The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a message for school librarians angered over a recent New York Times story that mentions the creation of a “digital literacy corps”: no one is trying to usurp their jobs.
“It’s not targeted at teaching kids in schools,” says Josh Gottheimer, FCC’s senior counselor to the chairman, about the proposed $200 million federal plan for the creation of a digital literacy program. “It’s really about families and others in the community. We’re not trying to duplicate but to close the gap for others.”
While the FCC is considering the creation of a digital literacy corps, confirms Gottheimer, this would involve classes taught after hours and to the general public, not directly to students in the classroom or school library. The program could receive up to $50 million a year over four years, he says, but no decision has been made as of yet. And schools and public libraries were picked because of the ability for the general public to come to these sites.
As for schools, Gottheimer says, “It’s their choice, if they so desire, to be part of this process.”
School librarians reacted so strongly to the story that representatives of the American Library Association (ALA) reached out to some bloggers to help clarify the role the ALA has had with the FCC over the proposal to help quell concerns.
“This is not for a corps of people to go out and do training, but for schools and libraries to help frame classes for the general public and they’re not for children,” says Marijke Visser, assistant director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy. “Schools would be eligible for the money if they were open after school hours.”
Some say the ensuing confusion stemming from the story actually helped illuminate the need for school and public librarians to better advocate for their role in educating students—and the public—about digital literacy, says Susan Ballard, president-elect of the American Association of School Librarians.
“We’re now alerted to the fact that we have to get a cultural change so people understand what school, public, and academic librarians do,” she says. “So we have some work to do, and immediately.”
Photo by Hackley Public Library.