October 24, 2012
When Sofia Birden, associate director at the University of Maine at Fort Kent's Blake Library, and some of her colleagues from across the state wanted to recognize October as Information Literacy Month, they turned to what they know best: they researched the steps necessary to obtain a proclamation from the governor.
Maine Governor Paul R. LePage signed a proclamation on October 12 recognizing October as Information Literacy Month in the state of Maine. For Birden and her counterparts at university and state libraries across the state, it was a sweet reward for an effort that lasted more than six months.
“As information tools become more sophisticated, we have to help people become more information literate,” said Birden. “We wanted to make people aware of it by having the proclamation,” Birden says
In 2009, President Barack Obama proclaimed October as National Information Literacy Awareness Month. In his proclamation the president noted that Americans are inundated with vast amounts of information. Rather than merely possessing data, he noted, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation.
The National Forum on Information Literacy encouraged the governors in all 50 states to proclaim October 2012 as Information Literacy Month.
In light of that call to arms, Birden teamed with colleagues from other campuses and the state to make the proclamation a reality. The others included Jim Bird from the Fogler Library at the University of Maine, who spearheaded the group; Angelynn King, Library Director at the University of Maine at Machias; Frank Roberts, Library Director at the University of Maine at Farmington; Judy Montgomery, Associate Librarian at Bowdoin College; and Linda Lord, State Librarian at the Maine State Library.
The group performed a variety of tasks, including drafting the proclamation's language; editing; gathering the signatures necessary to carry a proclamation request forward; and obtaining the support of legislators, including that of UMFK alumnus, state Senator Troy Jackson.
Once all of the necessary paperwork was submitted to the governor's office for review, the group waited, as the proclamation request made its way through the bureaucratic process.
Early last week members of the group were delighted to hear the news that their efforts had paid off. Governor LePage had proclaimed October as Information Literacy Month in Maine. They all were elated.
“Information is power,” Birden notes. “The more information literate a person is the more power that they have. Information literacy goes far beyond libraries. Libraries certainly contribute to information literacy, but it extends out to everyone.”
Looking back on the successful, if long, process, Birden finds herself a little bit awed, and quite proud.
“It was quite fun. I enjoyed it. The individuals who worked on the project all felt that it was so important to do this. We knew that we had to make it happen. It was something we all felt was important to libraries, but also to the people of Maine.”
The National Forum on Information Literacy was created in 1989 as a response to the recommendations of the American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. These education, library, and business leaders stated that no other change in American society has offered greater challenges than the emergence of the Information Age. Today, the National Forum on Information Literacy is a robust collaborative of 93+ national and international organizations working together, on various levels, to mainstream this critical, 21st century educational and workforce development concept throughout every segment of society.