The status of digital media literacy education at the National Library of Korea and suggestions for further improvement

  • Department International Cooperation and PR Team
  • Registration Date 2022-09-27
  • views 2500
Character size

The status of digital media literacy education at the National Library of Korea and
suggestions for further improvement1

Wonsil Choi
Knowledge and Information Services Division, National Library of Korea

1. Digital media literacy education in the library

The development of digital technologies has led to the emergence of diverse media formats that have changed the way people use media services and information. While people can now access and share a wide range of forms of media more easily than ever before, the dissemination of misinformation, excessive media consumption, and expressions of hate and discrimination enabled by the anonymous nature of the internet are becoming social concerns. During the Covid-19 pandemic in particular, misinformation seemed to be nearly as contagious as the virus. It was estimated that between January and March 2020, at least 800 people died around the world due to misinformation spread on the internet (Cho Seung-han, 2020). In the meantime, risky communication seems to be facing a turning point with data science and AI technologies being applied to effectively deter misinformation (Cha Mi-yeong, 2021). There is also a growing call to promote digital media literacy so as to help individuals develop the capacity to use digital technologies and critically evaluate the messages found in the media.

As a public space that is open to everyone and provides equal access to information and knowledge, libraries have contributed greatly to improving public information literacy. The concept of information literacy, which originated from user education services in libraries, emerged along with the development of modern information technologies in the early 1970s (Badke, 2009). As a major education platform within communities, libraries have continuously played a critical role in providing people with sound access to information. More recently, promoting digital media literacy as a key mission of libraries has been actively discussed around the world. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) announced its guidelines for action to achieve the UN 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs), highlighting the social responsibilities of libraries in promoting universal literacy, including digital media literacy. The IFLA also called on governments and libraries around the world to invest in medial literacy education for people of all ages (IFLA 2018a; 2018b). This means that the role of librarians as educators should be strengthened in order to cultivate digital citizens with the ability to discerningly use technologies and to critically analyze media messages.

In August 2020, five ministries and government agencies, including the Korea Communications Commission and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, joined forces to establish the Comprehensive Plan for Strengthening Digital Media Capacities, a mid- to long-term plan to elevate the digital media literacy of South Koreans. The government has also underscored the importance of promoting people’s digital capacities by using social capital, including libraries. In response, the National Library of Korea launched a digital information literacy education program in 2010 as part of its efforts to improve library users’ proficiency with digital and media skills. More recently, the library has been cooperating with private sector partners to facilitate digital media literacy education, including the creation of educational programs customized to different target groups, distributing digital literacy education materials to public libraries, and hosting relevant seminars.

Against this backdrop, this paper reviews the status of digital media literacy education at the National Library of Korea over the past three years and suggests how such education by the library could be further improved.

2. Status of digital media literacy education at the National Library of Korea

As part of its information literacy education, the NLK has been providing digital information literacy courses since 2010. As of August 2022, a total of 26,436 users have participated. Currently, the NLK offers 19 courses, including targeted digital media literacy courses.

Early education programs were focused on how to use the film studio at the NLK Digital Library, how to use library resources such as web databases, and courses designed to reduce the digital gap for the “information underprivileged.” Since then, the program has been expanded to include using tools such as video and text editing, how to use a smartphone, and creating a book trailer or e-book. In line with the development of digital media technologies and the popularity of single-person media and digital conversion, the NLK’s digital media literacy education has gradually shifted toward helping library users cultivate an awareness of digital citizenship and the digital skills needed by members of a digital society. The library also signed an agreement on cooperation with the Center for Digital Literacy (September 2020) and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (July 2021), developed guidelines and education materials, and held seminars on the promotion of digital citizenship. All of this was done with a goal of promoting digital literacy.

Table 1 shows the NLK’s digital media literacy curriculum over the past three years. As of August 2022, a total of 13 courses (in 72 sessions) were offered. Target groups such as parents, workers, young individuals, and older individuals were first identified based on the demand or need for an education program, and 3- to 12-session courses were designed. These include media education for parents, making decisions using data in the workplace, and planning and promoting digital projects. Special lectures on digital citizenship and copyrights were also offered twice.

In general, the library introduces a compact pilot course in order to estimate demand for a topic and then gradually expands them to courses spanning four or more sessions. During and after the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of the courses have been transferred to an online space using video conferencing platforms. Discussions and small-group activities have been incorporated in order to help participants develop the abilities needed to cooperate and communicate in the digital space. In 2022, metaverse platforms were used in some courses in order to help expand people’s digital experience.

Table 1. The NLK’s digital media literacy education courses (2020-2022)

Date Coursename No of sessions Content
September2020 Digitalpoetry and painting using AI 3 ▪ Learning from a poet how to write poems
▪ Digital poetry and painting using AI and creating a video clip of a poetryreading
November2020 Digitalcitizenship: Healthy digital citizens in a beautiful digital world 1 ▪ How to be a citizen in the greater digital world
▪ What to keep and share in the digital world
December2020 Digitalliteracy for seniors 3 ▪ Responsible speech in a digital society
▪ Creating a digital gratitude essay
May2021 and June 2022 Medialiteracy academy for parents 6 ▪ The principles of media literacy (reasons why media messages are produced,prejudice and discrimination, perspectives and goals)
▪ YouTube literacy
▪ How to teach children media literacy
May2021 Copyrightsfor digital citizens 1 ▪ The concept of copyrights, protection and use of copyrighted works, andthings to consider when using copyrighted works
▪ Public domain works and CCL
June2021 Bigdata academy for workers 4 ▪ Digital literacy for workers
▪ Designing, analyzing, and visualizing data
July2021 and June-July 2022 Digitalentrepreneurship academy for young people 6/8 ▪ Digital literacy for emerging leaders
▪ Developing startup ideas
▪ Planning a business through data analysis
▪ Establishing promotion strategies for digital media
▪ Risk management in the digital era
November-December2021 Digitalessay academy for older people 12 ▪ Digital literacy for older people
▪ Writing an essay on a subject from daily life
▪ Publishing an e-book essay using digital media tools
▪ Practicing the publication of an e-book essay
May2022 Digitalmarketing academy for young company workers 4 ▪ Interpreting marketing data
▪ Analyzing a target market and predicting demand
▪ Analyzing sales data and storytelling
▪ Branding through data analysis
July2022 Bigdata academy for older workers 4 ▪ Data literacy for decision-making at work
▪ Data analysis using Python
July2022 Medialiteracy academy for media creators 4 ▪ The media ecosystem viewed through the profit structure of single-personmedia
▪ Responsibilities of a single-person media creator using content
▪ Creating reliable content
▪ Trends in YouTube content and how to run a YouTube channel
August2022 Digitalculture academy for older people 4 ▪ Traveling with Google Earth during the pandemic
▪ Arts tours at digital galleries
▪ Visiting the past at digital museums
▪ Visiting ancient futures through the metaverse
August-September2022 Medialiteracy academy for media consumers 6 ▪ The need for media literacy
▪ Digital footprints and privacy protection
▪ Critical news/information reading (e.g., deepfake footage, clickbait, andadvertisements)
▪ How to share media content in a proper way

As seen above, the NLK has designed customized programs for different groups based on their unique needs. Digital media literacy courses were offered to older users in conjunction with cultural and arts activities such as digital poetry and painting, a gratitude essay, and an e-book essay publication in order to help them build their abilities to communicate in the digital world. For young people and workers, the courses were designed to help them more effectively use data and digital tools, and also to promote their ability to cooperate in the digital space.

In 2022, the NLK partnered with the Korea Press Foundation to offer courses for parents, media creators, and media consumers with an aim to strengthen their abilities to critically evaluate information. In October, the NLK is planning to launch courses for users of academic information at the library.

Table 2 compares the NLK’s courses with the five media literacy topics highlighted in the ALA’s guidelines on media literacy education in libraries (2020).2 According to this table, the NLK’s courses are primarily related to four topics: The architecture of the internet, media landscape and economics, misinformation, and media creation and engagement. While not included in the guidelines, the NLK also has courses on media education for parents and strategies for operating single-person media. According to this table, civics is an area where the NLK may need to improve its educational offerings.

Table 2. Topics from the ALA guide on media literacy for library practitioners and a comparison with the NLK’s courses

Topics Key concepts NLK courses
Architecture of the internet ▪ Cookies
▪ Algorithms
▪ Filter bubbles
▪ Echo chambers
▪ Understanding the changingdigital media environment
▪ Digital footprints andprivacy protection
Civics ▪ Safe spaces
▪ News deserts
▪ Civility
▪ Marketplace of ideas
Media landscape andeconomics ▪ Disintermediated
▪ Frictionless
▪ Computer algorithms
▪ Blurring the lines
▪ The media ecosystemand the profit structure of single-person media
Misinformation ▪ Filter bubbles
▪ Infodemic
▪ Media manipulation
▪ Evaluating the credibility ofinformation including news, deepfake images, and advertisements
Media creation and engagement ▪ Motivation
▪ Skills to create media
▪ Ethics
▪ Appropriate ways to sharemedia content
▪ Responsibility to createreliable content

3. Future directions for digital media literacy education in the library

1) Creating legal and policy bases

In order to strengthen digital media literacy education in the library, it is necessary to create relevant guidelines and establish laws and policies that require libraries to provide digital media literacy education.

According to the Libraries Act, user education on information literacy (Article 2) should be provided as part of library services. Libraries should also provide educational and cultural programs (Article 43) and school libraries in particular should offer students education on how to use information (Article 38) with a goal of reducing the information gap among people. However, the existing law fails to include digital media literacy (e.g., digital capacities, digital inclusion, and media literacy).

Meanwhile, the Third Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Libraries (2019-2023) includes “developing and distributing literacy programs designed to promote contextual understanding and strengthening education regarding the use of media with a goal to reduce information inequality” under the strategy “Libraries should promote social inclusion.” In this government plan, the term “digital literacy” is used in regard to expanding spaces for experience-based activities such as makerspaces. In Finland, by comparison, the Public Libraries Act stipulates the obligations of a library to be the promotion of democratic citizenship and a wide range of literacy among its constituents rather than the limited goal of reducing the information gap. It is necessary for South Korea to follow suit and clearly define in the Libraries Act the role of libraries as a digital media literacy education platform that help cultivate democratic citizens in the digital era.

It is also essential to create guidelines on digital media literacy education in the library in order to support the coherence and sustainability of related policies. Several media education organizations, including the Korea Press Foundation, have published guidelines on media education. However, these guidelines are mainly focused on understanding media environments and using media content in connection to traditional media such as TV news and newspapers. This means it is necessary to establish guidelines customized to digital media literacy education in the library as an institution that provides sound access to diverse digital media and helps cultivate the ability to critically read media messages. These guidelines may include recommended topics for digital media literacy education and measures for cooperation with other community organizations. The NLK has developed educational materials on media literacy in the library by analyzing the status of media literacy education at public libraries and reflecting the needs of public libraries. In early 20222, these materials were distributed to public libraries across the country. The NLK will continue to identify model practices of digital media literacy education at public libraries and strive to raise awareness of the necessity for libraries to play a central role in media literacy education to create a healthy digital society.

2) Developing and distributing educational content for libraries

At the 2021 World Library and Information Congress (WLIC), Damien Wang from the National Library Board of Singapore discussed the development of high-quality content at the national level as an essential element in promoting the effectiveness of digital media literacy education. The following are suggestions for securing the quality, uniqueness, and utility of educational content.

First, content can be developed through cooperation among the private, public, and academic sectors. As in the Media Literacy at Your Library project in the US, libraries partnering with universities can receive support for developing curricula on user education, performance evaluation tools, and capacity-building programs for librarians. Meanwhile, university researchers may find new and interesting areas of education in which they can develop and improve the digital media literacy curriculum from the perspective of life-long education. Through partnerships with other organizations, libraries will be able to secure an academic basis and needed expertise and improve the validity of their educational programs.

Second, the content of digital media literacy education in the library should be distinct from the content offered by other organizations. Libraries may incorporate aspects of digital technology into their information literacy education, which has historically been an area of strength for libraries, and add media literacy elements such as how to critically analyze media messages. Furthermore, practices regarding digital media literacy education at individual libraries can be shared to identify model practices and further improve digital media literacy education programs in the library.

Third, the effectiveness of digital media literacy education at libraries may be improved by increasing the usability of the educational content. As in the case of Digital Learn3 by the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, e-learning content may be offered on frequently asked questions related to digital media technologies. This would supplement existing services while minimizing individual libraries’ burden of developing content. Once the quality of the content is secured, it may also be shared with other public and private organizations.

3) Increasing the effectiveness and awareness of digital media literacy education at libraries through partnerships

If digital media literacy education at libraries is to be strengthened, close cooperation is necessary not only between different departments within a library, but also between libraries and other public and private organizations.

First, the content of digital media literacy education may be linked to other services and programs within the library so as to raise awareness of digital media literacy among library users. For example, content on education about the critical evaluation of media messages may be included when informing users on how to use a news database. In a program on the creation of single-person media, educational content related to evaluating the reliability of information may be incorporated.

Second, the impact of digital media literacy education may be increased through cooperation with other libraries. There should be no barriers to digital media literacy education in the library, and the education should be accessible to everyone as part of life-long learning. This may be achieved through close cooperation among the NLK, public libraries, and school libraries.

To meet this goal, the NLK should make efforts to have legal and policy bases in place for digital media literacy education so as to secure coherence and consistency in related policies. The NLK can also develop capacity-building programs for librarians in regard to the development and operation of digital media literacy education at the library and help strengthen the expertise of librarians as providers of literacy education. Before finalizing any guidelines or educational programs for individual libraries, pilot programs may be run, as is done in the US, by recruiting several volunteer libraries. The NLK may also perform evaluations of the performance of individual libraries in terms of literacy education and share domestic or overseas model practices with libraries across the country. Regional flagship libraries may establish strategies for digital media literacy education by reflecting the demographics of their particular regions. They can also plan events in partnership with local organizations for media literacy week. Public libraries may develop digital media literacy education based on the needs of their communities from the perspective of life-long education. In particular, public libraries in regions that do not have strong school libraries may consider the school curriculum in their services connected with creative activities and high school credit systems.

Third, it is necessary to establish and raise awareness of libraries as institutions that provide digital media literacy education in interactions between libraries and other public/private organizations. For example, libraries may be included in the Digital Media Literacy Committee,4 a public-private cooperative body, so that literacy education in the library can be carried out as part of a comprehensive national strategy for promoting digital literacy. Libraries may also pursue cooperation with the Digital Learning Center (the Digital Baeumter), which is run by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Information Society Agency as part of the government’s digital inclusion policy. They may also partner with other organizations that provide media education, including the Korea Press Foundation and the Community Media Foundation, so as to foster consistent digital media literacy education across different organizations. Lastly, public awareness of digital media literacy can be raised by carrying out campaigns together with diverse content creators such as authors, single-person media creators, publishers, journalists, and media producers. Authors Aloud UK5 is an example of a program in which a library creates an opportunity for authors and community residents to gather and interact.


Cho Seung-han, 800 people died due to misinformation about Covid-19, Dong-a Science, August 13, 2020. Available at

Cha Mi-yeong, How is international society responding to misinformation?, Dong-a Science, August 13, 2020. Available at

IFLA (2018a). Access and opportunity for all: How libraries contribute to the United Nations 2030 agenda. Available at

IFLA (2018b). IFLA statement on fake news. Available at

Wang, D. (2021). Libraries enable news literacy: Finding solutions to fake news. Presented at the IFLA WLIC 2021 in the News Media section. Available at

1This paper is a revised version of The Status of Digital Media Literacy Education and Suggestions for Further Improvement published in NLK Issue Paper No. 6 (October 2021).

2American Library Association (2020). Media Literacy in the Library: A Guide for Library Practitioners. Available at

3Digital Learn: Video content for mastering digital media technologies, including how to use a computer, the internet, and smartphones (

4The Digital Media Literacy Committee: A public-private cooperative body that was created as part of the government’s comprehensive plan for strengthening the public’s digital media capacity. This comprehensive plan was launched in August 2020 with the Korea Communications Commission, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, and the Ministry of Education all participating.