The bits and connections described by De Kerckhov are best represented by the Internet. The Internet's potential as a research , teaching and learning resource is fast becoming a reality. Libraries now routinely post their portion of electronic information resources on their home pages. These library homepages also routinely serve as gateways that reach out to information resources outside of their own localized collections and services.. These library gateways usually contain their own online catalogs and other electronic research and teaching materials. On these library Web sites, valuable collections of texts, images and sounds exist some of these are an electronic version of print or analog versions of materials owned by the library ; increasingly some of these materials will be available only in electronic formats without print counterparts.
Consider the existence of the Internet Public Library (URL: http://www.ipl.org). This Internet Public Library organizes its electronic collections in the same way that the traditional library organizes its print collections. The Internet Public Library exists only in the cyberspace serving the Internet community. It does not have a physical counterpart. The IPL Director claims that in 10 months 700,000 users from 88 countries visited (clicked) this public library.3 To date little is known about the IPL users' level of sophistication in the use of the IPL's collections and services, and, more importantly, their levels of satisfaction in the way their information needs were met. While there is much need to study user behavior as well as electronic libraries such as the IPL and the home pages of traditional libraries, the more immediate concern for librarians and users alike is to develop training programs that will teach how rapidly growing electronic collections can be effectively accessed and assessed. For many students and faculty , the library gateways into the Internet world are the first step requiring digital information literacy.
For the purposes of this paper , digital information literacy ( or digital literacy) is defined as literacy appropriate for the Internet age; it therefore extends the boundaries of traditional literacy. This paper will briefly review the skill sets that are required for the effective use of the traditional library focused on print collections and those that are now required for electronic library collections. It will then point out the common ground shared by these two literacies and how user training in the library gateway is the bridge to attaining digital literacy.
Because the digital environment provides a new way of communicating and a new way of interacting, and because it is heavily dependent upon evolving technology, the training of users in digital literacy not only requires reinforcement of some of the fundamental attributes of traditional literacy but also flexibility and adaptability on the part of librarians and users alike. Therefore, library training in the post digital age must include a paradigmatic pedagogical shift that will educate users to reevaluate older ways of information gathering even as they learn to incorporate these ways into newer patterns.4
The technology that permits the storage of vast amount of information and movement along ever speedier information superhighway brings in its train the difficulty of making sense of what has turned out to be an enormous information glut. The current state of what David Shenk calls " data smog"5 makes traditional literacy alone inadequate for survival in the digital world. Therefore, while digital information literacy shares some of the critical attributes of literacy in the traditional sense, it requires additional competencies. Technical/computer literacy, media literacy and network literacy are among the prerequisite skills that are required for users to be digitally literate.
The increased amount of information available to users through machine aided information retrieval has motivated librarians to expand traditional literacy into more comprehensive information literacy. Information literacy emphasizes the user's ability to critically evaluate the information on hand as to its authenticity, currency and appropriateness to the problem solving process, etc.
Print collections have distinct visual effects due to their physical impact. The traditional card catalog. for example, is imposing by its physical size whereas the online computer catalog ( referred to as the online access public catalog) does not have this characteristic. The traditional physical card catalog permits a search by author, title and subject of the books (and journal titles and microforms) that the library physically owns. In contradistinction, the many integrated online catalogs posted on the library gateway are multi functional including information on circulation status, new acquisitions, periodical article indexes and, more recently, the articles themselves. To a student with little experience and imagination, the little computer (the hardware) cannot possibly contain all this information! The size of the computer workstation compared to the enormous wooden card catalog (which is often kept side by side with computer workstations) has significant visual impact. The lack of industry standardization in hardware, not to mention the continuous upgrading of software and the relentless development of new products, further confuses novice library users. Do different looking computers do the same thing? Do all computers perform the same functions? An average user of the library gateway is often misled, believing that all information flows from the same source with the same quality, similar to the card catalog. Using information from diverse sources (e.g., networked sources versus stand alone workstations versus LAN ) delivered through a variety of media with varying quality is a mystifying experience for novices. The library gateway is thus the first step in teaching students and users similarities and differences between print and digital collections; it begins the process of teaching how to mine the ever deepening pools of digital information that are available on the Internet
The library gateway further accelerated the number and variety of filtered as well as unfiltered information sources; the offerings of commercial databases now available through the library gateway as well as other freely available web sites all require enhanced critical thinking on the part of users. Understanding the scope and the nature of the library gateway helps users to explore other web sites. Under these circumstances, ad hoc based training is less effective than establishing a systematic method for judging the reliability of each web site. Gilster suggests the following criteria that are necessary for content evaluation of a website; authorial background particularly through understanding the Internet domain structure (e.g., .com. .edu., .org, .dk., etc.), currency, stability of information and whether the web site provides new content rather than being a mere reflection of old media.7 On the obverse side, understanding these criteria helps guide users in determing when and what topics are appropriate for Internet search.
The Internet, and the library use of it as a gateway, has introduced a whole new set of vocabularies that users must understand in order to effectively use electronic library collections; some examples of these vocabularies are:
Literacy Required Skill sets Evaluative skills Access Skills -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Pre Internet read/write critical thinking catalog vocabulary Information within a filtered indexes/abstracts/ Literacy information citation indexes environement Post Internet read/write/type enhanced critical computer skills/ Information thinking within a vocabularies online Literacy filtered and unfiltered catalog/Internet environments vocabulary search engines
The matrix clearly reveals that literacy in the digital society requires a quantitative growth in the skills needed to locate vastly expanded information soruces as well as a proportional qualitative shift in evaluative skills. Due to the increased amount of information that is now avaialbe, enhancing evaluative skills is clearly essential for post Internet literacy. V.
The Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias stated that both knowledge and technology can become allies and adversaries at the same time. He describes the modern society as the age of knowledge destruction. Because new technology constantly requires adaptation , people need to destroy parts of their exisiting knowledge in order to acquire new technologcial skills.. The role of librarians in the age of knowledge destruction is not to reinforce existing beliefs or prejudices but to help refresh knowledge.10 For digital literacy, familiarity with what information is made available, by whom, and how it is made available becomes extremely important. Penzias emphasized the librarians' need to provide users what they need before users know what they need. Training users through the library gateway is one such example.