Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Information Literacy = A Human Right, A Civic Duty, Something Like That

(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?")

The concept of being information literate is at the center of my work as a librarian/educator in higher education, but it is also central to my life as a citizen, parent, consumer, scholar, patient, advocate, and fellow human being. The shorthand definition on which most information literacy instruction efforts in academic institutions are based is represented by the “information literate student” who knows how to find, evaluate, and use information and who understands the ways in which information is created, disseminated, and organized in our society.

I find that my own perspective in relation to definitions of “information literacy” is aligned with UNESCO’s conception of Media & Information Literacy (MIL)as empowering to the individual and the collective. MIL “lies at the core of freedom of expression and information - since it empowers citizens to understand the functions of media and other information providers, to critically evaluate their content, and to make informed decisions as users and producer of information and media content.” This definition resonates with those articulated by my colleagues. It means one knows how to discriminate, that one has choices, and that one has the knowledge and the tools to learn how to learn.

To be information literate in our information-saturated culture is to question how that information operates in our lives and others, to be critically aware of multiple and variant perspectives, to know where to search for and how to sift through all that richness of data/information/knowledge, and communicate, contribute, and produce your own understandings.

--Shana Higgins, Armacost Library Instructional Services/Reference Librarian

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