What Is Information Literacy? Who Are Information Literate People?
What is information literacy?
There are many different definitions of information literacy, but perhaps the best succinct and comprehensive definition is:
- Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. American Library Association. 2006. (Accessed 27 May 2009).
A more comprehensive definition communicating the substance and breadth of information literacy is also useful. Jeremy J. Shapiro and Shelley K. Hughes provide a more detailed definition in their article "Information Literacy as a Liberal Art." Briefly put, Shapiro and Hughes make the following major points in their definition:
- In its narrowest sense, information literacy includes the practical skills involved in effective use of information technology and print or electronic information resources.
- Information literacy is a new liberal art which extends beyond technical skills and is conceived as one's critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and even philosophical context and impact.
- The information literacy curriculum includes:
- Tool literacy - The ability to use print and electronic resources including software and online resources.
- Resource literacy - The ability to understand the form, format, location and methods for accessing information resources.
- Social-structural literacy - Knowledge of how information is socially situated and produced. It includes understanding the scholarly publishing process.
- Research literacy - The ability to understand and use information technology tools to carry out research, including the use of discipline-related software and online resources.
- Publishing literacy - The ability to produce a text or multimedia report of research results.
(Information Literacy for Faculty and Administrators, from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/issues/infolit/overview/faculty/faculty.cfm#background)
Who are information literate People?
The American Library Association (ALA) describes information literate people as:
"…(t)hose who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information and how to use information so that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand."
(American Library Association, "American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy," 10 January 1989 & 7 February 2000.
Available at: http://www.ala.org/acrl/publications/whitepapers/presidential)