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The Civic Literacy and Public Engagement Buzz

I haven’t blogged for FGI in three years. They’ve made the blogger interface so much sexier (so why don’t you volunteer next month?) since 2006, but otherwise all is familiar. And that’s the feeling I get when going through the recent stream of reports about civic literacy and public engagement. Not the sexy part, but the fact that some of it is new (or newly documented), but most of it is familiar territory.

Three reports discussing civic literacy and citizen engagement recently came out, all within five days of each other. Here’s a quick look.

Pew Internet released The Internet and Civic Engagement [PDF] on September 1. The report compares the demographics of those traditionally involved in their community affairs and politics offline with the demographics of those actively participating online. It turns out those two groups look pretty much the same until social media use is measured. That’s where we find the new netizens. (The report compares groups that have internet access; the focus is on a civic divide rather than a digital divide.)

The Association of Research Libraries published Public Engagement, SPEC Kit 312 on August 31. Government or political engagement is not the focus but is one of various types of academic library community outreach discussed. You have to buy the publication, but the table of contents and executive summary [PDF] are online for free and, from what I see, the Government Information Online virtual reference service is mentioned.

Finally, the federal government’s Institute of Museum and Library Services released Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills on August 28. The IMLS report [PDF] covers civic engagement as part of its broader mission “to engage libraries and museums, community stakeholders and policy makers at the national, state and local level in a concerted effort to meet the educational, economic, civic, and cultural needs of communities.” The Skills Definitions section of the report identifies the scope of civic literacy as the ability to “participate effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed and understanding governmental processes; exercise the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national, and global levels; and understand the local and global implications of civic decisions.”

Do any of these reports provide you with ideas for action, fodder for justification, or inspiration to ask new questions?

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