Society is full of catch words or phrases that attempt to manage or label an era of great advancement or stagnation.
Prehistoric generations were characterised by ‘stone age’ or ‘bronze age’ because they were defined by their advancement of particular tools.
Other times of great advancement in thinking in the history of Homo sapiens sapiens were achieved during the Renaissance and Industrial revolution. These latter two movements dramatically changed the social, cultural, political and economical landscapes of their societies. The Renaissance was dominant in metamorphing the arts, science and medical fields due to the promotion of new thinking and creativity. Erasmus’s Utopia, Gutenberg’s printing press and Protestantism were products of this time, where current thinking was challenged by new ideas. The industrial revolution sought to improve efficiency and productivity so as to theoretically improve quality of life. Unfortunately, this improvement in quality of life was divided sharply by those that could afford it or those that could not. The adage “have and the have-nots” was apt then and now as many of us would recall that sweatshops and horrible working conditions still exist in parts of the world today.
Our society is currently undergoing a digital transformation, which will be known in the generations to come as ‘the digital age’ or ‘information society’. Information society as (Rouse, 2005) details is “a society in which the creation, distribution, and manipulation of information has become the most significant economic and cultural activity… (where) the tools of the information society are computers and telecommunications rather than lathes and ploughs”. To put it in plain language, it means that the majority of society currently uses various forms of technology across all aspects of employment, social interactions and recreation. Unfortunately, like the Industrial revolution where the divide lead to great inequality of income, health and educational outcomes, the digital divide is also causing a schism within society.
Citizens of the ‘information society’ are defined by their ability to participate everyday with information intensity through workplace and organizations; possession and ability to use technology to access business, social and learning outcomes and thirdly, the ability to communicate using digital technology. Non-citizens of the information society, are elucidated most commonly by their inability to participate with the digital economy due to lack of access to hardware such as devices and or insufficient access to resources such as NBN or wifi and or their ability to communicate using the technology. The ADDII (2016) surmised that “there is a divide between people on lower incomes, compared to those on higher incomes” with sub groups of society such as the disabled, the elderly and persons of Aboriginal and Torres strait the most likely to be excluded from the digital age. This divide leads to poorer overall outcomes, especially in health and education, as the the ability to share knowledge and ideas as well as give and receive information in its various formats as an important aspect of overall well being (ABS 2012).
The role of libraries and teacher librarians is pivotal in closing this divide. In Australia there is no constitutional right to information. But, as a nation, the right to access information is implied by the endorsement of UN Human rights charter. Article 19 of the charter is defined by “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (UN, 1948). This means that everyone has the right to access information irrespective of their geography, finances and literacy levels.
The presence of libraries and public libraries is an attempt by various government and legislative bodies to ensure all members of society are able to participate in this digital age, and they are able to send and receive information through all forms of media (Graham 2012). The role of a teacher librarian is two-fold. The first aspect, as the information specialist within a school, the TL is required to provide opportunities for the entire school cohort access to information in all formats across various platforms. The second role of the TL, in conjunction with other educators is to ensure digital literacy programs are embedded within the curriculum. The importance of digital literacy cannot be more emphasized than this. It is absolutely irrelevant if a person has a device and access to the internet but they cannot communicate successfully using the the technology available to them. Digital literacy is becoming more and more relevant as the technology is constantly evolving and the user must be literate in order to use it effectively. Our role as emerging TLs is to understand the landscape of the world we live in and guide our students in providing access and appropriate teaching strategies to equip them for their future.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2015). Information and communication technology (ICT). Retrieved Nov. 2016
Graham, I. (2012). The State of Censorship – Australia. Libertus. Retrieved Nov. 2016.
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE). (2009). Australia’s digital economy: Future directions. Retrieved Nov. 2016. Early report.
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. (DIIS). (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved Nov. 2016.
Parliament of Australia Joint Standing Committee First Report( 2017) The rollout of the National Broadband Network. retrieved 13/3/2019
Rouse, M. (2005). What is Information Society? Whatis. Retrieved Nov. 2016.
United Nations (1948) Human Rights Charter. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ 13/3/19
Web Finance Inc. (2016). Information Society. Retrieved Nov. 2016.
Webster, F. (2014). Theories of the information society. 4th ed. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.