Information Literacy: Seriously, what is it?


In the library world and in graduate schools we have been throwing around the term, “information literacy” for years. But what are we really talking about when we use it?

Let’s start with basic definitions:

  • Information – data gathered by reading, listening, or observing
  • Literacy – the ability to read, write, and comprehend

A WorldCat thesis/dissertation search for “information literacy’ resulted in 659 items dating from 2004 to 2013; many of these thesis/dissertations were several hundred pages long. That’s a lot to say about information literacy. The University of Idaho, the American Library Association, the National Forum on Information Literacy, and others concisely define “information literacy” as the ability to:

  •  Recognize the information need
  • —  Locate information
  • —  Evaluate information
  • —  Effectively use the information

It is also important to remember that information does not imply validity. Basically, information literacy is a strategy for learning. News literacy, social media literacy, technology literacy, and all the other types of literacy are subsets of information literacy. It is applied to education, work, leisure, and countless life decisions. In today’s world, because data is coming at us from multiple sources, information literacy is a vital tool in our lifelong learning toolbox.

“The closest thing we will ever come to an orderly universe is a good library.”  —Ashleigh Brilliant, author and cartoonist


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