Monday, October 01, 2012

Information Illiteracy: A Form of Censorship

From September 1 to October 31, 2012, Armacost Library is holding an Intellectual Freedom Blogathon featuring posts on topics concerning censorship, the freedom to read, view, and express, and the connection these various freedoms have to individual life experiences and the state of society. The following essay is part of the Armacost Library Intellectual Freedom (ALIF) Blogathon. 

You may have heard the term Information Literacy (IL) and wondered what it meant. I’d like to relate this concept, and the theoretical framework it embodies, to the concepts discussed here in the Intellectual Freedom Blogathon.

The simple definition of IL states that an information literate student has “learned how to learn” (American Library Association, 1989). What does that mean? An information literate person can articulate when they need information and knows how to locate that information, how to evaluate it for reliability, and then use it to solve a problem or make a decision.  In other words, we all want to know how to teach ourselves something new when the need or desire arises.

Becoming information literate is not something that one picks up naturally; it is taught and practiced over time, just as learning to read and write. And because of the nature of our information world, it is a set of skills and an attitude of practice that, if not practiced, becomes rusty and ineffective.

But how does this relate to Banned Books? Does it not seem an extension of being information literate that we would want access to all available information when we begin the process of learning? Would we accept a system that chooses for us what information we can use and that which is off-limits to us? And is not the fact of being information illiterate, or rather the failure to teach us to be information literate, a form of censorship itself? If we are not taught to locate, evaluate and use information (to be information literate) is this not as much a violation of our rights as prohibiting our access to information?

American Library Association. Association of College and Research Libraries. This site has links to important issues which include information literacy. See and

Gabriela Sonntag
Armacost Library Director
University of Redlands

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