Information Literacy is more than a set of skills

Defining information literacy is a mercurial task; exactly what information literacy is, who is information literate and how we guide and teach future generations to be information literate is debatable.  One unifying theme however, is that information literacy seems to be more than a sum of its parts.  It is partly comprised of attainable skills, but in its requirement for metacognition, application and synthesis, information literacy is not just skills alone, it is a much more profound concept and as a result tends to envelop descriptions.  In an age of “InfoWhelm” (Crockett, L., Jukes, I and Churches, A. 2011 p. 33) this is hardly surprising. 


Herring defines information literacy as “a critical and reflective ability to exploit the current information environment, and to adapt to new information environments; and as a practise” (Herring J. 2011 p.63) therefore eschewing that it is rather a practise and an ability rather than a discreet set of skills (Herring,J. 2011). Langford similarly questions whether information literacy is just a rephrasing of traditional literacies with the incorporation of technology and wonders whether it is a concept or a process (Langford 1998).  Doyle defines information literacy as “ability to access, evaluate, and use information from a variety of resources, to recognise when information is needed, and to know how to learn.” (Doyle as cited by Herring, J. 2007 p.33) and Abilock defines informational literacy as 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.” (Abilock 2007) 


Abilock and Herring’s definition seem to sync more with Web 2.0, and the creative, almost obsessive compulsive ‘up-loading’ millennial generation.   Both suggest that information literacy is a methodology, incorporating analysis, critical thought and the transfer of skills and knowledge to new situations and new technology.  Langford similarly describes information literacy as a “relational idea” (Langford, D. 1998) and like Kuhlthau, discusses the affective elements of information literacy (Kuhlthau 2004), therefore going beyond a skillset.  


Information models such as Kuhlthaus’ ISP, Herring’s PLUS model and the Big 6 (among a plethora) seek to guide and support learners through practical steps and conceptual strategies towards information fluency.    Information is the core of education, (Eisenberg 2008 p.39) and the Big 6 information literacy model, certainly provides a clever, pragmatic and sound scaffold on which to model, teach and engage students. Of particular interest is the element of meta-cognition, which vitally underpins the core of information literacy – learners knowing how to learn, discerning how they learn best and how to filter or engage with information.


The role of the teacher librarian is enmeshed in the fibres of information literacy.  Teacher librarians are vital in teaching core discreet skills admittedly, but their wider value can be seen by being a cohesive element in schools through collaboratively planning across all curriculum areas, and incorporating information literacy models to enrich students through guided inquiry units. Langford laments of how information literacy is often seen as the purview of the teacher librarian when it is so obviously needs to be subsumed in every classroom and every lesson (Langford 1998). 


The explosion of information has given the teacher librarian a heady task of becoming the advocate and anchor in the coruscating sea of literacies.  We now have the “ability to personalise learning.” (Wall, J. & Ryan, S. 2010 p.2) and by addressing information literacy as something beyond a set of skills and tailoring education to the individual through clever scaffolding, teacher librarians can champion the cause of information literacy and improve outcomes for individual students.




Abilock, Debbie. (2007). Information Literacy Building Blocks of Research: Overview of Design, Process and Outcomes. Retrieved 27 August 2012 from


Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).


Crockett, L., Jukes, I, & Churches, A. (2011) Literacy is not enough.  21st Century Fluencies for the digital age.  21st Century Fluency Project Inc. 


Eisenburg, M. (2008) Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age.  Journal of Library & Information Technology.  Vol. 28, No.2. pp. 39-47


Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.


Herring, James E. (2011) Improving students’ web use and information literacy: a guide for teachers and teacher librarians London : Facet Pub.


Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). ‘Learning as a Process’. Seeking meaning: a Process Approach to Library and Information Services (2nd Ed.) pp13-27). Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.


Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification Retrieved from: September 2, 2013


Tweed W. Ross and Gerald D. Bailey (1994)  Wanted: A New Literacy for the Information Age  NASSP Bulletin  78: 31


Wall, J. & Ryan, S. (2010) Resourcing for curriculum innovation. Learning in a changing world. Camperwell, Vic. ACER Press


About kblaich

I live in Melbourne, Australia, have one lovely husband, one delightful daughter, one bouncy son, lots of pets (2 dogs and 3 cats) and work at a primary school part time. I am currently studying my Masters in Teacher Librarianship through Charles Sturt University.
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