“Information Literacy is more than a set of skills”

Well, isn’t everything a set of skills?

The person who made this statement appears to be thinking of skills as the ability to perform a procedure effectively. When they say ‘more than a set of skills’ they presumably mean more than learning to carry out a series of steps in order to get a result. However, this is a very limited conception of what constitutes a skill. Even at the most basic level of definition, the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that a skill is “the ability to do something well; a particular ability”. So the “something” can be anything, and is not confined to the ability to follow an instructional flow chart. Living in the world is a set of skills.

If Abilock’s take on the concept is to be accepted, and “Information literacy is a transformational process in which the learner needs to find, understand, evaluate, and use information in various forms to create for personal, social or global purposes” (2004, p.1), then IL is a high-level life skill. True information literacy already incorporates the concept of transfer fluidity, of conceptual understanding, and of project based inquiry methods. It already speaks to the belief that effective learning involves more than remembering data, or carrying out procedures. Having the capacity to formulate the right questions is as much a part of IL as knowing where to go to find the answers. Processing information from sources other than the written word is also a crucial component (which is partly why the term is “information literacy”, not just “literacy”). Being able to take what is learned and apply it in a real-world situation, adapting, modifying and re-inventing the content and methods absorbed into the learners’ consciousness during the process of acquiring information literacy, comes as part of the package. According to Rader (1991, p.25), by defining IL as the “ability to effectively access and evaluate information for problem solving and decision making”, an information literate person becomes one who will:

* survive and be successful in an information/technology environment,

* lead productive, healthy, and satisfying lives in a democratic society,

* effectively deal with rapidly changing environments,

* ensure a better future for the next generation,

* find appropriate information for personal and professional problem solving, and

* have writing and computer proficiencies.

Such a set of skills appears so broad as to in itself incorporate anything that might be included in the demand that IL be “more than a set of skills”. Setting aside the ethical dimension of living, which is one of the few things not incorporated into standard models of IL, an information literate person has acquired the best possible set of skills for the task of negotiating the world, and who needs “more than” that?

References cited:

Abilock, D. (2004). Noodle Tools: Information Literacy. http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/1over/infolit1.html

Rader, H.B. (1991). “Information literacy: a revolution in the library.” RQ, 31(1), 25.

Painting on a tower wall of an arm made of books holding aloft a giant key.

A conceptual diagram of Information Literacy

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