Information literacy can be defined as that the ability of a person to know when information is required or needed, and to locate, contextualize, evaluate, synthesize, manage and use information appropriately. Learners who have information literacy are able to master content and broaden their knowledge hence gaining an aspect of self-direction and enormous control of their own learning. People world wide have developed interest in assessing information literacy. This has led to many librarians developing tools and strategies of assessing the aspect of information literacy. Some of these methods have been found to be reliable and valid (Ann 2004).
Standards of information literacy
Principles of information literacy can be associated with standards of an individual who is information literate. These people are characterized by traits such as:
- the ability to apply new information and information gained earlier to develop new understanding;
- the ability to effectively and efficiently find needed information.
This means that a person, for instance a student, who is information literate, knows that having good information is important in facing challenges and opportunities in their daily life. They know how and where to seek information beyond their common knowledge, and can frame questions that will help them to find the necessary information. They usually have skill to use successful strategies in this process;
- the ability to use information with great understanding at the same time acknowledging cultural, legal and social issues associated with the information. In this case they are described as independent learners. This is merely because they apply the principle of information literacy to gain evaluated information on a particular issue. They seek for information independently and improve their career, personal issues and the whole community at large;
- the ability to manage gained or collected information. Managing the collected information one should apply principles that reflect good standards of gaining, evaluating and using information (Ann 2004).
Proposed format for information literacy
A professional providing information services can come up with proposal of a program that has training methods, techniques, mediations and interventions that can be used to address the issue of information illiteracy. Before coming up with an information literacy program to improve the level of information literacy in a particular organization, the information literacy professional should first identify the target user group and their information literacy training needs. He or she should come up with information on their library. The librarian needs to find out ways in which the students prefer to seek information. Research should be carried out on information seeking behavior to find out motivating factors that make students seek for particular information and where they get it from. Students prefer website browsing for new information compared to reading. Thus, the information literacy professional should suggest a program that would teach students on the skills of looking up for needed information from recommended websites (Ann 2004).
Librarians can recommend a computer-based program that creates an environment that teaches students to contextualize source and collaborate texts rather than focusing on a textbook centered style of the same content. In a university setting, for example, a university librarian is given the responsibility for the information within the university and is responsible for the implementation of principles and guidelines of information literacy. To determine which form of information literacy campaign program to run, the librarian should ensure that all the university committees are well informed of the university information guidelines. The suggested online tutorial should aim at teaching the most appropriate ways of using computers and telecommunication technologies in improving information literacy. For example the program can aim at introducing information literacy test which is a multiple choice test used to assess the information literacy competency of university students. Based on the information seeking behavior of the students, the information literacy professionals should ensure that the program helps the students to develop competence in determining the nature of information that is required. The online program should also inculcate the skill of using information that is needed effectively in accomplishing a set goal. Online tutorial programs must also enable students to critically evaluate information and incorporate the selected bit of it into their personal knowledge. For the information literacy test to work effectively one should ensure that the standards of information literacy are considered, and should go hand in hand with the objectives of the online tutorial program being used. The program should also provide communication and excellent research skills to students for the delivery of information literacy skills (Ann 2004).
The University of Auckland came up with a strategic plan to ensure that its graduates are critical thinkers open to new ides and possessing intellectual curiosity and integrity with the ability to use new information effectively with regards to their professional skills. This goal was achieved through having a program that made regular reviews of the curricula and education objectives so that the needs and requirements of the students were met.
Online tutorial program can be aimed at improving information literacy skill for this particular group. This can only be achieved through ensuring that a number of instructional methods are followed or implemented in running of the program. These methods can be implemented for example through good practice of maintaining contact between students and the faculty. Faculty involvement with students ensures that students are motivated to keep on working. The online program should leave space for contact between students and the faculty to meet face to face so as to strengthen problem solving skills through reciprocity and cooperation among students. Online tutorials require students to work as a team hence information literacy is quickly acquired. Through email communication students are opened up to communication skills. Active learning as another instructional or teaching method can be used to promote the online tutorial information literacy program. Students are not just required to sit down rather they should be actively involved. They must make what they learn to be a part of their lives. Through use of powerful visuals and well organized print, students can practice self-evaluation with application to real life situation (Grassian 2004).
A librarian wishing to recommend an online tutorial program should for example ensure that his/her proposal follows a format such as: Stage one: The orientation stage, where topic covered could have basic functions of the internet and assignment information. The university librarian in this case, can use instructional method to teach students how the internet operates. He or she can then help students identify the best search engines online to cater for their research need, for example if a student is doing a research on business proposals, the most recommended sites are business-related sites. Stage two: Could be the information sources stage that states the different sources, formats of information, how to find paper or electronic sources and probably some exercises. Librarians should also ensure that the module covers on how to use library catalogs. The different formats to use, in this case, refer to the writing and referencing styles from the Harvard style to the Chicago style. Stages three and four: planning a research strategy, finding topic to research on and choosing key words to use. After each of the stages in the online module the librarian who is the moderator in this case should ensure that students have an idea of how to evaluate information. This can be through exercise after each topic covered so that students can evaluate the worthiness of the information they have researched on and compare it to other sources such as printed texts and materials in the library (Grassian 2004)
Information literacy is regarded as a very valuable competency and the ability to know when one needs information or for what is the information needed and be able to locate the information, evaluate it and use it effectively has emerged as a result of information era. In this future era there is a demand for a more information literate worker thus people are enrolling in online tutorial programs to become information literate. University librarians should ensure that the university library provides information literacy awareness programs through partnering with the academics staff to combine information literacy objectives with the university course curricula. The university should outline contents of the information literacy objectives so that undergraduates develop interest in learning something new. The university librarians should ensure that the library works hand in hand with the Academics Development Center and the Board of Graduate Studies to provide adequate support and training in information literacy in the university (Grassian 2004).
In conclusion, information literacy standards provide individuals with supporting materials that, if tailored appropriately, can meet the local needs. The role of information literacy specialists such as librarians and media personnel is to ensure that the standards are put to light to help in development of worldwide information literacy. Learners who are information literate are able to master their content and broaden their knowledge hence gaining an aspect of self-direction and enormous control of their own learning.