Ruth Small, professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool), was recently interviewed by Literacy 2.0 about the Center for Digital Literacy (CDL), which she founded in 2003.

The CDL is an interdisciplinary, collaborative research and development center partnering the iSchool, School of Education, and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, to understand the impact of information, technology and media literacies on children and adults and their impact on society as a whole. In the interview, Small discussed the importance of digital literacy’s cross-disciplinary approach, involving communications, education and information.

“Those areas are converging, and have converged in many ways since the founding,” Small said. “They share a lot of the same issues, but we too often come at them from different perspectives. I thought it would be much more interesting to study those kinds of issues through multiple lenses.”

The interview also looks into the difficulties Small and the CDL have faced throughout the past eight years. In 2003, many people did not understand the value of the CDL, but Small was persistent, knowing she had to be proactive.

“The danger is that people are not going to get the truth, the facts and different points of view,” Small said. “Having all this information available is wonderful and horrible at the same time. We have to know how to figure out what is good and credible information. We have to teach those skills. We all need them.”

Most recently, the CDL is working with the Burton Blatt Institute, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, on Project ENABLE, which is looking at how to teach information literacy skills to students who have conditions that prevent them from learning in the same way that other kids might learn. It’s all part of the CDL’s mission to fill the digital literacy gap.

“We have to make it happen,” Small said. “The digital genie won’t go back in the bottle. The CDL wants to be part of the solution.”

As the Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor, Small has received two national research awards for her scholarly work; the 2001 Carroll Preston Baber Research Award from the American Library Association and the 1997 Highsmith Research Award from the American Association of School Librarians. She holds a doctorate in instructional design, development, and evaluation and has been a member of the iSchool faculty since 1989.