Digital Literacies – skills for the 21st Century

The continual changes in technologies affect our lives in so many ways.  It is a constant struggle to stay abreast of those changes, make informed decisions, and choose when to migrate to the latest, greatest, newest hi-tech product or software update.  In higher education we know that technology impacts us in many ways, ranging from integrating technology into our teaching, to the impact of changes in G Suite on our daily work lives, to how digital tools can be introduced to students for assignments in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities in meaningful ways.  One of the aims of our Mellon Grant for the Digital Liberal Arts is “to create a community of digital learners: faculty who have used digital techniques in both their research and the classroom those who are interested in doing so, and experts from our library and IT departments.” [1] It is this aspect of creating a “community of digital learners” that I’d like to address.

In their article, “From Written to Digital: The New Literacy”, Phil Ventimiglia and George Pullman begin by pointing out that Walter Isaacson in his book,  The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution  “contends that the major innovations of the digital revolution—from the first general-purpose computer to the transistor to the iPhone—were all created by individuals who understood how to synthesize the humanities with technology.”[2] On a similar theme, this spring there is a CST sponsored reading group that is reading the Fuzzy and the Techy: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the World.  The promotion for the reading group, read

In response to some of the discussions at the FAIR and faculty meetings this fall, our group will read venture capitalist Scott Hartley’s The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World. “Scott Hartley artfully explains why it is time for us to get over the false division between the human and the technical,” one reviewer writes. “If received and acted upon with the seriousness it deserves, we can anticipate real benefits for business and society.” “Great book for all,” writes another. “Blows up the false dichotomy in education between tech and liberal arts. This book shows that not only can both coexist; it is dangerous if they don’t both exist side by side in an integrated manner. They make each other more effective.”[3]

Both of these references point out the benefits of integrating technology into the liberal arts. This can occur on many different levels and integrating technology into the curriculum is already underway in many courses.  However,  as Ventimiglia and Pullman further point out, although teaching with technology is a focus in higher education, a more important issue is what are we teaching our students about living in a digital age.  They state, “[s]tudents can be more successful after graduation if they are digitally literate.”  So, I would like to suggest that we consider that it isn’t enough to just integrate technology into teaching.  In terms of creating a community of digital learners, how are we introducing students to what it means to be  “digitally literate?”  I think we need to start considering what is needed to ensure our students graduate with the skills they need to survive in the 21st century and we also need to consider how to convey to the students why this important for their future success. Just slightly more than thirty years ago members of the library staff embarked on the process of developing a program for integrating information literacy into the curriculum and it has developed into a very successful program.   Now we need to consider what it means to be a digitally literate person and why this is critical for the 21st century.

So what exactly is “digital literacy”?  Bryn Mawr has developed a Mellon-funded, ambitious program,  as outlined in their paper discussing the Bryn Mawr Digital Competencies Framework. [4] Built on the model of the Association for College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education . Bryn Mawr identifies 5 skill areas:

  1. Digital Survival Skills – learning network and file management, troubleshooting, and managing one’s digital identity and security, and developing critical understanding of databases.
  2. Digital Communication – learning use of collaborative tools, digital writing and publishing, and producing audiovisual materials.
  3. Data Management and Preservation – learning how to develop online surveys, protecting one’s data, and organizing, managing and preserving the data.
  4. Data Analysis and Presentation – learning how to use Excel along with software tools to manipulate data, and to develop skills in data visualization.
  5. Critical Making, Design and Development – learning how to interpret and edit computing code, developing competencies in design thinking, project management, and digital tools for disciplinary research.

You can go to Bryn Mawr’s Digital Competencies website and read in more detail about their initiative.  Their program focuses on helping students from the start of their education at Bryn Mawr to launching their careers.

Bryn Mawr’s program is inspiring and worth reviewing for consideration in developing a similar initiative at Macalester.   In today’s technology driven world, where change is rapid and constant, all fields leading to careers incorporate new technologies that require robust digital literacy skills.  In order to be nimble, our students need skills to survive in a technological environment that is pervasive at work, home, and recreation.  The role of the library staff in helping to develop digital literacy skills is partially based on the Framework for Information Literacy frame that focuses on Information Creation as a Process:

“Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.” [5]

However, all of the digital skill areas identified by Bryn Mawr are based on the information literacy framework.  The library staff and ITS staff are involved in conversations about digital literacy because we see some specific needs we could address.  In addition, developing a program that focuses on digital literacy is something that would also specifically address one of the objectives in Macalester’s Strategic Plan.  It is stated that we want to  “[b]ecome a leader among liberal arts colleges in the use of technology to improve and broaden the reach of teaching and learning.”  I think if we want to become a leader, this involves the necessary task of improving the digital literacy skills in our students.

When we began our program to integrate information literacy into the curriculum, we started by focusing on the first year courses.  Today, every first year course includes a library component and we have expanded to include more library sessions in upper division and research oriented courses.  So, if we were to use a similar model, we need to find a starting point.  Conversations are underway between staff in the library and members of ITS about how best to move forward in developing a program focused on digital literacy competencies at Macalester for all members of our community.  As part of the Mellon grant is focused on creating a community of digital learners, what about a community focused on creating digitally literate individuals?  Would you be interested in joining the conversation?  If so, please send me a note and let me know and we will coordinate further conversations to help us develop a path forward.






  1. “Macalester Receives $800,00 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for Digital Liberal Arts and Writing,”

2. Phil Ventimiglia and George Pullman. “From Written to Digital: The New Literacy.” EDUCAUSE REVIEW, March/April 2016.

3.  CST News, Jan. 4, 2018

4.  Bryn Mawr College, “Bryn Mawr Digital Competencies Framework” (2016). Blending Learning Research and Open Educational Resources. 3.

5.  Association of College and Research Libraries, “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. 2015.


Additional Readings

Alexander, B., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M. & Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). Digital Literacy in Higher Education, Part II: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. (Volume 3.4, August 2017).

2017 Digital Literacy Impact Study; an NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief, vo. 3.5, November 2017

Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ) – Middlebury College –


Open Access Week – October 23-29

During Open Access Week we will be focusing our promotion on Lever Press and open access monograph publishing.  More people are familiar with open access journal publishing, so we’re going to focus on the initiatives we support that produce monographs.  As part of the week activities, we will be hosting a joint viewing of a live webinar featuring a panel of representatives from various initiatives talking about open access monographs.  The webinar will take place from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and we will continue after the webinar for another 30 minutes to answer questions and share more information on Lever Press.  Participants will be able to submit questions during the broadcast, but we are also collecting questions ahead of the session.  (See form link at end of this post.)  We hope faculty and staff will join us to learn more about how scholarly publishing is changing.

Information on the event:

Open Access Monographs – Current initiatives and progress on sustainable models for making monographs openly accessible.  Webinar for Open Access Week, Tuesday, October 24, 3 p.m- 4:30 p.m. Harmon Room. – For Faculty & Staff.  Refreshments will be served.

The open access monograph is now definitely an important component of the scholarly communications landscape.  However, with a growing number of initiatives, publishers, and economic models, the question is sustainability.  There are a number of different models, including Open Book Publishers, Open Humanities Press, and numerous university and commercial publishers who have open monograph publications, thus more initiatives than we could include for this one-hour webinar.  A  selected number of representatives from various open monograph publishing initiatives will participate in a panel discussion about their current economic models and future of open access monographs.  Each panelist will give a brief statement about their initiative, their editorial review process, their funding model, and their perspectives on the future of open access monographs.  Following their brief statements, we will have a question and answer period moderated by Kevin Smith, the Dean of Libraries at  the University of Kansas.

Participants for the panel include:

  • AAUP Open Access Monograph Publishing InitiativeWendy Pradt Lougee, University Librarian and McKnight Presidential Professor, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  The Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and Association of American University Presses (AAUP) are implementing a new initiative with 13 universities and 60 university presses participating.  Universities will provide subventions for open digital monographs, to be published by university presses.
  • Lever Press and Knowledge UnlatchedCharles Watkinson, Associate University Librarian for Publishing, University of Michigan Library, and Director, University of Michigan Press. University of Michigan Press and Amherst Press are partners in the Lever Press which is supported by pledging institutions. University of Michigan Press has also been an active participant in Knowledge Unlatched,  which uses a crowd -source funding model to make previously published works openly available. Charles is also a Board Member of Knowledge Unlatched Research and will compare Lever Press with KU.
  • LuminosErich van Rijn, Assistant Director, Director of Publishing Operations at University of California Press.  The financial model is shared costs between author, institution, publisher, and libraries.
  • University of Ottawa Press Lara Mainville, Director of University of Ottawa Press. OA publications are funded by the University of Ottawa libraries.
  • Moderator:  Kevin Smith, Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas.  Prior to joining the University of Kansas, Kevin served as Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communications at the Duke University Libraries.

This webinar is being sponsored by Lever Press.  Please RSVP to join us in the Harmon Room with this form.

If you have a question for the panelists, questions are also being collected ahead of the presentation with this form.

I hope you’ll plan on joining us.

Community Conversations: Discussing the future of the library

We held our first noon-time conversation on Tuesday, January 31  and had a good wide-ranging conversation about many aspects of change in the library.  Beginning with a question based on visiting academic libraries with sons and daughters looking at colleges, what kind of changes are currently underway in libraries?  And another question was how do librarians talk about the changes when we are at conferences?  And the question was asked as to what do students experience when coming to college that is different from their high school library experience, if they used a high school library.  And another question was about how to explain that research cannot be reduced to a single search box, such as Google.  We were asked about Maker Spaces and talked about a movement of creating that is being featured in all types of libraries, public libraries and college and community college libraries.  We talked about changing collections, library instruction, the flexibility of our own building to adapt to change, digital projects, and more.  We all have different perspectives on the wide array of services we offer, so it was a lively conversation.

For those who couldn’t attend today’s session, but want to stay abreast of the conversations, here is a brief recap of some of the threads:

  • Current changes include an increasing transition to more digital content.  This doesn’t mean the elimination of print books, but rather transitioning from DVDs to streaming videos, from music CDs to streaming online music services, and from print journals to online journals.  Our journal transition started long ago as most journals are now digital and most of our backfile print journals on the lower level have been digitized. The transition to ebooks has been slower primarily due to publishers who want to control how we “own” or rent ebooks.  The exception has been reference books what have transitioned to more electronic versions replacing print. It does mean that our collection will continue to evolve over time.
  • Our growth of ebooks is slower than at other libraries because of restrictions publishers place on the “purchase” or rental of ebooks.  At the same time, we are looking at projects like Hathi Trust as a means to provide ongoing access to resources that are not in our own collection.
  • Another change is that although students believe they can find everything using Google, recent experiences with fake news as well as students locating resources that aren’t peer reviewed demonstrates the ongoing and increasing need for librarians and faculty to partner on introducing students to reliable, accurate, and scholarly discipline-focused resources.  
  • Research is complicated, complex, and with the diversity of locations where to find information, one librarian shared how social media is influencing where students find resources for their papers.
  • An area that is also growing are resources that are in open access journals and publications.  Connecting our scholars to the freely available material that is truly scholarly is an ongoing challenge.  The OA resources are growing, but the tools that connect readers to the OA materials have not evolved quickly enough.
  • Our collections are changing not only because of open access, but also because we cannot own everything.  Increasing reliance on interlibrary loan does not mean that our collection is poor, rather we are able to provide access in a timely manner to the world of resources.  Our interlibrary loan department is bustling because we can obtain resources, but interlibrary loan requests are changing as more requests for book chapters and articles is increasing and requests for complete books is decreasing.
  • One area that is increasing is our textbook reserve collection.  It is an indication of the challenge students are facing in paying for textbooks.
  • Maker spaces are part of the DIY movement.  Spaces for community members to come together and build or create things.  In libraries they often have 3D printers, craft supplies, sewing machines or tools and more.  
  • Space will be the focus of our next conversation, but we did discuss book storage and the need to think creatively about how to balance book storage with the need for more more study spaces.  We believe we are well-positioned for flexible spaces because of our flexible building design.

A student reporter for the MacWeekly was present for most of the discussion and you can read his report online here, “Library hosts conversations
Our next conversation will take place on Tuesday, February 28th at 11:30 in 309.  The topic is space, and a guide to background readings will be found here.

The Future of the DeWitt Wallace Library – planning for community discussions

Please note: This posting originally appeared as a LibGuide on Sept. 16, 2016.  We are now transitioning to a WordPress Site so both versions will appear temporarily.


In our Annual Report for 2015-16, in the Words from the Director section, I mentioned that we would be planning to host a series of conversations in the library to talk about the future of the library. It is our hope to engage our community members in conversations about our spaces, our collections, and our services.  I want to provide a brief context for these discussions.

During the summer, a group of us in the library read Reimaging the Academic Library by David W. Lewis.  The book addressed many issues related to how academic libraries are changing.  Topics included: how the book itself is changing, the impact of the economics of information, changes in the scholarly record, and how digitization is affecting scholarly publishing.  The book included a number of recommendations on what librarians could and should be doing to prepare for the future. These recommendations, coupled with selected readings,  provide a possible framework for  community conversations. What follows is some additional information on the proposed discussion topics.


In June of 2013, we shared a Vision for 2020 document envisioning the future of library spaces.  This document was written prior to the move of Media Services back into the library.   We have been able to make some incremental changes including the renovation of 309 to create the Barbara B. Davis SPACE which is already seeing high use during the weekdays.  This report in combination with the spring 2016  RPC report on spaces are documents I would encourage community members to read as preparation for conversations about our spaces.  The RPC report encouraged us to think about “redesigning library space” and discussed the need for the library to develop “creation spaces” which was also touched on in our Vision for 2020.  I’d like to hear the voices of all community members — students, faculty, staff, as well as our neighbors who use our spaces.

Continue reading “The Future of the DeWitt Wallace Library – planning for community discussions”

New Ithaka Report on Faculty Attitudes and Student Research

An article in the April 4, 2016 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the new Ithaka Report, a 2015 study on faculty attitudes regarding scholarship, publishing and student research skills.  This study has been done at regular intervals since 2000.  One of the highlights of the 2015 report is that the number of scholars who think libraries help students “develop research, critical analysis, and information literacy skills” is up 20 percentage points from 2012.”  20% is a pretty good leap in 3 years.

Inside Higher Ed reported:”Faculty members are showing increasing interest in supporting students and improving their learning outcomes, and say the library can play an important role in that work, a new study found.” [Emphasis added.] This is a major shift in faculty attitudes from previous years.  In the past, while a large percentage of library directors saw a role for the library in teaching critical thinking and information literacy, the faculty did not.  So, this is a shift in a very good direction.  I hope that if there were members of our faculty who responded to this survey, they were supportive of the instruction efforts of the liaison librarians. Continue reading “New Ithaka Report on Faculty Attitudes and Student Research”

Launch of the Lever Press – a new player in open access publishing

Today I’m pleased to be writing about an exciting new venture that is the result of several years of work and study {1}, a new open access publishing press that has just gotten underway.  On January 8, 2016, Inside Higher Education announced the launch of the Lever Press, an open access, peer-reviewed, digital-first publisher for scholarship in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. This press, conceptualized and developed by academic libraries in private liberal arts colleges, is founded on one of the basic principles of academic libraries: collaboration. Continue reading “Launch of the Lever Press – a new player in open access publishing”

Reading in a Digital Age of Distractions

This summer, a printed copy of Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children by Sarah Carr was shipped to over 600 new students, including transfer and exchange students.  Copies were also shared with all first year course faculty, student orientation leaders, and members of the President’s Council.  Sharing print copies of books is the basic foundation of our MacReads common reading program, now in its sixth year.  The topic of the book is the educational reform that took place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  The book was selected based on the International Roundtable theme this year: disparities in education.

Continue reading “Reading in a Digital Age of Distractions”

Open access publishing and open education resources

Open access (OA) does not equal free. Nor does OA publishing mean lower quality scholarship marked by the lack of a traditional peer review process. There are costs involved and most OA journal articles and books are peer-reviewed, but those two concerns persist in conversations about the merits of OA. As OA does involve costs, either by producers or subscribers, it is important to note that finding a sustainable cost model is one of the ongoing challenges facing libraries when presented with the variety of options that are now appearing regarding OA materials. While there are a number of factors that contribute to our library being involved in the OA movement, the most important factors are our interest in removing barriers to content and published scholarship and participating in activities focused on reducing costs and expenses. Continue reading “Open access publishing and open education resources”

Collaboration takes many different forms…

Collaboration takes many different forms, but the definition of “collaboration” is to work with others to complete a task and achieve shared goals. For us in the DeWitt Wallace Library, collaborative efforts are a continuous thread throughout all of our library services. It includes the partnerships we strive to develop with faculty in order to prepare engaging instruction sessions on research strategies for library resources relevant to your courses. Collaboration includes developing strong service ethics in our student employees while also providing them with skills related to the college student learning goals. We collaborate closely with our partners in ITS for providing excellent service and support for faculty, students, and staff. Collaboration also involves working with other libraries to expand access to available resources for our faculty and student research needs. Continue reading “Collaboration takes many different forms…”