Information Literacy in a Nutshell: Basic Information for Academic Administrators and Faculty
The following brief guide provides an introduction to the concept of information literacy and model information literacy programs. It is designed specifically for academic administrators and faculty. Each of the four sections of the guide includes links to other web resources that provide additional information. The four sections are:
- What should faculty and administrators know about information literacy programs?
- Are there some model programs I can examine?
- Where can I find more information?
What Is Information Literacy?
There are many different definitions of information literacy (also called information competency or information fluency by some practitioners) because the term is often confused with computer literacy and bibliographic instruction. While there is a great deal of overlap among the three terms, information literacy is the more comprehensive. Perhaps the best succinct and comprehensive definition is:
In the succinctness and breadth of the above definition much of the substance of information literacy is lost. Therefore a more comprehensive definition is useful. Jeremy J. Shapiro and Shelley K. Hughes provide a more detailed definition in their article "Information Literacy as a Liberal Art ." Briefly put Shapiro and Hughes make the following major points in their definition:
- In its narrowest sense information literacy includes the practical skills involved in effective use of information technology and information resources, either print or electronic.
- Information literacy 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.
- The information literacy curriculum includes:
- 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.
- Perhaps the most complete definition of information literacy is provided by Loanne Snavely and Natasha Cooper in a review article for the Journal of Academic Librarianship entitled "The Information Literacy Debate" (January 1997). The article is most useful because it puts the current definitional debate in the context of the 100 year history of librarians' efforts to provide programs that develop students information searching skills.
What should faculty and administrators know about information literacy programs?
If you are an academic administrator or faculty member who is unfamiliar with information literacy we suggest the following points of information and advice:
Not A New Concept
Information literacy may be a hot new term in the higher education lexicon as we talk about living in the Information Age. However it is not a new concept. The idea of resource-based education is an old one and librarians have been involved in teaching the effective use of information resources for over a century under the labels library instruction, bibliographic instruction and library skills.
Clarifying The Term
The terms resource-based education, bibliographic instruction, library instruction, computer literacy, among others will often be used in conjunction with the term information literacy. Sorting out the differences can be useful but is not essential to understanding the basic concept of evaluate, and use information to become independent life-long learners." (SACS)link to ... Information literacy includes both a set of generic skills and concepts as well as skills and concepts which are specific to certain disciplines and subject areas.
Information literacy programs take two archetypical forms --separate courses (for credit or non-credit) or activities integrated into general education courses and/or courses in major fields of study.
Information literacy depends on collaboration among classroom faculty, academic administrators, librarians and other information professionals. In order to effectively implement a program all parties must be involved.
Leadership of Administrators
Information literacy programs require the leadership and support of academic administrators. Such leadership is not limited to budgetary support. It also includes helping create a supportive atmosphere and practical opportunities for cooperation among librarians, classroom faculty and information technologists. Such leadership should promote a vision of liberal education as an empowering and transforming endeavor that develops students as independent learners with the necessary skills.
Librarians are deeply involved in addressing the issues associated with developing information literacy programs and national and regional efforts to improve program quality. Consult with your local academic librarians. If they are not aware of such efforts give them the address for this page.
Information literacy includes both a set of generic skills and concepts as well as skills and concepts which are specific to certain disciplines and subject areas.
Are there some model programs I can examine?
- Drew Smith's "Directory of Online Resources for Information Literacy ," lists examples of information literacy programs in higher education. Using that list as source I have listed below perhaps the best know programs. (URL: http://nosferatu.cas.usf.edu/lis/il/)
- Examples of model programs include:
Where can I find more information?
See also our Accreditation Bibliography.
This page was prepared by Thoms G. Kirk, Jr.
The author welcomes comments or questions from readers.
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