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Information literacy

Information literacy

History of the concept

The phrase information literacy first appeared in print in a 1974 report by Paul G. Zurkowski, written on behalf of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Zurkowski used the phrase to describe the "techniques and skills" known by the information literate "for utilizing the wide range of information tools as well as primary sources in molding information solutions to their problems".

Subsequently a number of efforts were made to better define the concept and its relationship to other skills and forms of literacy. Although other educational goals, including traditional literacy, computer literacy, library skills, and critical thinking skills, were related to information literacy and important foundations for its development, information literacy itself was emerging as a distinct skill set and a necessary key to one's social and economic well-being in an increasingly complex information society.

A seminal event in the development of the concept of information literacy was the establishment of the American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, whose 1989 final report outlined the importance of the concept. The report defined information literacy as the ability "to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" and highlighted information literacy as a skill essential for lifelong learning and the production of an informed and prosperous citizenry.

The committee outlined six principal recommendations: to "reconsider the ways we have organized information institutionally, structured information access, and defined information's role in our lives at home in the community, and in the work place"; to promote "public awareness of the problems created by information illiteracy"; to develop a national research agenda related to information and its use; to ensure the existence of "a climate conducive to students' becoming information literate"; to include information literacy concerns in teacher education; and to promote public awareness of the relationship between information literacy and the more general goals of "literacy, productivity, and democracy." 

The recommendations of the Presidential Committee led to the creation later that year of the National Forum on Information Literacy, a coalition of more than 90 national and international organizations.

In 1998, the American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology published Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning, which further established specific goals for information literacy education, defining some nine standards in the categories of "information literacy", "independent learning", and "social responsibility".

In 1999, SCONUL, the Society of College, National and University Libraries in the UK, published "The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy"  model, to "facilitate further development of ideas amongst practitioners in the field ... stimulate debate about the ideas and about how those ideas might be used by library and other staff in higher education concerned with the development of students' skills."A number of other countries have developed information literacy standards since then.

In 2003, the National Forum on Information Literacy, together with UNESCO and the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, sponsored an international conference in Prague with representatives from some twenty-three countries to discuss the importance of information literacy within a global context. The resulting Prague Declaration described information literacy as a "key to social, cultural and economic development of nations and communities, institutions and individuals in the 21st century" and declared its acquisition as "part of the basic human right of life long learning".

On May 28, 2009, U.S. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger signed Executive Order S-06-09 establishing a California ICT Digital Literacy Leadership Council, which, in turn, is directed to establish an ICT Digital Literacy Advisory Committee. "The Leadership Council, in consultation with the Advisory Committee, shall develop an ICT Digital Literacy Policy, to ensure that California residents are digitally literate." The Executive Order states further: " ICT Digital Literacy is defined as using digital technology, communications tools and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information in order to function in a knowledge-based economy and society..." The Governor directs "...The Leadership Council, in consultation with the Advisory Committee... [to] develop a California Action Plan for ICT Digital Literacy (Action Plan)." He also directs "The California Workforce Investment Board (WIB)... [to] develop a technology literacy component for its five-year Strategic State Plan." His Executive Order ends with the following: " I FURTHER REQUEST that the Legislature and Superintendent of Public Instruction consider adopting similar goals, and that they join the Leadership Council in issuing a "Call to Action" to schools, higher education institutions, employers, workforce training agencies, local governments, community organizations, and civic leaders to advance California as a global leader in ICT Digital Literacy" 

Information literacy rose to national consciousness in the U.S. with President Barack Obama's Proclamation designating October 2009 as National Information Literacy Awareness Month . President Obama's Proclamation stated that "Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation... Though we may know how to find the information we need, we must also know how to evaluate it. Over the past decade, we have seen a crisis of authenticity emerge. We now live in a world where anyone can publish an opinion or perspective, whether true or not, and have that opinion amplified within the information marketplace. At the same time, Americans have unprecedented access to the diverse and independent sources of information, as well as institutions such as libraries and universities, that can help separate truth from fiction and signal from noise."

His Proclamation ends with: "NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2009 as National Information Literacy Awareness Month. I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the important role information plays in our daily lives, and appreciate the need for a greater understanding of its impact." 


Modern concept but very essential to know about.