ACRL

College & Research Libraries News

Bibliographic instruction or information literacy

By Hannelore Rader Director, University Library Cleveland State University

Since the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy issued its final report in January 1989, many librarians, including members of the ACRL Bibliographic Instruction Section (BIS), have been discussing, sometimes heatedly, how information literacy relates to bibliographic instruction. Before the 1989 ALA Annual Conference in Dallas, BIS sponsored a second Bibliographic Instruction Think Tank (the first BI Think Tank was held before the 1981 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco), to explore the future direction of bibliographic instruction. Details of the second BI Think Tank are provided in “Educational Roles for Academic Libraries,” C&RL News, December 1989, pp. 984-88. It is noteworthy that nine specially selected academic librarians spent one day intensively discussing the future of instructional programs in academic libraries under the auspices of ALA’s Information Library Report during the second BI Think Tank.

The ALA report states that “Information literate people are those who have learned how to learn” because they know how knowledge is organized and can find whatever information they need at whatever point in their life and apply it to solve problems. Information literacy, as described in this report and other writings, can be defined as:

understanding the processes and systems for acquiring current and retrospective information, such as systems and services for information identification and delivery;

the ability to evaluate the effectiveness and reliability of various information channels and sources, including libraries, for various kinds of information needs;

mastering certain basic skills in acquiring and storing one’s own information in such areas as databases, spreadsheets, and word and information processing.

It appears from this report, discussions with the library community, and members of the Second BI Think Tank, that information literacy is a broader concept than bibliographic instruction. Information literacy extends the process of learning information skills to all ages and at all times, so that it becomes part of lifelong learning. Information literacy is meant to prepare people for lifelong selfeducation in a global, electronic environment; it extends beyond the library by preparing people to handle information effectively in any given situation. Information literate people are able to organize information searches, evaluate information, build their own online databases, and know how to manage electronic files. Information literacy will enable people to handle information critically and productively, whether it comes from television, the newspaper, or a sophisticated workstation, and will be a necessity for survival in this age of information and technology.

In order to help people become information literate, librarians and faculty will have to cooperate closely to develop appropriate teaching strategies which incorporate the latest technologies.

In the academic environment, librarians and faculty together must plan innovative and effective curricula to teach all students to be information literate professionals and citizens. The teaching of critical analyses of information will become one of the most important mandates in this endeavor. Although the library environment will be part of the classroom in teaching information literacy, there are no real boundaries for teaching information skills. The information can be anywhere, in any format or shape.

Bibliographic instruction or information literacy is not the issue, nor is BI vs. Information Literacy. The issue is that an information literate population is needed to survive in the 21st century in a technological world. Bibliographic Instruction is part of an evolution toward information literacy, just as library orientation and library instruction was a step toward the evolution of BI.

The question is not that should it be one or the other, but rather, how we can use our Bibliographic Instruction expertise to build strong information literacy programs for the nation by building coalitions with other educational groups and agencies. Our survival depends on it. ■■

Copyright © American Library Association

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