Definition of Information Literacy

Information literacy is a set of intellectual competencies used to access knowledge in increasingly complex information environments and to demonstrate mastery of a specific discipline. Ideally, these skills are transferable across disciplines and applicable throughout individuals' lives. With a primary focus on the process of inquiry and associated research, information literacy includes the ability to formulate questions about a topic and to identify, select, critically evaluate, and synthesize informa- tion relevant to the topic. An information literate person is one who is actively engaged in and contributes to scholarly conversations, while being aware of the ethical, legal, economic, and social issues surrounding the use of information.

Excerpt from Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education
Approved by the Association of College and Research Libraries on January 18, 2000. Also endorsed by the American Association of Higher Education.

Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:

  • Determine the extent of information needed.
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently.
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically.
  • Incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base.
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally.