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A Journey With StoryMaps

As a Master of Library and Information Science student at the University of Southern Mississippi School of Library and Information Science, I have learned that Information Literacy is a critical skill for the 21st century. Understanding the current challenges in administering extensive quantities of information, and using information through a critical lens, is paramount for the demands of the modern information society.

This summer (June 2022), I interned with the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives’ Education Department, which has a program on Information Literacy. As part of the program, they are building Information Literacy Collections in Smithsonian Learning Lab. My first project was to write a StoryMap using ArcGIS StoryMaps builder’s digital application. Different Smithsonian units are telling diverse stories utilizing this application, and my work was to narrate a story about the Information Literacy Collections available in Learning Lab.

Screen capture of Information Literacy StoryMap.

I started my story by defining what Information Literacy is and moved on to highlighting how the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives disseminates information. Then, I continued developing three significant concepts in the Smithsonian Learning Lab collections: how to avoid plagiarism and use authoritative citations, how to evaluate and select information, and what scholarly research is. My story ended by looking toward the future, emphasizing other types of literacies such as civic literacy, environmental literacy, and social justice literacy. I concluded by stressing why Information Literacy matters: to prevent mis- and disinformation and empower individuals to be more informed citizens.

The collections in Smithsonian Learning Lab were my focal sources of information, which I had to select, analyze and synthesize for the story. Choosing images from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives image collections became enjoyable but more difficult than imagined. I hope this StoryMap provides an overview of the importance of Information Literacy for learners and educators and shows the numerous resources available in the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

After finishing my first project with a good feeling of accomplishment, I embarked on my second project: another StoryMap focused on the online series Women in America: Extra and Ordinary. The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives hosts this collection of twenty-four extraordinary women to honor their contributions. This StoryMap will highlight the stories of Elleanor Eldridge, Senda Berenson Abbott, Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick, Sophie Lutterlough, Mary Edwards Walker, Zitkala-Sa, Anna Way Wong, and Lydia Mendoza. In this story, I included songs featured in the digital collection. The outcome is an interactive story that will help us remember the passion of these women and their fights against discrimination.

Screen capture of Women in America StoryMap, coming soon.

Alongside these two StoryMaps, I worked on a third project, starting a bibliographic list on Information Literacy. The purpose of this list is to provide a selection of resources and materials on Information Literacy and Critical Information Literacy (CIL). It includes freely available resources within the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives; for example, What is a Primary Source?, databases, books, articles, websites, digital evaluating resources, guidelines, frameworks, journals, literacy toolkits, and resources on civic, social and environmental literacy. Crafting this list helped me understand the scope of information literacy and how vital it is to inform critical thinking since we live in a world with unfettered access to unverified information. I learned that museums focus on visual literacy, and the article Growing Literacy Skills with Visual Thinking Strategies on Virtual Art Museum Tours is a noteworthy reading. This list is under review, but there are some resources that I encourage you to explore, such as Civic Online Reasoning, on how to evaluate online information.

My time here has been stimulating. I am impressed by the many resources and educational opportunities the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives offers; hence, I am very thankful for this thrilling experience. Above all, I have learned new skills and improved others, but most importantly, I engaged with insightful colleagues who helped me do better constantly.

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