The word literacy describes man’s competence with the social constructs of his environment. To be literate means man has the capability and knowledge to access and internalise text, oral and other representations of ideas. It includes the ability to engage with, interpret and understand ideas in a particular context, use it, and re-purpose it. It refers to the capability and skills needed to communicate these ideas, in multiple formats and delivery modes, with the competence. Literacy enables a person the interaction needed for integration in the social environment.
When we speak of information literacy (IL), we refer to the capability to interact with information in a particular context, for a specific purpose. More than just the ability to decode text and the spoken word, it incorporates the identification of an information need as well as the plan and strategy executed to find and use the information to meet the need. It further encompasses a critical evaluation of the information, as well as an understanding of the economic, social and ethical issues surrounding the use of the information.
Through these studies my understanding of IL has evolved from a primarily skilled based and behaviourist approach: I now understand that knowledge is contextual and because information is the basic foundation of knowledge, IL is a catalyst and scaffold to ALL learning (formal and informal). IL is the essential capability and competence for lifelong learning and learning to learn. I have also come to understand that information practices are not individualist but inherently social – originating socially amongst members of a community of practitioners – and is dependent on specific contexts and the setting of activities.
Information literacy is a foundational and fundamental competence and capability for being successful in the complex and changing information landscape.
Of all the definitions of IL the one from ACRL (2016), adopted in the Information Literacy Framework, reflects my understanding best:
“Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”
Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from American Library Association website:
Fitzgerald, L. (2018) Introducing information literacy [ETL401 Module 5.1]. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from Charles Sturt University Website:
Lloyd, A. (2007). Recasting information literacy as sociocultural practice: Implications for library and information science researchers. Information Research, 12(4).
Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Integrating theories of learning, literacies and information practices. In Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Practising information literacy: Bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together. WaggaWagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies. pp. ix-xviii.