Academic journal article African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science

Information Literacy in Higher Education: Overview of Initiatives at Two Ghanaian Universities

Academic journal article African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science

Information Literacy in Higher Education: Overview of Initiatives at Two Ghanaian Universities

Article excerpt

Introduction

The explosion of information and information sources has informed modern societies of the growing importance of special skills in accessing and using information from different sources and media efficiently and effectively. Such skills are known as information literacy (IL) skills. End-users of information are increasingly becoming overwhelmed by and frustrated with the sheer quantities of information available, especially with the advances in information technology (IT). Information literacy (IL) has thus become one of the most vital sets of skills for the twenty-first century. Everyone needs IL skills to enable him/her to function adequately as a citizen in the community. Specifically, IL skills also enable students succeed academically and help them to secure future job opportunities.

Over the last few years, the increased attention to IL has been underscored by some important actions such as the Prague Declaration (2003) and the Alexandria Proclamation (2005). These statements envisage a society that possesses effective control and mastery of information, and have urged governments and international organisations to develop policies and programmes to promote IL and life-long learning respectively. The reason is that both IL and life-long learning are deemed essential for social inclusion, economic development and quality of life in the information society.

This paper presents an overview of information literacy initiatives in two universities in Ghana, namely: the University of Ghana, Legon and the University of Cape Coast. It highlights the prospects of the IL programmes and the challenges faced in the implementation of these programmes for their students. Recommendations are also made for a smooth implementation of a campus-wide information literacy programme.

Nature and Context of Information Literacy

Information literacy has been defined as a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (ACRL 2000). It has also been defined as a self empowering attitude and commitment by individuals and people, at all levels of society, to seek, access, analyse, translate, transform information and create knowledge to solve problems to achieve personal, social, occupational and learning goals for the improvement of their quality of life (IFLA/ALP 2007).

Information literacy skills are a fusion of library literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, technological literacy, critical thinking, ethics and communication which when acquired would empower individuals to become independent life-long learners. (Parang, Raine and Stevenson, 2000). It would help individuals to apply knowledge from the familiar environment to the unfamiliar.

Figures 1 through 4 are some diagrams that various IL researchers have used to characterise the nature and constituents of IL. Figures 1 and 2 identify the different concepts influencing and coexisting with IL. Information literacy is seen as an umbrella term comprising:

-- Media literacy--the set of skills, attitudes and knowledge necessary to understand and utilise various kinds of mediums and formats in which information is communicated such as images, sound, and video ... knowing when and how to use print newspapers and journals, magazines, radio, broadcast television, cable television, CDROM, DVD, mobile telephones, PDF or HTML text formats, JPEG or JIF formats for photos and graphics, and so forth (Horton, 2008).

-- Numerical literacy--the ability to use and interpret numbers.

-- Computer literacy--the set of skills, attitudes and knowledge necessary to understand and operate the basic functions of information and communications technologies (ICT), including devices and tools such as personal computers (PCs), laptops, cell phones, iPods, Blackberrys, and so forth (Horton, 2008). …

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