Information literacy is more than a set of skills

Bundy (2004, p.7) draws attention to the fact that in the 21st century information resources are abundant, diverse, available widely and in many forms but increasingly unfiltered. This however does not necessarily result in more informed students unless they are able to evaluate, understand and use the information ethically and effectively. Information literacy is a relatively broad term linked to the library and teachings of a teacher librarian (TL) and involves a set of skills that will aid in finding answers to particular questions through the searching, sorting and applying of information from various sources.

But information literacy is more than just a set of skills. It is described by Bundy (2004, p.8) as an intellectual framework for working with information and an attainment of abilities that develop lifelong learning; and by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009) as a basic survival skill for successful 21st century learners. It is through information literacy that independent learners are formed as they become confident seekers of information; and independent learners become lifelong learners as they apply these abilities throughout their lives in many different situations. Eisenberg (2008, p.39) states that information and technology literacy are not just for students but for all types of workers and that those who rise to executive levels are those who can effectively apply information literacy skills to real situations.

ALIA (2011), states that library professionals have a responsibility to assist the development of information literacy for all and therefore the role of TLs in the process of creating information literate learners is a vital one. TLs are experts in embedding the skills of information literacy across the curriculum and teaching them explicitly through programs. This embedding of skills can only be achieved if TLs and teachers work collaboratively to develop the programs appropriate to their students through which the skills and abilities of information literacy may be taught. Fullan (1999, p.38) describes collaborative organisations as ones where knowledge and expertise are utlilsed to develop best practices. TLs have that knowledge and expertise when it comes to information literacy and therefore are invaluable contributors to collaborative efforts.

Herring (2011) raises a very strong point when he states the need not only for the learning of the skills but for the transfer of the information literacy practices across the curriculum and that this is the responsibility not of students but of teachers and TLs. Schools need to create a culture of transfer in order to develop students as active practitioners of information literacy and therefore lifelong learners. Collaborative organisations can facilitate this transfer through a culture of team-building, communication and information sharing with a focus on priorities, planning and core outcomes (Fullan, 1999, p.37) and TLs as the ‘constant’ can ensure a consistency in the teaching of information literacy skills across the school and across the curriculum.

Information literacy skills are the basic skills set of the 21st century (Eisenberg, 2008, p.39) but are not just a set of skills to learn, they are practices for independent and lifelong learning which are vital for our students to understand, utilise and master during their schooling and into the future in order to successfully function in and navigate an information overloaded world.

References

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009). Statement on information literacy. Retrieved from: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/information-literacy.aspx

Australian Library and Information Association (2011).  Statement on information literacy for all Australians. Retrieved from: http://www.alia.org.au/policies/information.literacy.html

Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).

Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.

Fullan, M. (1999). Chapter 3: The deep meaning of inside collaboration. In Change forces: The sequel, (pp.31-41). London, Falmer Press.

Herring, J. (2011). Assumptions, information literacy and transfer in high schools. Teacher Librarian, 38(3).

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