This musical #informationliteracy activity today was very successful! https://t.co/fAaGY8A7pI pic.twitter.com/Y87oGAhpp9
— adamleofeldman (@adamleofeldman) July 29, 2015
What does it mean to command the skills of information literacy? For this generation of students and teachers in Philadelphia the answers are not clear, and few are asking the question. After all, there are virtually no school librarians on the faculties of the public schools in our city. In other words, there are no interdisciplinary experts in our schools to guide teachers in giving assignments to students that would prepare teens to take their place within the globalized conversations of scholars and writers. It follows too that there's no one in the school who can expertly guide students in completing assignments that require sophisticated inquiry. Success in university or college hinges on the ability to write research papers. To ensure students understand the norms and future of scholarly communication, "English 101" is almost always a gatekeeper course to ensure students have learned those library research skills by high school graduation. To be taken seriously as a peer in the world of research and writing requires using the digital, physical, and human resources of a library (AKA the work of librarians).
There are, fortunately, such cross-disciplinary experts at the Central Library as well as at every neighborhood and regional library in the city. We do, however, have an uphill battle in the struggle to teach students the very basic research skills that in less economically austere times were a core part of the K-12 curriculum as led by school librarians. From outside the school walls, it can be a challenge to reach school leaders. Teachers in particular are politically embattled in an unprecedented way by a skepticism of the utility of a liberal education. Even for those not as swayed by the business ideologies pushed by some school reformers, there’s a temptation for college-educated people to have an overconfidence in the limitlessness of what can be learned or accomplished online.
How would we disrupt this grim state of affairs? Recently, the Music Department at the Parkway Central Library hosted an Information Literacy game for 30 music students in a summer enrichment program. Our hope was to open up a window for these students into the wealth of resources available in a conservatory-quality music library, and to do so in a fun way. We divided the students into six groups and set each team on quests to discover the hidden tools that help to unearth clues about the lives of 12 jazz musicians associated with Philadelphia: Billie Holiday, McCoy Tyner, Nina Simone, Sun Ra, Joe Venuti, Pat Martino, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Willie Dennis, Robin Eubanks, Bill Harris, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Benny Golson, and Philly Joe Jones.
Try the game for yourself some time! Pick a musician from above, download this game board, and set out on the same quest as these young musicians.
Just as these students did, we even encourage you to do some focused listening with the aid of our critics’ rubric:
Finally, if you’re interested in hearing more about the work of the librarians in the Music Department, we’ll be presenting to members of the Raven Society on Monday, August 31, at 6 p.m. We’ll even offer a Quizzo-like listening game to show off some of the Music Department's treasures. Please RSVP here.