Saturday, October 15, 2011

Choose Your Own...

(Note: For the rest of October 2011, National Information Literacy Awareness Month, Armacost Library blog will showcase guest and regular writers. They were all asked to respond to the question "What does information literacy mean to me?")

Agency. In a word, that's what information literacy means to me. Before information retrieval skills, before the ability to critically evaluate information sources, before the competence to use information accurately and ethically, an information seeker must be aware of herself as an actor, someone who has the ability to choose and the freedom to act.

The knowledge that one has the ability to choose and the free will to exercise that choice is a very basic, fundamental concept. It is so beyond obvious that many feel it's not worth examining or even mentioning. But without this hyper level of self-awareness, we can't take the step to examine our own positions and the reasons for our actions, much else the positions of others who make efforts to convince us to agree (or go along) with their points of view.

From this sense of self-awareness springs the knowledge and ability to choose. In a big way, the agency I write about here is more a disposition or habit of mind than a skill, strategy, or tool. I'm talking about the mental framework that enables a person to choose and understand her choices.

This hyper-awareness is, I believe, part of what makes information literacy so exhausting. Underneath the hounding down of facts using different tools and resources and developing the skills to discern which sources will work for which information problem, an information seeker needs to know that there's a need for information in the first place and that she can do something about it.

Research and information seeking, when done well, takes time, persistence, and care. In a way, information seeking is very much like embarking on a big adventure. And like most journeys worth the effort, preparation can mean the difference between success and failure, life and death. Exercising one's self-reflective capacities, one's inclination towards and discernment of varying courses of action, is very much like the equipment check before the trip.

Be sure to choose wisely.

-- Melissa Cardenas-Dow, Armacost Library Outreach/Reference Librarian

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