What is Information Literacy?

The most widely used definition of information literacy comes from the 1989 Final Report of the American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. The report states, "to be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."¹

The Association of College and Research Libraries' (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education further describes the actions and abilities an information literate student demonstrates. She or he:

  1. determines the nature and extent of the information needed.
  2. accesses information effectively and efficiently.
  3. evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
  4. uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
  5. understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.²

Information literacy goes beyond the mere pressing of buttons on a computer to find information to a more encompassing understanding of what information is, and how it is produced, organized and disseminated. Instead of accepting all information found on the Web or in print as true, information literate students critically read and evaluate information sources. They also synthesize information and incorporate it into their own works by properly acknowledging their sources.

The aims of information literacy go hand in hand with the mission of a liberal arts education. Both seek to give students the knowledge and skills needed to be independent thinkers and learners throughout their lives. In today's Information Age, it is impossible to be a life-long learner without the ability to find, evaluate, and use information effectively.

Further Reading and Resources