Earlier this month, Wired magazine ran an article by Clive Thompson that discusses how students today lack reliable Internet search skills despite being digital natives. He points to a study conducted by the College of Charleston where a group of students were asked to look up the answers to several questions. Most of the students used Google and selected the web pages at the top of the list, not knowing that the order had been changed to include less reliable sources as a part of the experiment. The study concluded that the students placed too much faith in the search engine-generated results than in their own abilities to assess information.
Why are students who are so adept at navigating the digital world so unskilled when it comes to selecting what’s reliable and accurate? Perhaps public libraries may be able to help bridge the gap between students’ tech savvy and their search skills. By partnering with our local schools, librarians can work with educators to develop programs that foster students’ critical thinking skills, creating more knowledgeable and wary consumers of information. While information literacy may not be at the forefront of teen programs at the library, it can become an intrinsic and valuable part of programming that supports the efforts of our counterparts in public education. If the public library’s mission is to provide an environment where lifelong learning can thrive, then it’s imperative that we assist in the digital education of our teen customers.
If your library offers information literacy programs for teens, please share your experiences with the readers. What worked? What hasn’t? Perhaps through our combined efforts we can make a difference in how students search for and use information, one library at a time.