18th LIASA Annual Conference: Abstracts: Branching out: The Librarian as Educator

Branching out: The Librarian as Educator

Sonja van der Westhuizen

“Of those who enrol in grade 10 with a view of writing their final school-leaving exam, the National Senior Certificate, two years later, half fail to do so, while only 16% obtain passes good enough to get them into university for degree purposes” (Cronje, 2015:15).  On the other hand, the National Development Plan 2030 envisions 10 million university graduates with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree by 2030 (National Planning Commission, 2011: 261-294).  At the time I became aware of these statistics I acted as Librarian in an Information Commons for undergraduate students at a higher learning institution.  My duties focussed on information literacy training and while observing the research (mainly Google), reading (non-linear hypertext reading) and writing skills (digital ethos) of undergraduate students, I decided to research Generation Z and their ability to apply new literacy skills to advance their learning in a society driven by technology.

My research lead me to find out that in 2011 only 7% of the 24 793 ordinary public schools in South Africa had stocked libraries (Veriava, 2012).  I started questioning my own relevance, competency and role as librarian and started looking at information literacy in terms of:

  • new literacies that “arise from new technologies include things like text-messaging, blogging, social networking, podcasting, and videomaking [and how] … these technologies change what it means to both “read” and “write” texts” (Watters, 2014);
  • the social nature of learning in these new literacy environments;
  • connectivism and its impact on the nature of information, knowledge and learning;
  • 21st century skills (my own, and how I could foster these skills in my community of practice (OCLC WebJunction, 2014).

I realised that I could make a contribution to better prepare learners for the information age even before they set foot at a higher learning institution and this set me on an exciting path by getting involved with a mentorship program for in-service teachers and developing and presenting a short course for pre-service foundation phase preservice teachers on ICTs (Information and Communication Technology) and 21st Century Technology Skills.

Once specialists in the science of information and the technology that accompanies it, start looking at their skills and realise how it can be applied outside the walls of a library, it is possible to “branch out” and evolve in order to find new avenues to embed themselves.