Tuesday, October 04, 2011

National Information Literacy Awareness Month

National Information Literacy Month 2011 Badge

October is a busy month for causes. Most people know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month due to heavy promotion over the last few years. But, did you know that October is also:

Energy Awareness Month
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
National Information Literacy Awareness Month
Theological Libraries Month
Vegetarian Awareness Month

Robin wrote about Theological Libraries Month yesterday. Today I'd like to feature National Information Literacy Awareness Month.

People who are information literate know how to find, access, and critically evaluate information, and with such an abundance of information available this skill set is imperative. This is such an important skill set that accrediting agencies such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) include it in their standards* as does the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) **.

Library instruction and computer literacy are often thought to be the same thing as Information Literacy. Information Literacy does involve library instruction and computer literacy skills, but it is broader and more integral in nature. It is part of a liberal education that empowers and develops students as skilled independent learners. According to ACRL:

Information literacy is a new liberal art which extends beyond technical skills and is conceived as one's critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and even philosophical context and impact. The information literacy curriculum includes:

  • Tool literacy - The ability to use print and electronic resources including software and online resources.

  • Resource literacy - The ability to understand the form, format, location and methods for accessing information resources.

  • Social-structural literacy - Knowledge of how information is socially situated and produced. It includes understanding the scholarly publishing process.

  • Research literacy - The ability to understand and use information technology tools to carry out research, including the use of discipline-related software and online resources.

  • Publishing literacy - The ability to produce a text or multimedia report of research results.

As you can see, Information Literacy is quite involved and should be an integral part of any education. It is a skill set and a way of thinking that should weave throughout the curriculum. In order to produce information literate students, collaboration between faculty, librarians, and administrators is necessary. Again, ACRL highly encourages such collaboration:

To be successfully implemented on campus, information literacy depends on collaboration between classroom faculty, academic administrators, librarians and other information professionals. In order to effectively implement a program all parties must be actively involved.

As you can probably see by now, Information Literacy certainly deserves a bit of "awareness"! Hopefully, we are sending out students prepared to engage a world that is awash in information.

I'll leave you with a video that wouldn't exist without some thinking by an information literate person. This is a TED Talk by Eli Pariser, "Beware online "filter bubbles."

*WASC Standard 2.2a
**ACRL Information Literacy Standards

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