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Information LiteracyInformation Literacy

Over the past few decades many "new literacies" have been identified. However most could easily be placed under the umbrella of information literacy.

video clipView What is Information Literacy? by Mike Eisenberg. In Vodcast #1 of his series, Mike Eisenberg answers questions that he has collected from students and colleagues around the country on various Information Literacy topics.

Information Literacy Defined

There are definitions of information literacy. However, most school library media specialists use the ALA definition, "to be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."

According to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), 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."

ACRL, in its statement on Information Literacy and Competency Standards for Higher Education states:

Information literacy also is increasingly important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources. Because of the escalating complexity of this environment, individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives. Information is available through libraries, community resources, special interest organizations, media and the Internet, and increasingly, information comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions of its authenticity, validity, and reliability.
… Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:

  • determine the extent of information needed
  • access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • evaluate information and its sources critically
  • incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base
  • use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information
  • access and use information ethically and legally

In 1989, the American Library Association published a significant report titled Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report focusing on information literacy. An updated report was released in 1998 titled A Progress Report on Information Literacy: An Update on the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report.

According to the American Library Association, "Ultimately, information literate people are those 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 in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any decision or task at hand. " (ALA, Presidential Committee on Information Literacy Final Report, 1989).

Information Literacy and School Library Programs

Information literacy is at the core of the school library media program. These skills involve much more than teaching study and research skills. It's easy to get caught up in fun library activities and forget the larger picture. We need to constantly ask ourselves about how each learning experience is contributing to student understandings.

video clipView Information Literacy Defined (5:07).

In this video, information literacy is defined. In addition, the role of the school library media center and information literacy is discussed as well as how students seek and process information – Excerpt from “Information Library Media Services” from Lincoln Public Schools, NB

View Information Literacy (5:07).

In this video, information literacy is defined. In addition, the role of the school library media center and information literacy is discussed as well as how students seek and process information – Excerpt from “Information Library Media Services” from Lincoln Public Schools, NB

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.

eye means readRead A Library Advocate's Guide to Building Information Literate Communities (PDF document) from ALA (2003). This excellent guide defines information literacy as well as providing ideas for building an information literate community. It also provides excellent examples.

Skim The Information Literacy Movement of the School Library Media Field: a Preliminary Summary of the Research. This article by David Loertscher and Blanche Woolls provides an excellent review of the research and movements in the area of information literacy. The two professionals review two major conferences and look at information literacy and critical thinking during the 1980s. Excellent bibliography for even more reading and information. This article is also available at Review of Research.

Skim A Little Bit Broken, A Little Bit Perfect by Dominic Basulto in TCS. This author takes a different perspective than many people in the library field. Discuss his view of information and the role of the school teacher librarian. Do you think it's accurate? Why or why not?

tiny lambLamb's Latitudes
When I hear some media specialists talk about their instructional programs, I find that many suffer from "card catalog amnesia." This malady occurs when media specialists fall back on the old practice of teaching isolated skills. I remember teaching kids to search the Reader's Guide to Periodicals, apply the Dewey decimal system, and use the card catalog. A few weeks later when it was time to write a report, students had totally forgotten about these skills. Before long, I figured out that the best way to teach these skills was within classroom projects. When students were doing animal reports, the location of the animal books on the shelf (598's, 599's) was important to them. I still hear librarians talking about teaching "Freshman Orientation" and wonder how few students see the relevance until their projects are due.

Learn More

Abilock, Debbie. Beginner's Blind Spot. KnowledgeQuest (Vol. 33, No. 1, September/October 2004).

Adams, Dennis & Hamm, Mary (Winter 2000). Literacy, Learning, and Media. Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology.

Doyle, C. (1994). Information Literacy in an Information Society. Available at Google Books.

Grover, Robert (1993). A Proposed Model for Diagnosing Information Needs. SLMQ, 21(2). The author explores the concept of diagnosis, suggests implications for practitioners and researchers, and prepares a theoretical model for studying diagnosis.

Hays, Lyn (1999). Information Literacy: Seeking Meaning With Actions, Thought, and Feelings.

Information Literacy: An Overview of Design, Process, and Outcome. Super resources related to information literacy, student skills and strategies, student outcomes, and curriculum and teaching.

Kock, Melissa (Spring 2001). Information Literacy: Where Do We Go from Here? Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology.

Langford, L. (1998). Information Literacy: A Clarification. This article (first appeared in School Libraries Worldwide, Volume 4, Number 1, 1998, 59-72) begins with a brief overview of the concept of literacy. It then focuses on a series of definitions that deal with an expanding notion of literacies, and finally refocuses on information literacy.

Loertscher, David V., and Blanche Woolls (1999). Information Literacy: A Review of the Research: A Guide for Practitioners and Researchers, Hi Willow Research and Publishing. Review of research on information literacy.

National Forum on Information Literacy. Created in 1989 as a response to the recommendations of the American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Contains lots of resources.

Shapiro, Jeremy J. & Hughes, Shelley K. (March/April 1996). Information Literacy as a Liberal Art. Educom Review.

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