Media literacy

How to Use ALA’s Guide to Media Literacy

Alas Media Literacy in the Library: A Guide for Library Practitioners, published in November 2020, is “designed to support libraries in their efforts to improve the media literacy skills of adults in their communities”. So what exactly is media literacy? According to the guide, the National Association for Media Literacy (NAMLE) defines it as “the ability to access, analyse, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication”. Simply put, it’s about taking what we see, consume and create in our daily lives and understanding how it all makes sense together. For humans wandering this planet today, media literacy is an essential skill that takes a bit of the old, mixes it with the new and hopes to build a global community of thinkers, creators, communicators and actors – all of whom can contribute effectively and positively to modern society.


Contributors to the guide think about media literacy as a whole, not just in chunks that focus only on certain topical issues. From daily interactions with patrons and managing library programs and events to “How can I use this as a library manager to help shape policy?” this document provides a basic entry point for all librarians. During my second and third reading of the guide, I came away with the idea that much of this information would be most useful for librarians who interact with older users (35-70 years old). That’s not to say it wouldn’t be useful for all age groups, but many of the talking points, program ideas, and general tips are aimed at helping librarians communicate better with people in that age group. ‘age.

One of the sections that public librarians will find most useful is Meeting patrons where they are (pages 4-7). There are so many things a librarian can encounter when working with the public every day. Those patrons who come to you at the library to talk politics or some other hot topic will never leave, and it feels like no matter how well we prepare, we’re always caught off guard by their approach. . While this guide is not the silver bullet that will walk you through each of these interactions, it will give you some pointers and, most importantly, inspiration to deal with these interactions with kindness, honesty, and facts.

I really appreciate the approach this guide takes to these interactions, suggesting that the librarian “finds ways to introduce media literacy concepts into the interactions you already have with your patrons”, while offering great lines to say to the user when talking about some of these interactions. topics such as “Why do you think this source [we’re discussing] is reliable compared to others? Let me show you some tools you can use to determine if the media you’re watching has the intention of informing you, rather than persuading or entertaining. Meeting patrons where they are and using the information provided in this guide could give the field librarian the tools to feel comfortable, manage the situation, and end the conversation in a positive way for all parties involved. . Kindness and understanding lead the way.

The connection is heavily emphasized in this document, and most of the first part focuses on just that. Short but sweet, the Media Literacy and Your Existing Programs subsection (page 6) will steer any librarian on the right path to inspiration on how to integrate media literacy into the programs and events you libraries are so great to organize. In the following subsection, Media Literacy for Staff and Community Partners (page 7), readers may find the advice a bit flat. It offers generic advice on how to have conversations and positively approach the subject of media literacy, but it doesn’t really offer much as an inspiring starting point to talk to staff and partners community. At a time when our staff are the most important part of the library and our community partners are becoming increasingly involved, it would have been great to focus on how to do this.


While mostly keeping things at an easy-to-read level, the guide dives into some great topics. Most important of all is misinformation and misinformation (page 20), which has most likely been our society’s defining topic since around 2015. Every librarian will likely need to give away this section, which focuses on issues such as filters” and “”, a few proofreadings then let the information settle in their brain. These aren’t necessarily topics the field librarian will have conversations about with community members, but it’s good to know these big concepts so that when you come across them, you know where to go. Library leaders and managers should take note, pause, and reflect as they read this section, asking themselves, “How can I help my staff help the community understand misinformation and misinformation?” These are the topics that library leaders should think about, always with the staff members who run the library and operate at the heart of their decisions.

The other big topics – Architecture of the Internet (page 9), Citizenship (page 12), and Media Landscape and Economics (page 16) – are also unlikely to be covered by customers while you help them find copies of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in your library system, but they are there because it is good for all of us in the profession to be aware of them and how they interact with everyone in our modern society. For example, the Media Landscape and Economy section states, “Always keep in mind the purpose of the media you consume. Your reasons for consuming it and the meanings you derive from it may or may not match those of its creators.


Media Literacy in the Library: A Guide for Library Practitioners offers a clear set of possibilities for moving towards integrating a media literacy program into your library. It should certainly not be overlooked, even by a librarian familiar with the subject of media literacy. The guide is written in an easy-to-digest manner, and it strikes a basic tone that should resonate with anyone who reads it. I was disappointed not to see anything Libraries Freedom Project the resources included in this guide; I think this organization has done some of the most proactive work in educating librarians and their communities about media literacy and privacy issues. I strongly suggest you check out his work after reading this guide.

Additionally, the Media Creation and Engagement section of the guide (page 23) could have been expanded considerably. In fact, it could possibly become one of the most useful library books ever written, as more people self-publish and libraries delve into creative spaces, creative spaces, and the works of editing. (My own Wellington City Libraries recently published an anthology of youth poetry titled Tuhono.)

Small criticisms aside, every public librarian who works or will work in a public library should read this guide. Much of its information should be very useful to small and medium-sized, rural, and semi-rural public libraries in the United States, especially where communities may lean toward conservative ways of thinking. The guide will help these types of library workers adopt key skills and caring approaches on how to bring the subject of media literacy to their communities. For beginners in media education, this will allow them to deepen the subject. For the advanced media literacy librarian, it’s a reminder to keep learning and keep this topic fresh in your mind.


Read Media Literacy in the Library: A Guide for Library Practitioners here.

Read ALA’s June 2020 Strategic Report on Media Literacy in Libraries for Adult Audiences here.

Register for ALA’s Adult Media Literacy Webinars here.

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