The Learning Librarian

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Many Ways to Define Information Literacy

on April 10, 2013
This week, my teacher (hi Ruth!) gave the assignment to think about our dream library team. That is, if we could work with anyone – and were not limited by silly things like money, resources, and distance – who would we most like to collaborate with in the library media center? This assignment inspired me to conduct some research on (somewhat) local library enthusiasts who I could possibly really work with someday. I came across an article by Dane Ward, a librarian and information literacy specialist, which can be found here: The article first caught my interest because of the author’s background and experiences, and kept me interested with the unique information it provided. The article discusses information literacy’s multiple definitions. Yes, it is technically defined as the way students locate and process information, but Ward elaborates on the definition, mentioning that information literacy should also involve how we experience and value information internally. He insists that students also need to be taught to care about information and think critically about all types of information we receive on a daily basis. He argues that our self-awareness comes from the information we receive and how we choose to interpret it. It also comes from within, in the form of dreams, hopes, fears and goals. Ward provides suggestions for teachers and librarians to teach this self-awareness. He first suggests teaching students to love questions and questioning. He encourages us to engage student curiosity and creativity and allow them to feel the joy in simply having a question and the means to answer it, not necessarily making our sole focus on the question’s answer. He suggests that teachers and librarians offer students opportunities to explore their self-awareness. Identifying who they are as people and learners can be very beneficial to developing questions and conducting research. Ward concludes that we must collaborate in order to revision information literacy; we need to allow students to understand themselves and find meaning in their questions and curiosity. By communicating well with students and building positive relationships with them, we can encourage this self-awareness as well as the desire to become a lifelong learner. Ward also mentions that librarians and teachers must go the extra mile to constantly be collaborating with one another in order for students to succeed. 

This article was very appealing to me because I strongly agree with many of the points Ward makes. Too often is information literacy thought of as solely finding and learning information. We tend to imagine information literacy as students sitting on computers or with books, digging for answers to questions. While this is a substantial definition of information literacy, we need to remember that a lot of information also comes from within, and that information needs to be processed, too. Students who are self-aware and able to process their own thoughts, ideas and questions are likely to experience more success in an academic setting because they know what they need to do to achieve their goals. As a teacher, I always encourage my students to look within themselves for answers as well as within various sources. If we help students develop a genuine love of learning, they will be excited to look both inward and outward to further explore information. 

I would be very interested in reading more articles by Dane Ward as well as more articles that expand on the multiple definitions of information literacy. While this article is not appropriate to share with students, I know that I would like to implement several of his suggestions in my future library.


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