Why Information Literacy

The concept of information literacy has progressed beyond how to find books in the library. Many aspects of information literacy are essential components of education. For citizens to function successfully in a rapidly changing global society, they will need to understand how to find and use information effectively. Information literacy not only lies within disciplines but also within the process of life long learning.

The amount of information that is available to Otterbein students through library resources, electronic databases and the Internet is both exhilarating and overwhelming. Students are challenged daily in their classes at Otterbein to use information wisely, and communicate efficiently and effectively. This challenge continues after graduation with the recognition that employers place high value on communication and critical thinking skills in the business and professional world.

Some examples of amount of work time spent looking for information in business are:

  • 7 hours/week for technical workers. “An enterprise with 500 technology workers each spending 7+ hours per week hunting down answers and information costs a whopping $7.5 million per year in lost productivity.”
    Information Gathering in the Electronic Age: The Hidden Cost of the Hunt, Safari, January 2003
    Safari, in Adkins, Sam "ROI from Workflow-Based E-Learning" http://www.learningcircuits.org/2003/oct2003/adkins.htm
  • 9.5 hours per week for all workers
    by Outsell, in Oman, Julie N. "information Literacy in the Workplace" Information Outlook. Jun 2001, 5:6 p.32
  • 9.5 hours "searching for information" and 9.6 hours "analyzing information". Based on a survey of 600 financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and government organizations, Hidden Cost of Information Work report, published March, 2005, and available as an IDC white paper when you register with Interwoven (http://www.interwoven.com/products/worksite_mp/).

Students begin their college careers with varied levels of information management skills. Each additional class that they take presents opportunities through classroom assignments to develop their abilities to:

  • narrow or broaden a topic
  • find relevant information
  • understand the difference between information from research journal articles, books, and the Internet
  • learn where current research in a field of interest is reported
  • understand the purpose for and the construction of annotated bibliographies
  • use information sources without plagiarism
  • use critical thinking skills
  • synthesize information to create new knowledge
  • reinforce and build on information management skills previously learned
These skills must be practiced repeatedly for true competence. They should be taught and evaluated throughout the college career, with upper level students demonstrating progressively higher levels of capacity and thoughtful performance.

Are students in your classes taught to be progressively competent in locating information and to develop skills to use information? Does your department curriculum include goals for information literacy? How do faculty benefit from incorporating these skills into the curriculum?

The most obvious result is improved papers and projects. Restructuring assignments to encourage practice in the use of information literacy skills will result in students with better understanding of both the research process and the material.

A lifelong learner is one who finds and uses information wisely and well. In the future, sources of information and methods for communication will continue to evolve. Successful persons must demonstrate the continuing ability to locate, evaluate, and manage information in their chosen fields. Students can develop these information literacy skills in a coherent and organized manner through classroom assignments throughout their college careers.