California State University Northridge

California State University


October 2, 2000


Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."  An information literate individual is able to:


Provides Proven Methods for Successfully Navigating Proliferating Information Resources
Individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices--in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives.  Information is available through libraries, community resources, special interest organizations, media, and the Internet--and increasingly, information comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its authenticity, validity, and reliability.  The sheer abundance of information will not in itself create a more informed citizenry without a complementary cluster of abilities necessary to use information effectively.
Supports National Efforts to Improve the Quality of Education
The Boyer Commission Report, Reinventing Undergraduate Education, recommends strategies that require the student to engage actively in "framing of a significant question or set of questions, research or creative exploration to find answers, and the communications skills to convey the results..."  Courses structured around these skills create student-centered learning environments where inquiry is the norm, problem solving becomes the focus, and thinking critically is part of the process.  Proactive learning environments require information literacy competencies.
Provide Additional Tools for Reinforcing Course Content
The convergence of the prodigious production of the information age and the growing awareness of the student memory loss of course content suggests that a vital part of education must be in the students' ability to locate information for themselves.  If students graduate from a CSU campus unable to locate, synthesize, and evaluate information, they will not have the skills necessary for survival in any field.  Moreover, even if student retention of course content was almost perfect, the rate of change of knowledge is so high that what students learn today, especially in certain fields, may not be accurate or relevant a few years from now.
Enhances Lifelong Learning
Developing lifelong learners is central to the mission of higher education institutions.  By ensuring that individuals have the intellectual abilities of reasoning and critical thinking, and by helping them construct a framework for learning how to learn, colleges and universities provide the foundation for continued growth throughout their careers, as well as in their roles as informed citizens and members of communities.  Information literacy is a key component of, and contributor to, lifelong learning.  Information literacy competency extends learning beyond formal classroom settings and provides practice with self-directed investigations as individuals move into internships, first professional positions, and increasing responsibilities in all arenas of life.  Because information literacy augments students' competency with evaluating, managing, and using information, it is now considered by several regional and discipline-based accreditation associations as a key outcome for college students.


The research undertaken by the CSU Information Competence Work Group suggests that isolated, hit-or-miss, ad hoc attempts cannot ensure that students are well equipped for the Information Age.  It also indicates that the best programs are integrated into the curriculum and are built on strong alliances between discipline faculty and library faculty.  This suggests, therefore, that the education in information literacy is a responsibility to be shared by discipline faculty and library faculty and should be an integral element of the curriculum.

Through lectures and by leading discussions, faculty establish the context for learning, inspire students to explore the unknown, and monitor students' progress.  Academic librarians coordinate the evaluation and selection of intellectual resources for programs and services; organize, and maintain collections and many points of access to information; offer guidance on how best to fulfill information needs, and provide instruction to the campus community on effective methods of accessing, selecting, and evaluating information Administrators also play a significant role through active support of information literacy programs and by creating opportunities for collaboration and staff development among faculty, librarians, and other professionals who initiate information literacy programs, lead in planning and budgeting for those programs, and provide ongoing resources to sustain them.


Freshman Orientation/Transitions Course

Freshman Seminar/Transitions courses are now widespread, and they provide a place to begin a sustained education in information literacy.  The "orientation" nature of these courses, however, usually dictates that the component devoted to information competencies is brief.

General Education

Since the ability to use information effectively and wisely is crucial to a student's success in higher education, it seems natural to incorporate information literacy into the general education curriculum required of all students.  It could be added as a stand-alone course dealing with the topic, or it could be added as a component in several or all of the courses included in the General Education curriculum

Cornerstone Class in Major Area

Each discipline has information resources that document and preserve the scholarship of the discipline.  In addition research on information transfer documents that disciplines differ in the emphasis placed on currency, use of primary documents, use of electronic publishing, etc.  Discipline-specific information literacies have been identified and all graduates should be well versed in thus aspect of their discipline.

Information Competence through Competency-Based Mastery

Source Consulted

Written by: Dr. Kathleen Dunn
Assistant University Librarian
Cal Poly Pomona
October 2, 2000

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