Support for literacy is a core mission of our public library.
In a world of ever changing technology, support for digital literacy is an evolving and engaging challenge. But what is digital literacy and what does it mean for the library?
Digital literacy is defined by the American Library Association as the mental and technical ability “to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create and communicate digital information” (2013).
Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has a wide ranging digital presence. We connect with our community online via the website, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media presences. The library’s online catalogue remains a essential service, the primary digital access point to the library collection. We provide apps for downloadable ebook and audiobook services, for digital magazines, movies and music.
Lifelong learning is supported by online language and training applications from Mango Languages and Lynda.com. Genealogists and family historians have in-branch access to the historical records of Ancestry.com. Multiple library databases offer access to a variety of resource types, including the BC Building Code, consumer, health and legal information, engine repair and motor vehicle information, and a range of educational resources.
As a public access point for the Internet, library staff frequently assist members as they navigate online government services, negotiate webmail and social media accounts, apply for jobs, and create and print documents. Library staff use these moments to share some of the skills and knowledge they need for the digital environment.
“Our members really appreciate the help they receive from library staff. The digital divide does exist. Some members have difficulty navigating the Web or searching for information. I help people who tell me they know nothing about computers or the Internet, but they need to find a document or some information. That’s the gap in knowledge the library attempts to bridge,” says Matt Mukai, Adult Services Librarian at the Courtenay branch.
The expansion of digital library resources is matched by community demand. Since 2011, VIRL has seen use of our library’s digital collection grow 475 per cent.
To support that demand, librarians have developed instructional workshops and tutorial sessions, expanding the focus from library-related offerings to common digital devices and their ecosystems. iPads Made Easy, an introductory class, and Tech Tuesdays, a drop-in tech help session, are popular programs at branches throughout VIRL.
The future of libraries and digital technology is in providing access to creative technologies and learning spaces, while sustaining collections and other resources for mobile and computer use.
As digital devices and ecosystems develop and evolve, the library will continue to offer programs and services that support the digital literacy of our community.
For more information visit the library’s website www.virl.bc.ca