Information literacy

From Academic Kids

Information literacy is the ability "to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information" (1989, p. 1).

An information literate person is one who:

  • recognizes that accurate and complete information is the basis for intelligent decision making
  • recognizes the need for information
  • formulates questions based on information needs
  • identifies potential sources of information
  • develops successful search strategies
  • accesses sources of information including computer-based and other technologies
  • evaluates information
  • organizes information for practical application
  • integrates new information into an existing body of knowledge
  • uses information in critical thinking and problem solving (Doyle, 1992)

Since information may be presented in a number of formats, the term information applies to more than just the printed word. Other literacies such as visual, media, computer, network, and basic literacies are implicit in information literacy.


History of the concept

The seminal event in the development of the concept of information literacy was the establishment of the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy whose final report outlined the importance of the concept.

Other important events include:

  • 1983: A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform
    • shows that we are "raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate."
  • 1986: Educating Students to Think: The Role of the School Library Media Program
    • outlines the roles of the library and the information resources in K-12 education
  • 1987: Information Skills for an Information Society: A Review of Research
    • includes library skills and computer skills in the definition of information literacy
  • 1988: Information Power: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs
  • 1989: National Forum on Information Literacy (NFIL), a coalition of more than 65 national organizations, has its first meeting
  • 1998: Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning
    • emphasizes that the mission of the school library media program is "to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information."

Evolution of the economy

The change from an economy based on labor and capital to one based on information requires information literate workers who will know how to interpret information.

Barner's (1996) study of the new workplace indicates significant changes will take place in the future:

  • The work force will become more decentralized
  • The work force will become more diverse
  • The economy will become more global
  • The use of temporary workers will increase

These changes will require that workers possess information literacy skills. The SCANS (1991) report identifies the skills necessary for the workplace of the future. Rather than report to a hierarchical management structure, workers of the future will be required to actively participate in the management of the company and contribute to its success. To survive in this information society, workers will need to possess skills beyond those of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Effect on education

Because information literacy skills are vital to future success:

  • Information literacy skills must be taught in the context of the overall process.
  • Instruction in information literacy skills must be integrated into the curriculum and reinforced both within and outside of the educational setting.

Education in the USA


With the passage of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994), subject matter organizations were able to obtain funding to develop standards in their respective subject areas. Information literacy skills are implicit in the National Education Goals and national content standards documents.

Three of the eight National Education Goals demonstrate the critical nature of information literacy to an information society:

  • Goal 1: School Readiness
  • Goal 3: Student Achievement and Citizenship
  • Goal 6: Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning

An analysis of national content standards documents reveals that they all focus on lifelong learning, the ability to think critically, and on the use of new and existing information for problem solving.

Individual states are creating initiatives to ensure that students attain information literacy skills by the time they graduate from high school. Kentucky (1995), Utah (1996), and California (1994) are but three examples of states that have publications depicting these initiatives.

National content standards, state standards, and information literacy skills terminology may vary, but all have common components relating to information literacy.

K-12 education restructuring

Educational reform and restructuring make information literacy skills a necessity as students seek to construct their own knowledge and create their own understandings.

Educators are selecting various forms of resource-based learning (authentic learning, problem-based learning and work-based learning) to help students focus on the process and to help students learn from the content. Information literacy skills are necessary components of each.

The process approach to education is requiring new forms of student assessment. Students demonstrate their skills, assess their own learning, and evaluate the processes by which this learning has been achieved by preparing portfolios, learning and research logs, and using rubrics.

Efforts in K-12 education

Information literacy efforts are underway on individual, local, and regional bases.

Imaginative Web based information literacy tutorials are being created and integrated with curriculum areas, or being used for staff development purposes.

Library media programs are fostering information literacy by integrating the presentation of information literacy skills with curriculum at all grade levels.

Information literacy efforts are not being limited to the library field, but are also being employed by regional educational consortia.

Parents are encouraging their children to develop information literacy skills at home by contacting KidsConnect, the Internet help and referral service for K-12 students. Parents are also helping students work through the information problem solving process as they assist their children with their homework.

Efforts in higher education

The inclusion of information competencies as a graduation requirement is the key that will fully integrate information literacy into the curricula of academic institutions.

Information literacy instruction in higher education can take a variety of forms: stand-alone courses or classes, online tutorials, workbooks, course-related instruction, or course-integrated instruction.

State-wide university systems and individual colleges and universities are undertaking strategic planning to determine information competencies, to incorporate instruction in information competence throughout the curriculum and to add information competence as a graduation requirement for students.

Academic library programs are preparing faculty to facilitate their students' mastery of information literacy skills so that the faculty can in turn provide information literacy learning experiences for the students enrolled in their classes.


Information Technology is the great enabler. It provides, for those who have access to it, an extension of their powers of perception, comprehension, analysis, thought, concentration, and articulation through a range of activities that include: writing, visual images, mathematics, music, physical movement, sensing the environment, simulation, and communication (Carpenter, 1989, p. 2).

Technology, in all of its various forms, offers users the tools to access, manipulate, transform, evaluate, use, and present information.

Technology in schools includes computers, televisions, video cameras, video editing equipment, and TV studios.

Two approaches to technology in K-12 schools are technology as the object of instruction approach, and technology as the tool of instruction approach.

Schools are starting to incorporate technology skills instruction in the context of information literacy skills.

Technology is changing the way higher education institutions are offering instruction. The use of the Internet is being taught the contexts of subject area curricula and the overall information literacy process.

There is some empirical indication that students who use technology as a tool may become better at managing information, communicating, and presenting ideas.

Distance education

Now that information literacy has become a part of the core curriculum at many post-secondary institutions, it is incumbent upon the library community to be able to provide information literacy instruction in a variety of formats, including online learning and distance education. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) addresses this need in its Guidelines for Distance Education Services (2000):

“Library resources and services in institutions of higher education must meet the needs of all their faculty, students, and academic support staff, wherever these individuals are located, whether on a main campus, off campus, in distance education or extended campus programs -- or in the absence of a campus at all, in courses taken for credit or non-credit; in continuing education programs; in courses attended in person or by means of electronic transmission; or any other means of distance education.”

Within the e-learning and distance education worlds, providing effective information literacy programs brings together the challenges of both distance librarianship and instruction. With the prevalence of course management systems such as WebCT and Blackboard, library staff are embedding infomration literacy training within academic programs and within individual classes themselves (Presti, 2002).

See also article on library instruction.


American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1988). Information power: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago: Author. (ED 315 028)

American Library Association and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1998). Information power: Building partnerships for learning. Chicago: Author.

American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. (1989).Final report. Chicago: Author. (ED 315 028)

Barner, R. (1996, March/April). Seven changes that will challenge managers-and workers. The Futurist, 30(2), 14-18.

Breivik. P. S. & Senn, J. A. (1998). Information literacy: Educating children for the 21st century. (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: National Education Association.

Carpenter, J. P. (1989). Using the new technologies to create links between schools throughout the world: Colloquy on computerized school links. (Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom, 17-20 Oct. 1988).

Doyle, C.S. (1992). Outcome Measures for Information Literacy Within the National Education Goals of 1990. Final Report to National Forum on Information Literacy. Summary of Findings.

Hashim, E. (1986). Educating students to think: The role of the school library media program, an introduction. In Information literacy: Learning how to learn. A collection of articles from School Library Media Quarterly, (15)1, 17-18.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1987). Information skills for an information society: A review of research. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources. (ED 297 740)

National Commission of Excellence in Education. (1983). A Nation at risk: The imperative for educational reform. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. (ED 226 006)

Presti, P. (2002). Incorporating information literacy and distance learning within a course management system: a case study. Ypsilanti, MI: Loex News, (29)2-3, 3-12-13. Retrieved February 3, 2004 from

Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. (ED 332 054)

External links

de:Informationskompetenz ja:情報リテラシー no:Informasjonskompetanse nn:Informasjonskompetanse zh:資訊素養


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