Friday, November 7, 2014

Literacy Forum: Libraries in the 21st Century - New Haven CT

Literacy Forum: Libraries in the 21st Century
New Haven Independent: 11.03.2013 by Josiah Brown

On Oct. 29, the Literacy Coalition of Greater New Haven and the New Haven Free Public Library held a breakfast forum at the public library’s Wilson branch in the Hill neighborhood. Panelists addressed “Libraries in the 21st Century” and how to meet communities’ needs, from early childhood and youth development to employment, technology, civics, and English-language learning.

Martha Brogan, the new city librarian with a range of community and university library experience, welcomed the audience and introduced the panel.

Before doing so, she referred to studies by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project – for example, a 2011 presentation onHow Libraries Add Value to Communities– and how broader trends are evident in New Haven.  She previewed an event held later on Oct. 29, the launch of the Public Library’s new Readmobile, as an illustration of the library’s continuing efforts to reach residents of all ages, across the city.

“The Public Library Reimagined”

Kendall “Ken” Wiggin, Connecticut’s State Librarian since 1998, brought a perspective both national and statewide to this local discussion.  Invoking an Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries– including a summer 2014 session on “The Public Library Reimagined” – he emphasized that as libraries are not just about “loaning books,” measures and expectations must change.  He said, “Successful libraries are really about partnering with communities” in response to what they “need.”  He enumerated several elements of those needs.  “Information literacy … is about being able to connect” with people’s “life skills,” whether related to employment, personal finances, technology, health, civic involvement, or parenting.  He cited “digital literacy” and the rise of “maker spaces” (the New Haven Public Library now has a 3-D printer), as well as “financial literacy.”  He spoke of “health literacy” (from the ability to read the instructions on a medicine label to knowledge of nutrition and fitness).  Citing “civic literacy” (e.g., awareness of voter registration requirements and elected officials) as a key to “civic engagement,” he alluded to “all kinds of outreach” such as the Readmobile.  He mentioned “environmental literacy.”  In short, he said, virtually “every problem has … some literacy” aspect.  “Libraries have this expanded role” in furthering “lifelong learning.”  READ MORE !

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