Archived Information

Understanding Information Literacy - September 1999

Why Should We Be Concerned About Information Literacy

The need to evaluate the credibility of information is nothing new, but until recently most learners could expect to deal with some carefully selected collections of reference materials in academic and public libraries, as well as a fairly limited range of widely accepted authoritative texts in the classroom or in the home library.

However, since anyone can make a Web page, for example, how can you tell if the information is reliable or not? A critical point about using the Internet is that individuals posting information aren't required to pass through traditional editorial constraints or undergo any kind of fact-checking required in conventional published print media (Literacy Update 1997).

The reluctance to look for information from tried and true sources such as well-indexed books or the temptation to assign value to information simply because it came off of the computer will likely provide results with poor quality.

Not only must we be discerning learners but, in addition, we must be constantly learning. As the pace of global change has increased, so has our need for learning. Consider the tremendous changes in both the amount and variety of information resources, as well as great changes in technology that affects our lives in everything from banking to medical care. Change requires us to know more and learn more about the world around us. Yet several scholars such as Breivik and Jones (1993) have found that the traditional literacies of reading, writing, and mathematical reasoning are insufficient for lifelong learning. The increasing quantity of information from all sources and the pressure to remain in a constant state of conscious learning means that we must be dexterous in the use of information, too. The need to handle and use information is present in all stages of life and the acquisition of the competencies of information literacy must be intertwined with the acquisition of the other literacies (Darch et al. 1997).


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