Information Literacy: More than a set of skills?
There are many definitions of information literacy (Langford, 1998; Abilock, 2004; Herring, 2011). Depending on which definition is accepted, dictates whether one believes that information literacy is more than a set of skills or not.
Herring defines “information literacy as a critical and reflective ability to exploit the current information environment, and to adapt to new information environments” (2011, p. 63). Herring (2011) goes on to contend that information literacy is a capability and not a set of skills. Supporting this idea is Doyle (1996) and Langford (1998) who view information literacy as a concept that is built upon the attainment of particular skills via a process of learning. Information literacy involves the ability to identify an information need and then to define, locate, select, organise, present, assess (New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 2007) and use the information effectively. “Information literacy demands the ability to use critical thinking…it demands a set of skills to use to navigate various information sources and a process to follow to be successful” (University of Montana Western, 2009).
For example: turning on the computer, is a skill; being able to log on to the computer is a skill; setting up a Word document is a skill. All of these skills are part of the learning process that students need in order to develop information literacy. Information literacy is a process because there is no definitive end. However, students need to learn various skills in order to become information literate. This is because it is built on the reflective nature of the process of learning and the ability to transfer this knowledge to a new context. “Research projects should be a learning experience in which information literacy skills are integrated into the curriculum in such a way that students are able to take part in the process of creating knowledge, because learning is a process, not a product” (Purcell, 2010, p.32).
Role of the Teacher Librarian – Implementing it into the school
Accepting that information literacy is a learning process, research (Herring, 2011; Kuhlthau, 2004) suggests that the most effective teaching practice is for the teacher librarian to implement an information literacy model in collaboration with the classroom teacher. Examples include the Big 6 model, the PLUS model and the ISP model (Herring, 2011). Information literacy skills need to be taught explicitly within classroom learning programs (Australian Library and Information Association and Australian School Library Association, 2009).
Teacher librarians should be the driving force behind the successful implementation of one of these models in their school. Hay (2005) recommends that teacher librarians: support teaching and learning through a collaborative teaching structure, resource the curriculum to ensure that there is high quality print and digital information and create a conducive learning environment through the implementation of an information literacy model.
Using an information literacy model as the learning process embodies the idea of continuous lifelong learning. As technology changes at a rapid pace, students must learn to regularly update their skills to meet these changes (McElvaney & Berge, 2009). Using this process in developing information literacy skills encourages students to critically evaluate and synthesise new information in any situation.
Information literacy is a process that will teach students the skills required to critically assess and evaluate the vast amount of information that bombards them on a regular basis, no matter what the context. The primary role of the teacher librarian is to encourage students to become information and technologically literate users of information through the application of an information literacy model.
Abilock, D. (2004). Building blocks of research: an overview of design, process and outcomes. NoodleTools: Information literacy. Retrieved 15 September, 2012 from http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/1over/infolit1.html
Australian Library and Information Association and Australian School Library Association. (2009). ALIA/ASLA policy on information literacy in Australian schools. Retrieved from: http://www.alia.org.au/policies/info.literacy.schools.html
Doyle, C. (1996). Information literacy: Status report from the United States. In D. Booker (Ed.), Learning for life: information literacy and the autonomous learner (pp. 39-48). Adelaide: University of South Australia.
Hay, L. (2005). Student learning through Australian school libraries. Part 1: A statistical analysis of student perceptions. Synergy 3(2), 17-30.
Herring, J. (2011). Improving students’ web use and information literacy: A guide for teachers and teacher librarians. London: Facet Publishing.
Kuhlthau, C. (2004). Learning as a process. In Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services (2nd ed.), (pp. 13-27). Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.
Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: A clarification. School Libraries Worldwide, 4(1), 59-72
McElvaney, J. & Berge, Z. (2009). Weaving a personal web: Using online technologies to create customized, connected, and dynamic learning environments. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 35(2) Retrieved 13 September, 2012 from: http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/524/257
New South Wales Department of Education and Training. (2007). Information skills in the school. School libraries & information literacy. Retrieved from Author website: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/teachingideas/isp/index.htm
Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books, right? A look at the roles of a school library media specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33.
University of Montana Western. (2009). How do I become an information literate lifelong learner? Library. Retrieved 15 September, 2012 from http://my.umwestern.edu/academics/library/page21.htm