What is Information Literacy?

Born out of the explosion of information world wide and in an effort to avoid datasmog, information literacy has become a central educational outcome in American education. In many respects, information literacy has come to comprehensively describe what instruction librarians do. Everyone is talking about information literacy, and yet it is a very complex term to define. Common definitions include:

  • "Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information."
    American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (January 10, 1989, Washington, D.C.)
  • "Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand." 
    American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (January 10, 1989, Washington, D.C.)
  • "a new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure, and its social, cultural and even philosophical context and impact"
    Shapiro, Jeremy J. and Shelley K. Hughes. "Information Literacy as a Liberal Art". Educom Review. 3.2. Mar./Apr. 1996.
  • "the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information to become independent life-long learners" Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Criteria for Accreditation, Section 5.1.2 [Library and Other Information Resources] Services . 10th ed. Dec. 1996.