In 1989, ALA's Presidential Commission on Information Literacy concluded, "Out of the superabundance of available information, people need to be able to obtain specific information to meet a wide range of personal and business needs. These needs are largely driven either by the desire for personal growth and advancement or by the rapidly changing social, political and economic environments of American society." One of the social changes driving the need for information literacy--the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information effectively--is the changing educational face of our society, at both the K-12 and higher-education levels.
According to the Center for an Urban Future's 2001 report "Building a Highway to Higher Ed," in fall 2004 75% of today's high-school seniors will become students at trade schools, community and liberal arts colleges, and comprehensive and research universities. Fifty percent of these students, the report adds, will fail to earn a degree. In today's information-rich world, a contributing factor to that high rate of failure is the inability of students in higher education to find and use information effectively. The need to increase retention and completion rates for students in higher education is a compelling reason for academic librarians to collaborate with their K-12 colleagues in developing information-literacy activities across K-20 education.
A July 1, 2003, USA Today article said that in 1997 almost 100% of certified teachers in our public schools were graduates of our colleges and universities, up from 84% in 1961. Since college is where nearly all teachers learn how to teach, school library media specialists must collaborate with academic librarians if we are to have teachers who know the value of information literacy and who can collaborate with K-12 library media specialists.
The survival of our school libraries is also at stake: The percentage of the population with a bachelor's degree or higher increased from 20.3% in 1990 to 25.6% in 2000, according to the 2001 Digest of Education Statistics. Citizens with college educations have been shown to be more likely to vote. If these voters learned the value of information literacy in college, that should translate into more support for school libraries when they consider school bond issues or participate in school-based management councils or their PTAs.
Earlier this year, the Association of American Universities and the Pew Charitable Trusts published Understanding University Success: A Report from Standards for Success to answer the question, "What must students know and be able to do in order to succeed in entry-level university courses?" More than 400 faculty and staff from 20 research institutions responded to that query over a two-year period. Not surprisingly, the contributors addressed both content knowledge and habits of mind. The report notes that "these habits of mind are considered by many faculty members to be more important than content knowledge." They include problem-solving, analytical and critical thinking, communication skills, and the ability "to discern the relative importance and credibility of various sources of information."
Despite the importance of information literacy to all levels of education, ALA's professional associations for school and academic libraries have, until recently, worked independently in developing and articulating information-literacy competencies and standards for higher education. ALA's American Association of School Librarians' 1998 Information Power provides nine standards in the three areas of information literacy, independent learning, and social responsibility. ALA's Association of College and Research Libraries' Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, published in 2000, delineates five standards that focus on determining information need; accessing information; evaluating information; using information effectively; and understanding economic, social and legal issues surrounding information. …