Information Literacy Defined

What is information literacy?  A concept or process?  A process within a concept?  There are a number of varying definitions of information literacy.  The one thing that they all have in common is the fact that we, as students, teachers, employees, and overall members of 21st Century society require the abilities associated with accessing, evaluating and using information in dynamic and continuously evolving sources.

Some definitions of information literacy are neatly packaged in easy to remember acronyms:

The ‘BIG 6’ which was developed by the American Association of School Librarians addresses the skills needed for information literate students as follows:

  1. Task Definition
  2. Information Seeking Strategies
  3. Location and access
  4. Use of Information
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

Another checklist for information literacy skills developed by James Herring is PLUS –

P – purpose

L – location

U – use

S – self-evaluation

The PLUS system emphasizes the main abilities required for information literate students to gain success using a variety sources of information in various modes.

Abilock (2004) also describes information literacy as a ‘problem-solving process’ where “learners need to find, understand, evaluate and use information in various forms”.  Again, there is a step-by-step process involved in gaining information literacy.  The process guides the learner in the systematic pursuit of information, in this case, through the following stages:

Engaging

Defining

Initiating

Locating

Examining, selecting, comprehending and assessing

Recording, sorting, organising, interpreting

Communicating, synthesizing

Evaluating

It is clear that becoming ‘information literate’ is much more complex than it was thirty, or even twenty years ago.  The students of the 2020s will most likely be facing even more complex and technologically advanced modes of information gathering.  They will need to be critical problem-solvers who are able to purposefully access relevant information for their information needs in the society in which they live. Teacher-librarians possess a major responsibility and play a vital role in providing 21st Century learners with the tools and guidance needed to successfully navigate through the everchanging landscape of information literacy.

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