While enrolled in various civic and government classes, I often wondered why these classes were important enough to be included as part of any formal educational curriculum. I eventually realized the significant role and societal force government or civics plays in a person's life. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Federal Judiciary Act, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916 and the Federalist Papers are prime examples. "Being civic-minded," a term frequently spoken by my teachers, professors and parents, took on a whole new meaning.
Today, being civic-minded is synonymous with civic literacy. So, what is civic literacy? Civic literacy embodies a person's schema, knowledge and skill set, which are necessary to comprehend, use and participate in the processes of all levels of government and the citizenry of a nation. Civic literacy can also be defined as how a person makes use of government to better his or her life and the common good. Examples of government agencies enriching lives and the common good are the Environmental Protection Agency, state and federal transportation agencies, fire and police services, and public school systems.
Commonly used United States, South Carolina, Beaufort County and municipal government websites that act as a portal for providing important civic information are:
The Urban Libraries Council (www.urbanlibraries.org), Kettering Foundation (www.kettering.org), Indiana University Center for Civic Literacy (www.civicliteracy.iupui.edu), the Center for Civic Reflection (www.civicreflection.org), the American Library Association (www.ala.org), Route 21 (route21.p21.org) and Everyday Democracy.org (www.everyday-democracy.org) are a few of the organizations actively working to help communities define civic literacy, engage community members and implement civic literacy action plans.
Due in large part to the worldwide impact of sweeping information technology changes and how people seek information, knowledge and services, libraries across America are asked daily to assist patrons in their search for credible, viable, timely and authoritative information pertaining to civic literacy. A prime example of this is the partnering tax assistance many library systems offer annually to the public. Also, libraries partner with government agencies and nonprofits to offer informational and how-to sessions related to government services, policies and changes of these policies and services.
In addition, Beaufort County libraries offer a wide range of print, online, audio-visual and audio resources related to civic literacy due in large part to SC LENDS (a consortium of South Carolina lending libraries) and Discus (South Carolina's virtual digital library). Beaufort County residents have access to 4,500 books, 316 films and 576 audiobooks related to civics or civic literacy. This abundance of credible, authoritative information and knowledge is a wonderful resource for all who have an interest in civic literacy.
Beaufort County library staff do more than help residents of the county obtain information that fits with their civic needs. They also create civic literacy programming. This fall, Beaufort County libraries will offer programming dealing with the legislative process, public administration, current events, civil rights, The New Deal, selective civil historical presentations and more. Not only do library staff locate credible, timely information and create civic literacy programming, they answer questions daily related to civic literacy, create civic-minded displays, search for new partners and ways to promote civic literacy, raise civic literacy awareness, embrace civic literacy as part of their mission and vision, and strive to create a civic-minded environment in each in their respective libraries.
Armistead Reasoner is the reference librarian at Bluffton library.