What do you do?
At the core, I am a school librarian, but my involvement in PK-16 education and the media literacy community has widened. After many years as a high school librarian in Rhode Island, I earned a PhD in Education. Now I teach and guide graduate students who want to become school librarians. Officially, I am a Professor and Coordinator of the School Library Media Program at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS) in the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island. I teach courses in Digital Information Literacy Instruction, School Library Services, Children’s Materials and Services, and School Library Media Seminar and Practicum. I am also a representative on the School Librarians of Rhode Island Association board and on the steering committee of the newly formed Media Literacy Now – RI organization.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
For the past three years, I have been the program director of Media Smart Libraries, an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant awarded to GSLIS. One of the goals of the grant was to advance the digital and media literacy competencies of practicing school and public youth librarians. We accomplished this by designing a digital badge program where participants attended workshops and provided evidence of their learning to earn badges in five core media literacy competencies: Access and Use, Analyze and Evaluate, Create and Collaborate, Reflect, and Take Action. Forty librarians completed the badge program and hundreds of others attended the fifty workshops we held over a two-year period. We were fortunate to have media literacy experts such as Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, Faith Rogow, and Renee Hobbs involved at different stages of the project.
Why is media literacy important to you?
There’s been a lot of talk in the library world about the difference between media literacy and information literacy, or if there is any difference at all. Historically, librarians have focused on information literacy skills to support students’ academic success and their development as informed and contributing citizens. My stance is that media literacy and information literacy are not the same, but close cousins. Information literacy is the ability to locate, access, use, and synthesize information to resolve an information need. Media literacy is the ability to analyze and create media messages in all forms such as ads, TV shows, music, news, movies and videos. Both literacies demand critical thinking and analysis skills to determine bias, authority, purpose, audience, and accuracy. The national focus on media literacy education validates the important lifelong learning skills that school librarians already support.
What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I am excited about how the increased awareness of the need for media literacy education is bringing like-minded groups together to make a difference. More teachers, administrators, parents, school libraries, public libraries, academic libraries, and other community organizations are working together to share what they are already doing in media literacy education and developing plans to do more. Working together, we can use the synergy and momentum to advocate for the requirement of learning opportunities for all students in media literacy education.
Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I became a member of NAMLE after meeting and working with the incredible Michelle Ciulla Lipkin as part of the Media Smart Libraries grant. The benefits of NAMLE are that it has fantastic resources and the community is incredibly welcoming and diverse. The members have an wide range of expertise and everyone is passionate about sharing their work and ideas to elevate the field. I’m excited to be part of a crucial organization in the promotion and support of media literacy education.