Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Media Smart Libraries Reflection

This blog post is the last piece of evidence I am submitting to earn my Media Smart Libraries certification, and it feels appropriate to finish with a reflection. When I applied to be part of the program, I wasn't sure what being a "media smart" librarian meant. I associated media literacy with deconstructing cigarette ads in magazines and political ads on TV. I didn't occur to me that since media has proliferated in terms of form and content since I was a teen, media literacy has necessarily expanded as well.

There were times during my involvement with the program that I wasn't sure a clear definition of "media smart" would emerge for me. I attended workshops that interested me, from Minecraft to stop-motion animation to infographics to 3D printing, but I didn't see the links between these topics. How were they connected and what did they have to do with media literacy?

Then I took Faith Rogow's ABCs of Media Literacy and realized my problem: I only considered certain media "literate" enough to require media literacy. I didn't consider navigating apps, playing games, or designing graphics online as acts that required media literacy. But after listening to Faith Rogow speak, I felt a new urgency to help young people interact with all of these forms of media effectively, responsibly--even amazingly.

I think I am not the only librarian who has been reluctant to take on all media. Many of us are still more comfortable with books, and while we may have embraced online research and dabbled in media creation, I don't think many of us would identify as experts in all forms of media. And yet, a stated goal of the Media Smart Libraries program is to "Create a cadre of digital and media literacy expert librarians."

So now that I am almost done earning my MSL badges, I feel like I have to ask myself: Am I an expert? What do I know that distinguishes me from the average parent trying to monitor their child's media intake?  What can I do with digital media that an average high school student couldn't figure out faster than me?  Is it even possible to be an expert in media literacy in an era when media is so vast and varied? 

I'm not sure I'm ready to claim expert status, but I will say this: I now have a framework.  When a parent asks me about rules for screen time, I know to step back and ask questions about the content of the media their kids are consuming and their relationship to that media rather than suggesting ways to count minutes or lock down devices. When a kid asks me for help using a new digital tool, I know to ask them the kind of questions that will allow them to figure it out for themselves rather than taking the mouse or the tablet away from them to do it myself. 

I think at its core, media literacy is about asking questions rather than just consuming media.  The questions vary: What does this mean? How can I use this? What message do I want to send? But the framework remains the same. I don't have to be an expert on every form of media.  I just have to approach media with curiosity and a desire to contribute, and I now believe it is my role as a librarian to engage with all forms of media that influence the lives of the children I serve.


  1. I'm kinda with Marshall McLuhan, who way back in the 60's said "the medium is the message". So different media, or medium, carry different messages.This wikipedia article is great, check it out:
    To me, it's understanding what's going on, how you are interacting with it, is it trying to manipulate you, is it changing your view, does it have anything to do with your culture? Here was my lightbulb moment: I was asking my students to write down the commercials they saw on television so we could discuss the message, when some of them said, I get commercials on my apps. Another said, yeah, on my gaming - and suddenly I realized how "old fashioned" I was, and then we discussed where we saw ads (websites, magazines, etc) as the halo shone round my head. And as for the zeitgeist lately of thinking book loving librarians are "old fashioned" which is getting on my last nerve - well, I'd say in some ways I feel like media is way easier than books. Anyone can do tech. We're all plugged in nowadays. It's a real skill to be able to read and advise for students, to open their hearts and minds to great literature and great ideas. People's lives have changed, completely changed from the right book. Here's one from Joseph Bruchac:
    Now find me a website that tells you how minecraft and angry birds were life changing...

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