By Any Name, Data Literacy is Worth Teaching

Since the advent of search engines, librarians and information professionals have been sounding alarms about the dangers of employees, students, and the public finding and using bad data and information. Recently, those cries have become a chorus, with media outlets, public interest groups, and others bemoaning the spread of bad information and calling for a renewed emphasis on fact checking.

Given the growing concern about the spread of bad information, librarians and information professionals may well be inclined to ramp up their efforts to provide training about information and data literacy. But all too often, such training takes the form of a one-time classroom session or webinar, with no attempt to reinforce the key messages or offer instruction on related topics such as developing infographics, understanding data, or forecasting.

“Raising the level of data literacy within our organizations poses some challenges,” writes Meryl Brodsky, business librarian at Eastern Michigan University, in the May-June 2017 issue of Information Outlook, SLA’s magazine. “For example, employees are pressed for time, so how can we get them to make time to attend a data literacy training session? And once we get them there, how do we make the training valuable?”

Meryl offers 10 tips for raising data literacy based on her past work with a market research group. First among her recommendations is to call the training something other than data literacy.

Data literacy is not a term that is familiar to most people,” she writes. “In fact, hosting a session on data literacy might imply that attendees are somehow illiterate. Instead, call your session ‘How to improve your presentations with data’ or ‘Using data for strategic decision making’.”

Among Meryl’s other tips for raising the level of data literacy among your customers are the following:

  • Don’t fight Google.
  • Host data boot camps and/or a data open house.
  • Teach infographic creation.
  • Post best-in-class examples on your intranet.

“The goal is to introduce employees to the data you have, make them aware of it, teach them how to find it, and invite them to question it—in sum, to have a conversation about data,” she writes.

To learn more about how to enhance the understanding and use of data in your organization, read “Teaching Employees to Make Better Decisions with Data” in Information Outlook.

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