Research for ordinary people




Scientists in their labs or historians poring over manuscript collections and archives are researchers. Many of them become well known in their profession, and maybe even with the general public. People who search the web for sites that they then pass on to a writer are also researchers, very likely making $2 an hour somewhere in Asia. They are at the low end of status and responsibility for Internet work. What does either kind of research have to do with most people? Everyone does research. Not everyone does it professionally. For most people, that research is not likely to result … Continue reading






Teenagers, libraries, digital media, and learning




To many grownups, teenagers always seem to be goofing off with various electronic toys: cell phones, music players, game consoles, portable computers, and the like. Teenagers certainly consume a lot of digital media. Libraries are discovering that this same passion for digital technology can help develop creativity and critical thinking skills. In November 2011, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, along with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, made grants of $100,000 to twelve museums and libraries across the country to develop digital learning laboratories for teenagers. They will announce another round of grants in November 2012. … Continue reading






Information literacy: an endangered species?




I heard on NPR recently that CNN is losing market share in the US because viewers prefer the “more opinionated” coverage of Fox News and MSNBC. That’s sad. I say that not as a fan of CNN–I don’t regularly watch any of those networks. I say it’s sad because people who prefer to hear only what conforms to their own viewpoint have essentially decided not to be informed citizens. They have consciously and deliberately turned their back on information literacy. The term “information literacy” seems to have originated in the mid 1970s, but the need it expresses is much older. … Continue reading






Summer: a time for learning or forgetting?




Left to themselves over the summer, children will forget some of the reading and math skills they learned in school. That puts them behind where they ought to be when school starts up again. Students who really struggled in school lose even more skills, putting them even farther behind. As much as school children need unorganized play time during the summer, it’s not good to leave them entirely to themselves. Most if not all public libraries have summer reading programs. So do many school districts. At the very least, parents, grandparents, or concerned neighbors should encourage children to participate in … Continue reading






Libraries nourish creativity




“One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out” — Jeff Bezos So how to you go about inventing your way out of a tight box? It requires curiosity and creativity. Libraries themselves have been in a tight box lately. For centuries, they have functioned mostly as repositories of information. Rightly or wrongly, society seems to be coming to the conclusion that it does not need repositories any more. For the past several decades, libraries have been reinventing themselves into idea factories. Why did society start building large collections of books … Continue reading