The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education defines information literacy as the ability to recognize the need for information, and be able to locate, evaluate, and use the information effectively (2000, p.2). Information literacy is essential in the creation of lifelong learners (Wallis, 2005, p. 221). Educators struggle continually to ensure that students are not only able to successfully navigate through the plethora of information available, but that they are able to think critically about information, and put it to use in all aspects of their lives. Information literacy skills instruction can serve as a method to help meet this goal. However, in order to provide information literacy instruction it is necessary to fully understand the concept and all it entails, including how it can be implemented and the benefits it offers to students, educators, and higher education institutions as a whole.
Main Focus: Technology, Best Practices, Collaboration, Pedagogy And Assessment
Information literacy is not discipline specific, nor is it solely the realm of academe. The skills that are encompassed by information literacy, as defined above, naturally lead the learner towards self-directed learning and can be useful in both formal and informal educational situations. Given the rapid change in technology, it has become equally as important to have information technology skills. An increasing amount of information is in electronic form, requiring learners to be able to use a computer or portable device and software to be able to access it. Information technology skills therefore support information literacy, in that they allow learners more opportunities to find needed information. As Eisenberg, Lowe & Spitzer note, information literacy is also comprised of network literacy, media literacy and visual literacy.
All students have the right to, and need for information literacy skills instruction, whether they be remote learners or campus-based. ACRL delineates this in a number of documents, including the information literacy competency standards (2000) and in the 2008 Standards for Distance Learning Library Services. In discussing information literacy, the Standards for Distance Learning Library Services state that “[t]he library must provide information literacy instruction programs to the distance learning community in accordance with the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education . . . The attainment of lifelong learning skills through general bibliographic and information literacy instruction in academic libraries is a primary outcome of higher education, and as such, must be provided to all distance learning students (ACRL, 2008, para. 31).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Information Literacy: The ability to find, use and evaluate information in an ethical fashion.
ICT Technology Competency: The ability to utilize electronic reference sources to find, use and evaluate information for a specific purpose.
Lifelong Learning: Continuing to learn throughout life through the development of existing skills, whether they have been learned in school or not.
Critical Reading: The ability to evaluate closely the meaning of a text and understand the context in which it was written.
Visual Literacy: The ability to use and evaluate information in a variety of formats.
Media Literacy: The ability to evaluate information from the media.
Network Literacy: The ability to negotiate networked information.
Critical Thinking: The ability to think about a topic from a variety of angles in order to form an opinion.