Information Literacy

Information literacy has been a subject of interest for many LIS professionals during the last four decades. Consequently a huge amount of literature has been published and is available on the Internet. The role of national library and information associations such as CILIP, ALIA and the ALA have been instrumental in creating public awareness on the subject.

Information literacy or digital literacy has been defined as “as the ability to recognize the need for information and to identify, locate, access, evaluate and effectively use the information to address and help resolve personal, job-related or broader social issues and problems” (ALIA, 2004). It concerns people’s ability to operate effectively in an information society. The basic skills to read, write and perform simple arithmetic operations is definitely not enough. It requires a technological know-how to manipulate computers (computer literacy), the ability to use a library’s collection and services (library literacy), the ability to search online databases, Web-based resources and digital media through networked collections (digital literacy), and the skills to critically evaluate information sources accessible from various sources. Without such skills, one would be marginalized in society and the individual may not reap the full benefits of an increasingly wired, networked, digitalized and virtual information world. He would be a poor in an information-rich society!

How can Information Literacy help?

In our age of information-intensive societies, it is important for all individuals to be information literate; for students to play their role as active learners, for workers to adapt to a constantly changing work environment, for the citizens to play their role as enlightened citizens in a democratic set up. In a nutshell, information literacy ensures:

  1.  Participative citizenship
  2. Social inclusion
  3. The creation of new knowledge
  4. Personal and social empowerment
  5. Learning for life

In our part of the world, can professional library associations emulate their counterparts in other countries? How can libraries and librarians help to build an information literate nation? At what level can we intervene ? The floor is open for debate.

R. Hauroo

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Digital Divide

The term digital divide was coined in 1995 by Larry Irving, a one-time Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Telecommunications and Communications to focus public awareness on the gap which exists between those who can access to electronic information and those who cannot have the means to access to information. Initially this was the basic idea, defined primarily as the deficiency in technological access to information sources or ownership of the means to access information. The problem was diagnosed as a technological one, dividing society into two poles, i.e. between the “haves” and the “haves-not”. 

However, such narrow definition of the concept of digital divide was questioned by many scholars and later the concept was defined to include also the lack of information literacy skills, the inability for users to locate, understand and how to use information intelligently.  The causality of the digital divide problem has also been the subject of much controversies. Is it that the lack of access to information (and computers / Internet) that jeopardises one’s chances / opportunities in life OR is it that those who are already socially and economically marginalised in society that have less opportunities to take advantage of the Internet and digital world? There is undoubtedly a complex interrelationship between these two factors.

In the ultimate analysis, had it been just a technological problem, a digital solution such as access to computers and telecommunications would have bridged the gap. The digital divide has many other socio-economic, political, ethical and moral dimensions. Social inclusion, socio-economic equality, fuller participation and equal share of resources are some of the parameters to consider in dealing with this problem. A holistic and pragmatic approach would be recommended to address all its socio-economic and political ramifications.

Can libraries and librarians help to bridge this digital divide? How can we help to:

  1. Solve the connectivity problem: physical access to ICTs
  2. Improve ICT skills and support in educating users
  3. Change attitudes of users
  4. Influence the information-seeking behaviour of users
  5. Create local content for special categories of people and making same available to those who have the need

 The LIS community needs to give a serious thought to this digital divide.

R. Hauroo

Welcome!

Welcome to the blog of the Library & Information Association (Republic of Mauritius). This is a professional blog and we want to keep it clean. Feel free to share your views, seek assistance or troubleshoot any problem you have at hand. We do not pretend to be high tech but discussing with peers may be a beginning to resolve a difficulty. Your comments are most welcome. I hope this blog will be beneficial to all in our LIS community.

P. Hauroo