Today I’ve been thinking about trends in information literacy. As a librarian, information literacy is something that I want to teach to my patrons. But, how do you define it? At its core, information literacy is your ability to do the following:
- Define an information need. In other words, what do you need to know?
- Follow a logical process to search for and locate information. In other words, you have the ability to think about where you will find what you need, then actually go find it.
- Synthesize and utilize information appropriately. In other words, you know what information you need from all the information that you have found, and you are able to apply it to what you are working on or what you know. You build relationships and connections with the information.
- Evaluate the overall effectiveness of your process. In other words, you are able to say what worked, and what didn’t, for the next time you need to look for information.
But, what does that mean for library users today? What strikes me as the most interesting think (or maybe the biggest emerging trend) for information literacy is that it is no longer one-dimensional. Information literacy today is multifaceted. Library users must learn how to navigate a variety of settings in order to effectively communicate their needs. Where the library was once a physical building, now information encompasses mobile technologies, apps, and a variety of digital reference. It’s not enough to be able to navigate the card catalog and find the right book. Today, you have to decide if you want a book or a website, a peer-reviewed article or just a magazine. You have to know what is available in each format, how to evaluate it, and the most effective use of it.
Information literacy today includes print literacy, but also digital literacy, media, visual literacy, and more. Library users must learn to develop a more comprehensive search strategy utilizing a variety of formats, and understand the process of determining the most effective resources for a specific question. I love being a librarian and being part of that. Introducing others to new ways to locate information, and meeting that specific need, is one of the highlights of my job.
I have no doubt that information literacy will continue to evolve in the years to come. While I was at TLA in April, I was able to sit in some great sessions on information literacy and library instruction, and learn new tips and tricks for helping users connect with information. I look forward to the opportunity to continue exploring these tools, and even more to being able to share them with others. In the constant changing dynamic of information and access, libraries (and librarians) can’t afford to stay stagnate.