According to the American Library Association, Information Literacy
is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.
However, because the term is often confused with computer literacy, there are many different definitions of information literacy. A comprehensive definition of the term would include both a narrow sense of the term and a broader sense of the term:
In a narrow sense, it involves
the practical skills involved in effective use of information technology and information resources, either print or electronic.
In a broader sense,
it is a new liberal art which extends beyond technical skills and is conceived as the critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural and even philosophical context and impact.
A full information literacy curriculum would include:
- Tool literacy - The ability to use print and electronic resources including software
- Resource literacy - The ability to understand the form, format, location and access methods of information resources
- Social-structural literacy - Knowledge of how information is socially situated and produced. It includes understanding the scholarly publishing process
- Research literacy - The ability to understand and use information technology tools to carry our research including discipline-related software
- Publishing literacy - The ability to produce a text or multimedia report of the results of research
Quoting the ALA again,
Information literacy ... (gives) us the skills to know when we need information and where to locate it effectively and efficiently.
The sheer abundance of information, however, will not in itself create a more informed citizenry. A complementary cluster of abilities is necessary if information is to be used effectively.
- In SILS, INLS200 focuses on concepts and techniques for finding and evaluating information, while INLS261 focuses on concepts and the tools needed to communicate your information to users.
- INLS200 is a prerequisite for the Information Science major and is required for the Information Systems minor. It provides a foundation for all additional courses in SILS.
This course is important because in the Information Age, knowledge of how to find, evaluate, and use information is as important to our survival as knowledge of hunting and gathering was in the Stone Age. One might be able to survive on what one finds, but such a diet (of food or of information) would be a pretty poor one if knowledge and insight are not added to the finding process.
One of the biggest problems faced by people in the Information Age is the sheer volume of information available: there is more information available on any topic than one is likely to want, but is all of it worthwhile? Poor quality information or misinformation may be worse than useless, it may be positively harmful.
The ability to filter and evaluate information is therefore one of the most important skills that a person can have in the Information Age.
Moreover, these skills are absolutely essential for all citizens of a democracy to possess. It is stated that Thomas Jefferson wrote:
[I]f we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.
However, did he? One could look at some tools that may answer the question.
The American Library Association's position is that:
the power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them.
Without quality information, how can one learn enough about the issues that are important in order to decide how to vote on them, how to vote for who you want representing you in government?
This course is important because knowledge of how to find, evaluate, and use information is as important as any other skill that a person can possess in the Information Age, and is a citizen's civic duty as well.