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Marijke Visser (staff)'s picture

Read the report

Reviewing the Digital Literacy Report

September 18- October 19 2012


Overview of the comment period goals

The OITP Digital Literacy Task Force is pleased to share this preliminary report and is seeking feedback from across the profession on this draft.  The report provides a broad overview of libraries and digital literacy. It discusses the current policy context, including digital inclusion, education, life-long learning, and workforce development. The report outlines library-specific issues and opportunities.  It reaffirms the need for traditional, text-based literacy in reading and writing as a foundation for other literacies.  Finally, the report serves as a launching point for the development of a set of recommendations to the Association and the broader library community to continue and expand libraries’ engagement and leadership to effect meaningful and sustainable change in our communities.  The Task Force will develop these recommendations as a companion piece to this report.

As you review the draft, please focus your feedback on substantive issues. Specifically, the task force asks representatives of each library type to consider how your library is portrayed.  Are the examples demonstrative of the work you do?  Are the issues that are most important to you and your colleagues addressed?  Please provide comments that in turn provide the task force with enough information to effectively address your suggestions or concerns.

How to comment

When you open the report you will notice that each paragraph is numbered: [para 1], [para 2], and so on.  To ensure that we can track each comment, please refer to the page number and the paragraph number at the beginning of your comment.  Please do this for each section you wish to comment on.

Please use the comment option below to submit your comments.  Task Force members will review each comment when the public comment period is over.  Please do not submit line edits.  Prior to publication we will have a copy editor review the final draft version.  At that time endnotes will be formatted in APA style.  If you have a clarifying question, please send an email to mvisser@alawash.org.

Thank you for your help and insights to this work. The comment period is open from September 18 to October 19, 2012.


Charles Parker's picture

I believe that the list of attributes of a digitally literate person needs to be expanded to include the abiltity to create content incorporating images, color, and graphics and the ability to create multimedia content incorporating sound, video and animation.

Our operating definition of literacy including reading (of course) and the ability write effectively and correctly has been blown by by popular culture.  This is a change that while not recognized and acknowledged has already happened.  This isn't a change that is coming, it is the reality we live in now.

It will be interesting to see how education curricula respond.  What will English teachers teach?  Will they team teach with graphic artists and videographers - cartoonists?  And if we think society is having fun with standardized testing now, just wait!

Valerie Hill's picture

[page 2, para 3] The statement “digital literacy must include mastery of traditional literacy” is important (as stated) because of the ever-changing nature of technology.  The nomenclature, too, may require change.  The terms transliteracy and information literacy are both considered to be a larger umbrella than either media literacy or digital literacy.  Information professionals agree that literacy has changed and will change.  So, too, must our descriptive language.  In a recent discussion with colleagues, most currently prefer information literacy as the over-arching term.  However, transliteracy seems to suggest multi-formats (trans=across) such as augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual worlds, and literacy skills that mixed traditional formats with digital formats.

While keeping the focus of this report on the topic of digital literacy is clear, I think it is important to consider how specific terms might evolve.

Carrie Donovan's picture

Thank you for the opportunity to read this report and comment! My feedback is regarding [para 61] on page 14 - the section on Information Literacy Assessment Initiatives in Academic Libraries. The mention of tests is a good starting point - although it would be great to include the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) which is developing an Information Literacy Survey Module and to omit LibQual, which I have never found particularly relevant to IL assessment. In addition to tests, librarians are working hard to build learning assessments that are outcomes-based into their repertoire as part of a larger "research agenda" to document the impact and value of libraries - this is all well documented in "Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report" by Megan Oakleaf (2010), pages 37-42, if additional examples are needed. Thanks, again!

Lisa Hinchliffe's picture

Carrie - Great to have your comments and be reminded for the NSSE effort. I'd like to see LibQUAL left in since it does have some baseline questions at least and so many libraries do it. We are working on a project here at UIUC to figure out how to combine those IL questions with other LQ data points to see a more meaningful story. But, pointing to other resources is definitely a good addition!

Dorcas Hand's picture

Thank you all for working so diligently to compile such a comprehensive report. It makes many important points artfully and clearly. I did note a couple if issues.

  • [para13] What exactly are ICTs? I glean a general definition from the context, but did not see it spelled out anywhere handy.
  • [para 39] line 1 - "Dominic's" has no reason for the pssessive form. I bet many folks caught that one already.
  • [para 63] line 1 - "are often are" should be either "are often" or "often are". I guess there was some debate...
  • [para 63 and 64] - I think there is some repetitious language here around the issue of responsibility. I'm not sure how to clear it up - but I didn't like reading almost the quote again immediately after.
  • [para 68] line 3 - What is a BTOP? The acronym is reused several times from here through the next page, and I didn't know what it meant.

Again, thank you for your work. I'm sure it was intense to get the language as clear and concise as it is.

Dorcas Hand
School Library Advocate
ALA Council Member-at-Large

Susan McKinlay's picture

Para 64:  Thank you for posting the report for review.  At the library I was working at last year - Pierce County Public Library South Hill Branch in Washington State - has increased the number of public computers on the floor from 54 to 62 and remodeled to the one desk model.  This trend of offering the public more computers for access while decreasing points of service is what is happening.  I realize that salaries cost money and that online click tutors are not always sufficient for some library users.  I assisted a seven year old in using MS Word one evening.  He typed two sentences and needed to print the document also.  Older non-digital users are windowed out of the job market, some can handle an email and that level of skill is not sufficient for a job application.  So I would add a line about how staffing is changing.

Para 65:  bottom lines:   

requests for sophisticated technological help. Downturns in the economy and associated cuts in funding, staffing, and hours have made providing a range of digital services challenging for most institutions.

I would edit: 

in funding, staffing, service models, and hours have made providiing a range of digital servides challenging for most institutions.


Lauren Moore (non-member)'s picture

Great work on this!  Here are some things that occurred to me as I read:

[para 7]: I admit my evidence is only anecodotal, though I'd wager an analysis of BTOP data would confirm this, but I think that another, equally important and certainly related lesson learned from BTOP projects is that engaging and immediately rewarding digital literacy occurs most effectively in one-on-one instruction settings.  The shift in the library digital literacy instruction from a classroom model to personalized, one-on-one instruction is too huge to overlook. It's happened at each of the BTOP libraries in our System.  This shift has had a positive impact on the efficacy of digital literacy instruction, but has demands much more staff time and library resources.

[para 12]: I think it's useful to include statistics about unequal access to high bandwidth Internet infrastructure.  Many rural areas in New York lack access to the Internet speeds necessary to participate in the digital age.

[para 70]: What happens when BTOP grants expire?  Larger libraries will be able to build on the momentum created by these projects, absorb most of the programming initiated by the funds, and continue to offer high level digital literacy instruction.  Small libraries, however, will be unable to sustain their digital literacy efforts.  Our System's mobile BTOP lab, for example, is unlikely to continue once the funding for the instructors is gone.   Small libraries will return to pre-BTOP staffing levels (in some cases just one part-time library director and a couple volunteers) and will no longer have the resources to offer intensive, personalized, and immediately rewarding digital literacy instruction.

This funding issue speaks to [para 67].  One-shot funding programs are not going to solve the problem of inequitable access.   Investment in digital literacy needs to be sustainable, prolonged, and supported by permanent policy that acknowledges libraries' place at the front line of digital literacy instruction.

Susan Ballard's picture

On behalf of AASL, I am pleased to provide feedback to the Digital Literacy Task Force on the preliminary report Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Public Policy.” Buffy Hamilton and Kristin Fontichiaro served as AASL reps to the TF until June, and thereafter Francey Harris and Wendy Steadman Stephens stepped in.  We are aware that Buffy and Kristin provided considerable input on the initial iteration of the report, much of which was incorporated into this revision.  Wendy and Francey have indicated that they feel SL's are well-represented, but do feel more emphasis on our curricular role could be included.  To that end, the AASL Board reviewed the report and offers the following for your consideration

First, we happy to note that the input provided by our previous representatives has been included and overall, we agree with the analysis of our current  representatives that the role of school librarians is, in general, accurately represented in this revised report.  AASL Board member, Karen Eggar, summed up our overall reaction when she observed “it (the report) points out the many ways we are involved with digital information retrieval and evaluation.” However, as one of our other board members, Catherine Evans, notes, although reference is made to the "appropriate stewardship of information" more emphasis on the ethics of digital literacy needs to be incorporated in this document.  This is an aspect (at least in the school environment) that is an important part of our curriculum. We feel that school libraries that are in the best position to develop this aspect of digital literacy. 

Additionally, Evans noted that as the numbers in the report indicate that there are approximately four times as many school libraries as public and academic, there should be more prominence in the action plans which should indicate that these libraries need to all be staffed with professionals.  The federal funding piece for families with a student or students on free/reduced lunch is a huge opportunity for school librarians to take action and combine with community outreach.

Board member, Val Edwards, pointed out that while school libraries are well represented here, there could be more emphasis on how the three types of libraries (public, school, and college/research) complement each other.  A focus on opportunities for multi-type libraries to collaborate would serve everyone.  (Ex. parent/community training & support, community use of resources, partnerships w/public & academic libraries).

Our President-elect, Gail Dickinson, also expressed overall support for the report noting it makes an effort to cover all types of libraries and their related efforts to instill digital literacy.  The specific role of the school librarian is nicely highlighted and the report indicates that not only does the presence of a qualified school librarian provide opportunities for students and teachers to improve digital literacy access and skills, but that they also teach those skills and assesses student learning progress.  Although we must note that this major point is not necessarily covered as strongly as it could be, which aligns with the analysis of our representatives.

Dickinson also indicated, and we wish to underscore, that while we understand that the purpose of the report is to assess the state of digital literacy as it relates to libraries, we would also like to see a projection of the future status of digital literacy and the role of. 

Some additional specifics noted by Evans include:

Paragraph 2- there seems to be somewhat of a disconnect between point 4 and point 5 i.e. when defining a digitally literate person when the report notes we  collaborate "on occasion" with the general public and then say "contribute to a vibrant, informed and engaged community” in the next point.

Paragraph 8 - we know that final editing will be done with this document, but note that the report should be changed to read from “patrons with which they interact” to “patrons with whom they interact”

Paragraph 14- when the report refers to a 2011 study*, what study is that?  Shouldn’t t be specified?  Also, later in the paragraph " framing the issue in terms of digital literacy suggests that schools, libraries and individuals are responsible" and it should probably say that digital literacy suggests that educational institutions (rather than just schools), libraries...."

Paragraph 46 we need to define rubric, it is one those terms that we think everybody knows, but they probably do not.

In closing, we very much appreciate all the hard work that has already gone into this work and are very grateful for the TF’s ongoing work to ensure that all types of libraries are appropriately represented.

*We want to emphasize that there are other areas of the report where references are made to programs, studies, etc. where the reader is left without specifics or explanation- we think that needs to be addressed and a assume that in the final editing process the copy editor will carefully review to assure that the report provides explanations and also does not reference “library language” that the rest of the world does not understand.


Rosanne Cordell's picture

Thank you so much for your substantive response to the draft report. AASL is an important partner in our digital literacy work, and your taking the time to give us these helpful comments is greatly appreciated.

Rosanne Cordell, chair

Digital Literacy Task Force

Anthony Sarmiento's picture

My compliments and thanks to the OITP digital literacy task force for its excellent draft report. As a former chair of the RUSA RSS Committee on Library Services to an Aging Population and adult literacy advocate, I appreciated the references in ¶2 about the skills needed to create as well as understand information, and the references in ¶6 and ¶7 in support of contextual digital literacy training.

I would like to offer two suggestions that I urge you to consider as you prepare the final draft of the report:

First, please consider increasing your emphasis of the relationship between digital literacy and our democratic form of government. For example, you could include “elected officials” in bullet 4 of ¶2; revise ¶9 to focus entirely on full civic and political participation (and move the two sentences on jobs and job applications to another paragraph); and in ¶14 elaborate on the costs of digital exclusion to citizen participation in our democracy.

Second, I strongly suggest that you describe the challenges of achieving universal digital literacy among older adults. I appreciated the quotation about senior citizens from a Pew report in ¶12 and the reference to reaching learners “of different ages” in ¶74 and “helping people, no matter at what stage in life they are” in the closing paragraph that follows. However, as stated in ¶14, how an issue is framed often “influences who is perceived as responsible for addressing the related issues.”

Lack of access or lack of ability to use digital technologies only partly explains why 24 million older Americans are offline today: another major reason is that too many seniors perceive that the Internet is irrelevant to their lives and does not offer significant benefits to them. They are not among those who “understand the benefits of advanced information and communication technologies, as stated in the first bullet of the definition of digital literacy in ¶16. As a result, we need to develop a strategy that specifically and effectively addresses the perceived irrelevance among too many older Americans.

These older adults are too often excluded by major current efforts to achieve universal digital literacy, such as the Connect2Compete initiative described in ¶18. Many older adults are finding that their local public library is one of the few places that is committed to help them learn these new technologies that are critical to their future as productive workers, loving family members, and active citizens in their community and our democratic society.

Thank you again for your superb report.



Tony Sarmiento

Executive Director, Senior Service America, Inc.

Silver Spring, MD