About Information Literacy
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." (American Library Association)
Information literacy has been called a survival skill in the Information Age. In academia there is an emphasis on strengthening students' information literacy skills to adequately prepare them to deal with "information overload", and the constant changes of information format and retrieval methods in their disciplines. (University of Texas at El Paso)
Information literacy goes beyond retrieving information; it encompasses how information is organized, identifying the best sources for a given need, finding those sources, evaluating, and using information ethically. -Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed.
Why Do We Need Information Literacy?
"Having information and being informed are not the same thing." - Denise Cheng
New information is being discovered and disseminated at a phenomenal rate. Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced. (This would fill 10 million blue-ray discs.) Students need to know how to find accurate information, and how to use critical analysis for assessing the veracity or bias and the current or potential uses of new information. Information literacy is a critical skill for student success. Research indicates that students who are information competent will have greater success in completing their degrees. It will help to ensure that students will be able to function successfully in our Information Age. These are the executive functions that they need to develop and practice in the home, at school and in the workforce today. -Judy Willis, M.D., M. Ed.
Information competent people have learned how to learn. They know how information 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 task or decision that presents itself. -ALA Presidential Committee on Information LIteracy
Characteristics of an Information Literate Person
The definition of an information literate person extends beyond school and application to academic problems--such as writing a research paper--and reaches right into the workplace. Information literacy is also important to an effective and enlightened citizenry, and has implications that can impact the lives of many people around the globe.
The ability to use information technologies effectively, to find and manage information, and the ability to critically evaluate and ethically apply that information to solve a problem are some of the hallmarks of an information literate individual. Other characteristics of an information literate individual include the spirit of inquiry and perseverance to find out what is necessary to get the job done.
We live in the Information Age, and "information" is increasing at a rapid pace. We have the Internet, television, radio, and other information resources available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, just because so much information is so easily and quickly available does not mean that all of it is worthwhile or even true.
Because of resources like the Internet, finding high-quality information is now harder than ever, not easier! Finding the good stuff is not always quick! And the good stuff does not always come cheaply, either!
Today's employers are looking for people who understand and can adapt to the characteristics of the Information Age. If a student has "learned how to learn," upon graduation, they are a much more attractive job candidate. An information literate individual--with their strong analytical, critical thinking and problem-solving skills--can be expected to be an adaptable, capable and valuable employee, with much to contribute.
ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards
for Higher Education
Project Information Literacy