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Information-literacy programmes and course curricula:
the case for integration

Author - Anne Ambrose and Brian Gillespie


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"Our 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 resources (American 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.

Information 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.