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Information Literacy: Why Should I Care?

Important Thoughts

Todays workplace, in a nutshell, might be described as one

  • That is knowledge driven and

  • Technology impacted; and where

  • Learning is lifelong, and

  • Change is the only constant


Goad, Tom W. Information Literacy and Workplace Performance. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2002, p. 5.

Simply going to the library or using the Internet to find facts about a topic does little to encourage learning in an information-rich world. Real life is about problem-solving and decision-making. It is more than reporting facts.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 20, 2000

Information technology is revolutionizing the workplace. The nature of work is changing as new processes and styles are enabled; jobs of new sorts are created; and new kinds of employees, for whom Peter Drucker (1959) coined the term knowledge workers, are needed. Drucker (1994) also predicted that by the end of the twentieth century, knowledge workers would make up a third or more of the U.S. workforce and new jobs would offer much greater opportunities.

More recently, Thomas Davenport (1997) predicted that the information in information technology will take on increasing importance, creating the need for skills related to functions such as information pruning, adding context to information, enhancing the style of information, and choosing the right medium for information.

And John Seely Brown believes that information navigation will be the new form of literacy, if not the main form of literacy, for the twenty-first century (Brown, 1999, p. 9). These new workers require advanced education, not just technical certification or training. Their jobs, often described as IT- enabled, require information literacy and fluency with IT.

Rudy, Julia A., Hawkins, Brian L. and Wallace, William H. Technology Everywhere : A Campus Agenda for Educating and Managing Workers in the Digital Age. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002. Retrieved from netLibrary. Lurleen B. Wallace Community College. December 18, 2007.


Selected Quotations on the Importance of Information Literacy

(November 2003)

What Is Information Literacy?

To be information literate, an individual must recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the information needed.

(Source: Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. American Library Association, 1989.)

Information literacy forms the basis of lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become self-directed, and to assume greater control over their own learning.

(Source: Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Association of College and Research Libraries, 2000.

Are Information Literacy and Computer Literacy the Same?

"Information and computer literacy, in the conventional sense, are functionally valuable technical skills. But information literacy should in fact be conceived more broadly as 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 - as essential to the
mental framework of the educated information-age citizen as the trivium of basic liberal arts (grammar, logic and rhetoric) was to the educated person in medieval society."

(Source: Shapiro, Jeremy J. and Shelley K. Hughes. "Information Literacy as a Liberal Art." Educom Review. Vol 31 No. 2 March/April 1996.

"Information literacy focuses on content and communication: it encompasses authoring, information finding and organization, research, and information analysis, assessment, and evaluation. Content can take many forms: text, images, video, computer simulations, and multimedia interactive works. Content can also serve many purposes: news, art, entertainment, education, research and scholarship, advertising, politics, commerce, and documents and records that structure activities of everyday business and personal life. Information literacy subsumes but goes far beyond the traditional textual literacy that has been considered part of a basic education (the ability to read, write, and critically analyze various forms of primarily textual literary works or personal and business documents). By contrast, FITness focuses on a set of intellectual capabilities, conceptual knowledge, and contemporary skills associated with information technology. . . Both information literacy and FITness are essential for individuals to use information technology effectively. . . "

(Source: Being Fluent with Information Technology, National Research Council Computer Science & Telecommunications Board, 1999, p. 48-50).

Information literacy is related to information technology skills, but has broader implications for the individual, the educational system, and for society. Information technology skills enable an individual to use computers, software applications, databases, and other technologies to achieve a wide variety of academic, work-related, and personal goals. Information literate individuals necessarily develop some technology skills. Information literacy, while showing significant overlap with information technology skills, is a distinct and broader area of competence. Increasingly, information technology skills are interwoven with, and support, information literacy.

(Source: Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Association of College and Research Libraries, 2000.

Are Students and End-Users Already Information Literate?

less than half (48 percent) feel confident in their ability to find informationessentially, in the skills needed to research a topic

(Source: A Report to Stakeholders on the Condition and Effectiveness of Postsecondary Education, Change Vol 33 Issue 3, May/June 2001, pg. 29 from a survey of undergraduates conducted by the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement. See pgs. 27-42 of the issue for the complete report).

When asked to describe problems and drawbacks they face when looking for information, end users consistently describe a number of factors: knowing what information is available, determining the quality/credibility/accuracy of information, information is too hard to find, being able to compare across information alternatives, having sufficient training

(Source: Managing Online Information to Maximize Corporate Intranet ROI, pg. 5. White paper prepared for corporate end users by Outsell, Inc. of Burlingame, CA, July 6, 2001).

What Do Accreditation Agencies Say?

Baccalaureate programs engage students in an integrated course of study of sufficient breadth and depth to prepare them for work, citizenship, and a fulfilling life. These programs also ensure the development of core learning abilities and competencies including, but not limited to, college-level written and oral communication; college-level quantitative skills; information literacy; and the habit of critical analysis of data and argument.

(Source: Western Association of Schools and Colleges [WASC]. Handbook of Accreditation. Standard 2, January 2001, p. 20.)

They (teacher education candidates) are able to appropriately and effectively integrate technology and information literacy in instruction to support student learning.

(Source: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE]. Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education, 2001, p. 19).

Each participating teacher designs, adapts, and uses lessons which address students needs to develop information literacy and problem solving skills as tools for lifelong learning.

(Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Professional Teacher Induction Programs. Program Standard 16. September 2001, p. 21).

Why Should I Focus Attention on Information Literacy?

Consequences can be deadly:

Dr. Alkis Togias administered hexamethonium to a healthy 24-year old woman at Johns Hopkins University to study how the lungs of healthy people protect against asthma attacks; an adverse reaction killed her. Togias had searched Pubmed whose coverage extends back to the 1960s; the drugs toxicity was reported a decade earlier.

An emeritus medical school professor at another institution told reporters that Togias was foolish and lazy for not finding the articles which warned of lung damage associated with the drug.

(Source: and
Library Journal Academic Newswire, July 24, 2001.)

Essential for future success:

Anthony Comper, president of the Bank of Montreal, told the 1999 graduating class at the University of Toronto that information literacy is essential to success in the next millenniumwhatever else you bring to the 21st century workplace, however great your technical skills and however attractive your attitude and however deep your commitment to excellence, the bottom line is that to be successful, you need to acquire a high level of information literacy. What we need in the knowledge industries are people who know how to absorb and analyze and integrate and create and effectively convey informationand who know how to use information to bring real value to everything they undertake.


Leadership for the Future

Terry Crane, VP for Education Products at AOL, writes in the September 2000 issue of Converge, Young people need a baseline of communication, analytical, and technical skills. We are no longer teaching about technology, but about information literacywhich is the process of turning information into meaning, understanding, and new ideas. Students need the thinking, reasoning, and civic abilities that enable them to succeed inand ultimately leada contemporary democratic economy, workforce, and society.


Make Sense of Information Overload

What Ive been discussing thus far is a world Peter Drucker calls the knowledge society, one in which information is, in fact, our most precious resource. In such a world, education should empower everyone, not the few. But for information to become knowledge, and ultimately, one hopes, wisdom, it must be organized. And, in this new climate, the public interest challenge, beyond access and equity is, I believe sorting and selection. The challenge of educators is to help students make sense of a world described by some as "information overload.

(Source: Boyer, Ernest L. Selected Speeches 1979-1995. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1997, p. 140 --first published in The New York Times on December 13, 1994).

Function as A Lifelong Learner

"Within today's information society, the most important learning outcome for all students is their being able to function as independent lifelong learners. The essential enabler to reaching that goal is information literacy."

(Source: Breivik, Patricia. "Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning: The Magical Partnership." International Lifelong Learning Conference, Central Queensland University, 2000.

Challenge For The Future

The greatest challenge facing us today is how to organize
information into structured knowledge. We must rise above the
obsession with quantity of information and the speed of
transmission, and focus on the fact that the key issue for us is our
ability to organize the information once it has been amassed, to
assimilate it, to find meaning in it, and to assure its survival.
And that cannot be done without reading and literacy."

(Source: Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Keynote Address at the White House Conference on School Libraries, 2002.

Last updated: November 11, 2003 by Dr. Ilene Rockman, Manager of the Information Competence Initiative, The California State University, Office of the Chancellor.

Lurleen B. Wallace Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges or SACSCOC to award the Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Applied Science degrees and certificates. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College.