Adult literacy: the missing piece in the information literacy landscape

ALIA Library

McMahon, Andrea; Levett, Libby

ALIA National 2022 Conference, 16 May - 19 May 2022 Canberra: Diversity
Abstract: Before the focus on Media Literacy there was Digital Literacy, and before that Information Literacy. Indeed Information Literacy can be considered the umbrella term for both digital and media literacy and continues to be a foundation stone of our profession. If we characterise Information Literacy as a puzzle with many pieces, too often the missing piece is adult literacy. And there's evidence that this inability to read (or read fluently) is a significant barrier to adults accessing our services and programs. Providing access to information is more than providing access to our physical and virtual collections, places and spaces. As library professionals we must address access at the basic level of being able to independently find, decode, comprehend and use information. Building on our role as digital and media literacy champions, we need to highlight adult literacy as a fundamental component of inclusive and equitable access to, and participation in, an increasingly complex and information-rich society. And in doing so, acknowledge and work with the diverse characteristics and contexts of public libraries and the communities and individuals they serve. This will deliver increased successes in our mission to create an information literate society for all. In Australian public libraries, adult literacy learning is an evolving and diverse offering. The ALIA Adult Literacy Group aims to be a trusted, collaborative place for LIS staff to go to when they're trying to place 'the missing piece' in their information literacy puzzle. It will advocate for recognition of library adult literacy programs as legitimate and vital offerings that stand alongside and complement those offered in the adult education sector. It will highlight the advantages of public library reach, flexibility and opportunity for adults who cannot or will not access other paths to literacy. It will be a safe space to ask questions, deliberate and debate. A trusted space with shared evidence-based literacy resources and models to support decision-making and action in diverse library contexts and communities. Our presentation will discuss the recent history of adult literacy provision in Australian public libraries. It will provide examples of how libraries can adapt their services and programs to the diverse needs of their members and communities. And it will invite delegates to (re)consider what it means to be an information professional.

Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association