Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Discovering Reality

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

Information literacy is exhausting for someone who cares about reality.

But reality is worth it! I believe everything in the universe is knowable—and all knowledge is worth having. Everything we humans know, we know by gathering data, finding patterns, making predictions, and testing those predictions.

I love learning about what’s been discovered, proven, calculated, disproven, and what’s still unknown. And since human understanding and knowledge is always changing, it can all be difficult to keep track of. That’s where information literacy comes in.

“Information literacy” refers to the skills needed to discriminate between good information, bad information, and everything in between. Since I care about reality, I care about facts. If you’re like me, you know tracking down facts can be hard. It can also be expensive.

Opinions are easier to come by than facts. Opinions informed by facts are more useful, but you have to sort through a pile of opinions to find one. Then you have to go through those to find the opinions formed by a careful evaluation of a variety of facts. Luckily, once you find a trustworthy source such as a journalist, scientist, or publisher, you can safely rely on them—but even then you have to be careful of overreliance on authority.

You could evaluate the facts yourself. Again, finding a reliable source can be difficult and costly. If the source is free, can you figure out why it’s free and adjust your evaluation accordingly? If the source isn’t free, can you afford to access it? Perhaps more importantly: have you looked at your local library’s resources to see what’s already been paid for? News articles are always being published about the latest corporately-funded research; have you checked scientific and scholarly resources to compare findings?

Reality isn’t always easy to come by, but it is a joy. Luckily, libraries have the discovery tools ready for you.

-- Emily Croft, Armacost Library Acquisitions Assistant


Shana Higgins said...

Emily, thank you for this post on what information literacy means to you. I love that you highlighted opinions. Our opinions are always informed, but we don't always take the time to consider by what and whom they've been shaped. I agree-- an information literate person takes the time to examine what has influenced their worldview and seeks out additional information in order to incorporate multiple perspectives into their own understandings.

Reality and objectivity are something we can take up later, perhaps. Both concepts are not unproblematic in that any lived experience or reception of factual information comes from and is incorporated from a particular perspective.

Emily said...

Yes... philosophically, I am not sure objectivity can be achieved ... but I can aim to get close :) I think a good measure of objectivity is the willingness to change our opinions and our views on reality when we are presented with new facts.