Information literacy is more than a set of skills. The definitions of literacy and information literacy lend themselves to a complex set of skills and processes that, when combined, empowers both students and teachers to participate confidently in the world of learning and information.
Every teacher has their own definition of literacy, and for many, this evolves with experience. My early definition was brief and general, stating that literacy is the ability to read and write. Through time and experience, my definition of literacy has evolved to include the ability to read, write, use numbers and, to communicate and make meaning using these skills. Langford
(1998) concurs that
literacy is more than the ability to read and write and suggests that the
purposes of literacy have broadened as society has placed more value on
literacy and as the world has advanced in areas of learning and technology.
Information literacy is the ability to seek and find information, evaluate it and use it effectively. Langford
(1998) suggests that
information literacy is ever evolving as the information needs of society
expand. As this occurs, the skills set
of information literate people increases and the need to employ information
literacy skills to effect becomes pivotal.
Without the ability to use the skills effectively, the information
literacy skills set remains exactly that; a set of skills.
Teacher librarians are dedicated to teaching students skills to participate in an information literate world. As technology advances, and as information becomes more readily available via electronic and printed resources, the acquisition of information literacy skills could be seen to be consequential, however, it is one thing to be able to use a computer, enter in a search topic and bring up topic related resources, but another to be able to search effectively for appropriate information, evaluate the information and then use the information to construct knowledge and form opinions based on the knowledge. Kuhlthau
(2004) found that to be
literate wasn’t just to recognise the need for information, but also the
ability to create knowledge and meaning from the information found, igniting
lifelong learning skills through the success of the information process. Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process
supports the concept of information literacy being more than a set of skills
and Doyle (1996) as cited in Kuhlthau (2004) acknowledges the
importance of the attainment of skills in the information process. Kuhlthau also refers to Eisenberg and
Berkowitz’s (1990) statement that information literacy is not library skills or
computer skills or even information problem solving skills, but these skills
work together and are necessary enhancers of information literacy. (Kuhlthau,
(2008) writes “information
and technology literacy is clearly the basic skills set of the 21st
century”. Basic computer skills and
being able to use Google does not qualify you as being information
literate. Information literacy is not
just a set of skills, but the way the skills are used to support each other and
to achieve the information requirements of the user. It is the application of the skills in
partnership with one another that makes the user truly information literate.
Eisenberg, M. (2008). Information Literacy: Essential skills for the Information Age. DESIDOC Journal of Library and Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.
Kuhlthau, C. (2004). Information Search Process. Retrieved September 1st, 2012, from Carol Collier Kuhlthau: http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
Langford, L. (1998). Information Literacy: A Clarification. School Libraries Worldwide, 4(1), 59-72.