Media literacy education has been recognised as an important role for public librarians, particularly in recent years as mis- and dis-information continue to spread through both traditional and digital information channels. However, public librarians are often not trained as media literacy educators, and must rely on self-directed learning to build these important skills. To help fill this training gap in Ireland, a team of five academics at the School of Information and Communication Studies in University College Dublin worked closely with public librarians in Meath County Council Libraries in Spring 2021, to create and pilot a bespoke online media literacy training programme, tailored specifically to the needs of public library staff.
Five key topics were identified for the pilot training programme workshops:
- Identifying and sharing good media literacy information
- Our data footprints
- Google is not the Internet
- Cyberbullying and hate speech
- Conspiracy theories
Facilitated by the UCD team, the pilot programme ran over five consecutive days at the end of June 2021 with between six and ten librarians attending two-hour interactive workshops on Zoom.
Various recommendations emerged for implementing media literacy programmes in public libraries.
- Consider organising training groups for management staff separately from frontline staff. For the purposes of the pilot project which involved small numbers of staff, groups were mixed. However, these groups can have differing training needs and training should reflect these needs in the distribution of staff for training.
- The length of training sessions should be expanded from the pilot training sessions to allow for greater depth of training in particular areas of interest.
- There is a need to train public library staff to provide instruction, both in formal teaching sessions and informal interactions with library visitors.
- There are opportunities for academic and library partnerships to improve education and professional development and activities that should not be overlooked for the future. Working together has the benefit of facilitating understanding of each other, as well as improving the quality of service delivered by both parties.
- The Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach in this project supported academic – library partnering. PAR offers a very useful means of exploration for similar projects.