Information-literacy programmes and course curricula:
ability to think, and to select and use the information at our disposal
will be the critical determinant of the future success of the Information
Society in Ireland."
The quotation above acknowledges the critical importance of information
skills, and suggests that the very success of the concept of an
'information society' relies upon an information-literate population.
Surveys of employers show an increasing demand for 'graduates with
an ability to analyse, evaluate and process information effectively'
(Big Blue, 2002: 4).
Such skills are directly related to the aims and processes of higher
education as a knowledge-creation activity. We need to teach our
students to become independent and confident 'information consumers
on their way to becoming lifelong learners' (Doherty
J., 1999). As the idea of lifelong learning and
its role in future national economic prosperity is increasingly
recognised, so too must the role of information literacy be recognised
within this process.
What is information literacy?
Information literacy can be succinctly described as the ability
to access, evaluate and apply information effectively. Such a brief
description, however, belies the complexity of the concept and its
full implications. Most international standards accept that there
is a link but also a clear distinction between computer skills and
information skills. Computer skills enable us to access information
Library Association, 2000). They allow us to organise these
resources to make them readily accessible, and this is an important
beginning. Being computer literate, however, is not the same as
being information literate.
literacy is reached when there is an understanding and knowledge
of the structure and sources of information. It involves the ability
to access and retrieve quality information independently and reflectively
in order to build on a personal knowledge base. The critical evaluation
of these resources is regarded as a key information-handling skill,
as is the formal communication of the information retrieved. Computer
and information skills are seen as essential components of the wider
concept of information literacy.
The SCONUL information literacy model in Figure
1, often referred to as the ‘7 Pillars’ model, displays
this concept quite clearly.