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Writing Tutors' Guide to Information Literacy: Information Literacy

Standards by discipline

Information Literacy & Pennsylvania College of Technology

Information Literacy

Information literacy is being able to identify your information need.  It is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical and legal way.

The skills and competencies that are needed to be information literate require an understanding of:

  • The information need
  • How to find information
  • How to evaluate information
  • How to find and use the information as appropriate
  • The ethics and responsibility of use
  • How to communicate or share your findings

What is Information Literacy? Why Is It Important?

According to the Association of College & Research Libraries Association:

What is Information Literacy?

Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.

The beginning of the 21st century has been called the Information Age because of the explosion of information output and information sources. It has become increasingly clear that students cannot learn everything they need to know in their field of study in a few years of college. Information literacy equips them with the critical skills necessary to become independent lifelong learners.

Too often we assume that as students write research papers and read textbooks they are gaining sufficient IL skills. This is not so. IL skills may be introduced but what is needed is a parallel curriculum in IL forming a strong foundation of a college education.

As the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (January 10, 1989, Washington, D.C.) says “Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand.”

 Why is Information Literacy important?   

Have you ever heard of Data Smog? A term coined by author David Shenk, it refers to the idea that too much information can create a barrier in our lives. This data smog is produced by the amount of information, the speed at which it comes to us from all directions, the need to make fast decisions, and the feeling of anxiety that we are making decisions without having ALL the information that is available or that we need.

Information literacy is the solution to Data Smog. It allows us to cope by giving us the skills to know when we need information and where to locate it effectively and efficiently. It includes the technological skills needed to use the modern library as a gateway to information. It enables us to analyze and evaluate the information we find, thus giving us confidence in using that information to make a decision or create a product.

Subject Guide

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Tracey Amey
Madigan Library

Project Information Literacy (PIL)

PIL is a national study of college students' information-seeking behaviors, competencies, and challenges.