October 6th, 2009 by Sarah Laleman Ward
President Barack Obama declared October 2009 to be National Information Literacy Awareness Month, and librarians and educators everywhere cheered.
What is the definition of Information Literacy? Excellent question. The answer is, it depends on who you ask. I am going to go with an old standard, the American Library Association:
To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.
Read the press release – it pretty much runs parallel to the above definition. It also echos the things we at Hunter College, and in educational institutions nationwide, attempt to impart.
Sure, we have access these days to an unprecedented amount of information. Anyone can find just about anything on the Internet. But what separates the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, is knowing how to sift through the mountains of information out there, evaluate what you find with an objective eye, and use it effectively.
It’s hard work, seeking the truth. Much harder than just taking what comes to the top of the list after conducting a search query on the Internet. But as the president wisely states, “An informed and educated citizenry is essential to the functioning of our modern democratic society.”
So I challenge you to observe this first Information Literacy Awareness Month by thinking about the ways you seek out, evaluate and use information, even for something as simple as shopping for a pair of shoes, or what online news sources you read. How do you get your information? Who are your trusted sources? Why do you trust these sources? Are there opposing opinions?
And remember that information literacy skills are not the exclusive domain of librarians and college professors – an information literate individual can transfer these skills to every aspect of his or her life.
Happy National Information Literacy Awareness Month!