21st Century Skills, Libraries and Librarians


As I looked back over the Posts I’ve made since January, it became evident that I approached this whole subject of the 21st Century Library from the perspective that it was a given. From the continued lack of useful information, subject related publications and conversation after seven months, that is so obviously not the situation. It therefore seemed appropriate to begin a series of Posts directly focused on the 21st Century Skills efforts within education, and how it relates to the 21st Century Library, and 21st Century Librarianship.

Why the big focus on 21st Century Skills in education? because, as I mentioned in my second Post on January 26 (21st Century Librarians create 21st Century Libraries), education is taking the lead in preparing the next generation for working and living in the 21st Century. LIBRARIES ARE NOT!

“Traditionally, librarianship has always been about facilitating acquisition of information. But, that presumed that librarians were the experts in the acquisition, evaluation and dissemination of information. When one considers the “Millennial” patron – the “Digital Native” patron – nearly all 60+ million of them have grown up acquiring information digitally (of good, bad or indifferent quality). So, what do they need from libraries or librarians? (Not intended to be a rhetorical question.) Now that the 21st Century Skills movement is taking hold in public education, these Digital Natives will be taught “Information Literacy” (“Accessing information efficiently and effectively, evaluating information critically and competently and using information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand. ….”)”

AND, as I’ve also written, this role of information gatekeeper that was previously the purview of librarianship is eroding away under the flood of Millennial library patrons armed with advancing technology who are becoming their own gate keeper. In my Post on February 17, I cited an example that included

“… a reply to one of Meredith’s [Meredith Farkas’ Blog post on July 17, 2006, titled “Skills for the 21st Century Librarian”] other postings about 21st Century Librarian Skills, “Bill Says: “I have a high school intern right now that has better tech skills than most all the librarians I know. Isn’t that just sad?” ” Well, no it’s not sad, it’s simply a fact and a major distinction between Digital Natives (Millennials) and Digital Immigrants (everybody else). MAJOR DISTINCTION!”

So, for those not familiar with the 21st Century Skills initiatives in US education, this Post should provide some thought provoking information about the only coherent plan to enable schools to help students learn these skills recognized as essential for 21st Century success, not only of the individual, but for our economy – our society.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) is a unique public-private organization formed in 2002 to create a successful model of learning for this millennium that incorporates 21st century skills into our education system. The U.S. Department of Education is a key partner with P21, and its members include Apple Computers, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, and National Education Association.

From P21’s publication The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework is the following.

What learning is needed for the 21st century? These three themes – education and society, education and learning science, and education and learning tools – are all converging to form a new educational framework – one built around the acquisition of 21st century knowledge and skills. While today’s schools show the influence of industrial and information age models, the 21st century modern school must appropriately employ both individualized and large scale approaches to assessment. It must bring together rigorous content and real world relevance. It must focus on cognitive skills as well as those in affective and aesthetic domains. It must be attentive to the needs of the individual child and to society as a whole. In order to prepare students for 21st century life, we can build on educational goals that have long been a part of our global heritage. At the same time, we can reinvigorate our schools in light of new opportunities in our world, and new understandings of how people learn. By combining the wisdom of the past with the insights and technologies of today, the 21st Century Skills Framework provides schools with a pathway to ensure the promise of tomorrow.”

In my Post on May 27 (Changes in Our Librarian Education for the 21st Century) I highlighted both the disconnect between teachers and students in our primary education system, as well as a YouTube video (Partnership for 21st Century Skills: Teaching 21st Century Learners) about teacher education changes that are coming. A review of these sources should give librarians some insight into the new generation of library services consumer who will have little or no need of our skills – UNLESS WE DEVELOP 21ST CENTURY LIBRARIAN SKILLS!

Bottom line is that education revolution is coming. Only a few of you may be seeing changes and initiatives at your local level already, but change is coming. EVERYONE recognizes that education reform is necessary to move from the industrial model of education to the information age model. IT MUST CHANGE! If there is a single librarian reading this that does not believe this change WILL impact our roles as librarians (first in the schools and universities and then in the public library sector), please explain your reasoning to me, because I don’t see how it can NOT profoundly and irreversibly change our role as librarians.

Please share your experiences with education reform or 21st Century Skills.

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