Information literacy comprises the tools and techniques required to identify what information is relevant and how to organize it in a manageable way.
In the information age, where the proliferation of information and knowledge is accessible and available at all times, being literate in the field of information retrieval and its subsystems is crucial. As the volume of information expands, so too is there a rapid increase in the technologies to gain access to and store the information. Tools are, therefore, required not only to sift through the information, but also to be proficient in the technologies that facilitate access.
There are multiple occasions where information literacy is vital. For academic purposes, a student is required to research a broad range of related texts pertaining to his or her field of study. Given the ease with which information is placed on the Internet, it is not always easy to determine what information is accurate, current or reliable. The student needs to be able to sift through copious volumes of information to arrive at what is relevant and valuable. Technological and literary skills are vital to gathering, sorting and storing the new-found knowledge. In the workplace, employees are expected to be versed in finding information via the web. An essential skill is the ability to gain information and share it in an appropriate way.
At home or at the office, an individual is often called upon to make consumer-based decisions related to purchasing products. Gathering Information to determine the best product and price, plus additional important facts, is another facet of information literacy. Information also provides a country's citizens with the ability to make informed decisions. This might pertain to voting decisions and issues relating to being a fully cognizant member of a democratic society. In today's information age world, that knowledge base is usually retrieved online or through telecommunication networks that require increasingly high levels of information literacy.
Information literacy is considered an essential skill that has arisen in the 21st century. This has educational, social, cultural and political ramifications. In 2009, President Obama pronounced October as the official National Information Literacy Awareness Month. The intention is to raise awareness of the significant role of information literacy in achieving success personally, educationally and professionally.
In a technologically advancing world, most attention is focused on building new machinery and technologies to enable producing information. Information literacy seeks to make sense of that information so it becomes comprehensible.
Educationally, the world has changed too, in line with the influx of knowledge bases. Educators are responsible for teaching students through a range of media. The challenge that faces them is to be up-to-date with the rapidly expanding market and cyber strategies and at the same time, to provide information tools to their students. Traditionally, students have presupposed the accuracy of research information, yet in today's world, they are required to search and evaluate the sources. Moreover, it has become increasingly evident that information posted online or written about may reflect the culture, language and bias of the writer.
The profile has now been raised with respect to information literacy being pivotal to education. The term information-literate communities has joined the jargon associated with this topic.
The field of information literacy is as active and constantly expanding as the information technology with which it is associated. Author Penny Moore, writing in "An Analysis of Information Literacy Education Worldwide" in Schools Libraries Worldwide (2005), comments that "information literacy cannot be captured completely in a snapshot; it is more like an epic film being made from a script under continual revision."
Most important, the aim of information literacy is to ensure that students at any level become confident with the realm of information at their disposal. Being able to understand the information that is provided and to make objective judgments as to the validity of the information are significant skills. Furthermore, literacy involves taking the knowledge and being able to utilize it effectively in the broader information environment.
As a term, information literacy represents a converging of ideas, rather than a concept attributable to a single source. Collectively, it comprises finding, evaluating and utilizing information in the most effective and efficient way. Various cognitive skills are drawn upon in the process in order to select and retrieve knowledge and subsequently, to analyze and evaluate that which is relevant. Once this is assessed, the information is synthesized into a format that allows sharing in an appropriate method of communication.