Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"The fact is that people don’t read anymore." —Steve Jobs

I take exception with Mr. Jobs' statement (1/15/08, MacWorld Expo, The Passion of Steve Jobs). People are still reading, they are just reading differently. Postliterate, new literacy, 21st century skills, call it what you want. We are in the midst of a cultural revolution.

In Doug Johnson's very smart article Libraries for a Postliterate Society, he examines the role of libraries in a society that is less and less paper based. For librarians this can be a tough discussion. We are a group of people with a strong sensory bond to the book-in-hand knowledge experience. "Postliterate" feels like a creepy shift towards illiteracy and a loss of skills. This is our paper bias.

The postliterate library, according to Johnson, will offer new materials and services for patron needs. Material in diverse formats, platforms for collaborative work, media creation resources to share learning, and these are just a few.

So, what does postliterate mean?

Wikipedia defines it this way (2008): Postliterate Society ,"In a postliterate society people can read words, but choose not to. They generally receive information in a visual form instead of a verbal form."

Webster's Online Dictionary's definition (1960): relating to or occurring after the introduction of the electronic media

Oxford English Dictionary (Sept. 2009) says: postliterate adj. of or designating a time or milieu characterized by a decline in the importance or prevalence of the written word.

According to Andrea Lunsford of the Stanford University Study of Writing, "we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization". Technology is revitalizing writing and communication. This revitalization has brought new literacies.

Our students are communicating at a greater rate than ever before. Just watch the computers at CCHS. Writing for class assignments, writing for social networking, texting, IM, reading in multiple formats, music, dialogue - they are engaged in a multiple sensory experience. Their world is rich and multi-dimensional. They are already in the postliterate world. The old fluencies are there, but augmented with so many new genres of learning, information, collaboration and sharing. Their world is so exciting!

And this brings us full circle. As Doug Johnson so eloquently states, "culture determines library programs; libraries transmit culture." The postliterate culture is here. Viva la revolution!

Source articles:
Libraries for a Postliterate Society
Multimedia & Internet @ Schools, Doug Johnson

Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

Education Business Blog:
Wired Nails it on the New Literacy

New York Times:
The Passion of Steve Jobs
Published: January 21, 2008

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Treasured Books

Uploaded on October 4, 2008
by 1bluecanoe

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