inquiry.” School Library Monthly 26.8 (2010): n. pag. School Library Monthly. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <;.

A reasonable objection to transliteracy

'Disagreement' by cabbit, on Flickr

A legitimate criticism

‘Transliteracy.’ Is it a bold new concept or the current enfant terrible of librarianship? It’s no secret that transliteracy has a polarizing effect, with the past year’s worth of commentary ranging from uncritical acceptance to critical analysis to dogmatic skepticism, and everywhere between. Obviously, this blog leans towards a more positive approach to transliteracy, But, what of the objections to the concept? Are there substantive concerns that we should be addressing, or is it all just snark?

Given the novelty of the term, the enthusiasm of early-adopters, and the “almost-but-not-quite” similarity of transliteracy to other “literacies”, it’s only natural for librarians to be skeptical. Unfortunately, this skepticism frequently manifests itself as snarky comments on Twitter, false analogies with Library 2.0, or obsessively pedantic linguistic prescriptivism. Some critics hammer away at style rather than substance. Others object to any nontraditional uses of the word “literacy” or the prefix “trans-“. Yet others lament that librarians would be interested in a concept that doesn’t come pre-packaged with a precise, committee-approved definition and bulleted-list of standards, objectives, and outcomes. And, my personal favorite, the red herring that we’re just confusing our patrons. These are all common objections to transliteracy, but they don’t amount to much more than impassioned rhetoric.  (Of course, there’s also a lot of empty rhetoric in support of transliteracy, but that’s a topic I’ll save for another post).

However, there is at least one really good objection to transliteracy as it is currently being applied by libraries, namely, that the concept of transliteracy is redundant…it’s already covered under existing information literacy standards. As Meredith Farkas wrote several months ago,

“The way librarians and other instructors teach information literacy instruction has grown and changed in response to the changing information ecosystem…And while there are librarians who don’t change the way they teach, that’s just being a bad instructor. It has nothing to do with information literacy instruction somehow being insufficient.” (12/21/2010)

So, existing information literacy standards already have mechanisms in place to cover transliteracy. Moreover, any real or perceived failures to meet the stated goals of transliteracy (communicating across media, reading and writing across platforms, etc.) are failures on the part of lazy librarians who resist change, not on information literacy. So, why do we need some new, faddish term when we already cover the same concepts under information literacy? I think this is a fair criticism, though I’m not convinced that information literacy already covers transliteracy. So, here goes an attempt at addressing this legitimate criticism of transliteracy. I have two responses…

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Possible with Transmedia – free webinar

If you’ve read any of my work or seen me talk, you know I’ve referenced Interactive Fiction projects like The Amanda Project and Skeleton Creek, so I’m very interested in attending this free webinar hosted by StoryWorld on Transmedia.

“They might be called cross-platform stories, transmedia projects, branded entertainment, or even alternate reality games, but, whatever you call them, at the heart of these new forms of entertainment is engagement across platforms. It’s hard to believe that the earliest “extended” experiences are now at least a decade old, and it can be difficult getting a handle on the full scope of what’s already come in the world of transmedia storytelling.”

Read more at What’s Possible with Transmedia: Case Studies in Successful Projects (WEBCast 7/27) | Digital Book World

The webinar will be hosted by Michael Andersen, owner and senior editor at the Alternate Reality Gaming Network (ARGNet), and claims to lead attendees “through a tour of what’s possible with alternate reality games, cross-platform strategies, and transmedia storytelling.” This seems to be worth checking out for those of us who work in public libraries. And hey, it’s free – what have you got to lose?

The StoryWorld Conference + Expo is in San Francisco from October 31 – November 2, 2011 is not free, but sure does sound interesting!

“Be part of the first major gathering of industry leaders to come together for the purpose of exploring new business models, partnering across media boundaries, and building new revenue streams by changing the way consumers experience narrative.”

Wonder how many libraries or librarians will participate?

Posted in Education, Transliteracy, Webinars. Comments Off on What’s Possible with Transmedia – free webinar

Collaborative Transliteracies in Open, Mobile, and Online Learning by Thomas P. Mackey, Ph.D

This is the keynote address presented by Thomas P. Makcey at the Transliteracy conference*  sponsored by SUNY FACT2 and the SUNY Librarians Association.

Articles referenced:

found via Transliteracy and Metaliteracy

*No one who writes for the Libraries and Transliteracies Project was involved with or present at this conference.

Transliteracy and Making Your Own Luck – A Guest Post by Jamie Hollier

A Libraries and Transliteracy guest post from Jamie Hollier

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

Many people think I have been pretty lucky in my life, and in many ways they are right. I recently started a great new job, found a wonderful home in a great neighborhood when we moved for that job, and could not have done it all without my amazing husband.

So yeah, I am pretty lucky; but like all luck, these things stem from preparation and opportunities that came my way because of my digital literacy and internet access.

I got my masters online and stayed up with things happening in library land through resources such as this blog to help me prepare for getting the job when the opportunity came through my RSS feed.

I researched neighborhoods and found a great house at a great price from afar thanks to knowing were to look online and how to spot a scam. In fact, I even met my husband online.

Digital literacy has been the key to success for me and that is what this blog and the job I have now are all about. Bringing internet access and transliteracy to people is bringing them the ability to prepare and find opportunities to live a lucky life.

So what is this great job where I help people prepare and find great opportunities?? I am the project coordinator for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) that is being administered by the Colorado State Library. The goal of this project is to establish 77 new and enhanced public computer centers where people can get access to the internet and training on all the diverse benefits and uses that come with access.

These centers will be used by libraries, community centers, and tons of different community partners to make sure that the people of their community have the same opportunities as others. The main target of these centers are the unserved and underserved in their area: the people that have not been lucky enough to have easy access to computers, affordable internet, instruction with these new resources, and the environment that fosters an understanding of the value of digital literacy.

Our project is one of many happening all over the nation. In fact, the project I am working on is just one of seven happening in Colorado alone. BTOP grants were funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and are administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The goals of these project, as stated on the BTOP website are as follows:

“In the long term, these Recovery Act investments will help bridge the digital divide, improve access to education and healthcare services, and boost economic development for communities held back by limited or no access to broadband – communities that would otherwise be left behind. For example, the investments made in broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable adoption will:

• provide job training to the unemployed or under-employed,
• help school children access the materials they need to learn,
• allow rural doctors to connect to more specialized medical centers, and
• allow small businesses to offer their services to national and international markets.”

Some of these projects are geared toward infrastructure itself and increasing broadband capacity for those communities with little or no access to the internet at all. Right now, according to the national broadband map (, it is estimated that about 5-10% of all Americans do not have internet access available to them that is fast enough to download basic websites.

These projects are the first stage in building digital literacy across the nation by first making sure all people have access to the necessary tools to benefit from online resources.

The other types of grants that were funded are Public Computer Centers and Sustainable Broadband Adoption. These projects are focused on digital literacy education and assuring that people have the knowledge and skills to utilize online resources and opportunities.

This is becoming increasingly important as the internet and digital access consumes more and more media forms, making literacy in most media reliant on digital literacy first. Below are a just a few examples of how BTOP projects across the nation are approaching different aspects of digital literacy:

Health Information Literacy –

The Colorado State Library and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine are partnering to bring more knowledge and understanding about online health resources to the people of Colorado. As a part of the Public Computer Centers project, trainers and medical librarians will be working together to provide online and in person trainings about what to look for in medical resources and the best sites for trustworthy information. (

Financial Literacy –

Tech Goes Home is a great project in Boston that is providing computer and digital literacy training along with incredibly affordable netbooks and internet access for low income families so that they continue to use the resources they are learning at home. Their trainings cover a range of topics, including tutorials for online tools to help manage finances (

Education Literacy –

Connect Your Community is a program that is providing computers and training for 26,000 low-income families. One of the really empowering elements of their program is the inclusion of tutorials for online parent resources. These classes allow parents to play a more active role in their children’s education and build stronger connections between home and school lives. (

Social Media Literacy –

New Mexico, through a Sustainable Adoption grant, is providing training in many areas, including social media marketing for businesses. The New Mexico State Library reports that one of the most empowering areas of their training is the work they are doing with small businesses, especially the cultural entrepreneurs (jewelers, musicians, painters, etc.) that are so vital to the economy of the state. (

Cultural Literacy –

Colorado State Library – Southern Ute  Cultural Center and Museum will be opening in May. As a part of the Colorado State Library’s BTOP project, they have a computer lab going into their new center. This lab will be equipped with computers and software to assist tribal members with recording and cataloging culturally significant artifacts and items. This project will help to build understanding of culture and history for the tribe.

This is just a very small sampling of the examples of the many different projects taking place. The list of training being developed and given across the country through BTOP projects is extensive. Visit the BTOP site ( to see examples of other ways in which local communities are getting involved in bridging the digital divide and fostering transliteracy in their communities.

The work of the BTOP projects and all the similar projects being undertaken by libraries, schools, and other community organizations to bring greater digital literacy to our nation is incredibly important. Being able to provide people with the skills and resources to prepare and find opportunities for their lives is an amazing experience and I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity.


We are living in the middle of a major paradigm shift that is transforming the way people interact with information and libraries. Jamie’s position at the Colorado State Library as the Project Coordinator for Public Computer Centers allows her to work with many diverse libraries and help them flourish as they strive to meet their goals to provide information and training to communities. Jamie brings a unique perspective to the challenges facing libraries today via her partnership in an internet marketing agency. She has previously worked in libraries as a branch manager at a rural library and as a visual resource librarian for an education publishing company. More about Jamie can be found at

YouMedia Success

As a die-hard Chicagoan, I write extensively on the YouMedia experiment.    YouMedia, for those of you who don’t know, is an experiment between the Chicago Public Library, Depaul University, and the Digital Youth Network.  It is funded, in part, by a MacArthur Foundation grant. This grant is being replicated for an additional 50 labs throughout the country (have you considered applying?)

The YouMedia experiment is a 21st century teen learning space.  It is really a digital media lab.  But it is so much more.  The YouMedia folks recognize that technology alone will not save us.  The success of this experiment lies in the team that YouMedia has built.  Not only do the kids who use the space have access to librarians and library staff, but they also have access to mentors and instructors.  The mentors and instructors have expertise in the tools, in tapping into creativity, or in just listening to the kids.  They all have the goal of helping these patrons find their voices.  It is in these people that the success of YouMedia is built.

So why do I write about YouMedia again.  YouMedia recently witnessed a major milestone.  While the research findings on the success or the failure of the experiment will take years to construct, the kids recently began providing solid anecdotal evidence pointing towards success.  One example of that evidence is the recent results of the Louder than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival.  The winner of the contest was a young man who represents a YouMedia team of teens, and he even gives them credit.

To understand what the kids are learning at YouMedia, you must check out Malcolm London’s winning poem. This library certainly understands the principles of transliteracy and the role it plays in spurring creativity and content creation among patrons.

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