While walking my seven-year old Weimaraner named Max Watstein, I came upon an advertisement for the Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps). The ad attempted to lure passersby with three words – – “Learn. Lead. Succeed.” The simple message gave me pause.
The Army ROTC purports to be one of the best leadership courses in the country. During classes and field training, officers-to-be learn first-hand what it takes to lead others, motivate groups and how to conduct missions as an Officer in the Army. Upon graduation from Army ROTC, they earn the bar of a Second Lieutenant and become a leader for life.
A “leader for life” – – what does that mean today, in the beginning of the 21st century?
As a librarian who has worked on the front lines in public service, and behind the scenes in administration, in academic research libraries for over 30 years, I believe in a slightly different message – – “Search. Discover. Read. Succeed.”
The Army ROTC claims to provide individuals with the tools, training and experiences they need to become Officers in the U.S. Army. I suggest that our nation’s libraries – -academic, public, school or special, provide individuals with the tools, training and experiences they need to become successful in their academic and personal lives.
What does it take to be successful today in one’s academic and personal life? What will it take to be successful tomorrow? I believe that success depends on the knowledge, skills and ability to navigate the increasingly complex information landscape that defines our worlds, even as it continues to change and develop. It takes being information literate.
Today, in our convergent media world, the phrase “21st century literacy” is increasingly bandied about. There is much ado about so-called “21st century skills.” I believe we are talking about something far more important than academics’ conceptions of, and pedagogy for, information literacy.
The final report of the American Library Association’s Presidential Committee on Information Literacy includes what has become the benchmark definition of the information literate individual:
“To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. .. . Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for life-long learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand.”
Today’s libraries provide the resources and services (inworld and virtual) that enable their users to “Search. Discover. Read. Succeed.” I believe that the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information effectively is key to not only academic and personal success, but also to being a leader who not only turns heads, but who will make a memorable difference today and tomorrow.