Definition of Information Literacy

The following definition, developed by the American Library Association in 1989, is widely accepted:

"To be information literate an individual must recognise when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the information needed. Ultimately information literate people are those who have learned how to learn.
They know how to learn because they know how information is organised, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them."

Information literacy requires the learner to have the following:

  • knowledge of major current resources in relevant field of study
  • ability to frame researchable questions in relevant fields of study
  • ability to locate, evaluate, manage and use information in a variety of contexts
  • ability to retrieve information using a variety of media
  • ability to interpret information in a variety of forms (written, statistical, graphs, charts, diagrams, tables)
  • ability to critically evaluate information
    (adapted from Candy, Crebert and O’Leary, 1994).

Information literacy involves the following actions:

  • defining tasks for which information is needed: what do I really want to find out and what do I need to do?
  • locating sources of information: where can I find the information I need?
  • using effective search strategies: how will I search within this information source?
  • selecting and recording information: what information do I need to have?
  • understanding and critically evaluating information, combining and organising it effectively: how can I best use this information?
  • presenting the information learned: how can I most effectively present this information?
  • evaluating the outcomes in terms of meeting needs and increases in knowledge: did I achieve my purpose and what have I learned from this?
    (adapted from Kirk and Todd, 1993)

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