Information Literacy:  Not just a buzzword 
When the term “information literacy” emerged in the library field, many believed it 
was merely another round of changing buzzwords.  For a field that was in the throes 
of switching terminology from “bibliographic instruction” to “library instruction,” 
this was understandable.  However, information literacy is much more than 
bibliographic instruction or library instruction.  

As defined by the Association of College and Research Libraries and many other 
groups and institutions, information literate people can identify their information 
need, identify sources to use to find pertinent information, use those resources 
efficiently, locate the information, evaluate it critically, and use it ethically.  
Information literacy also emphasizes helping people to become lifelong learners.   
It also encourages training and practice in research and information seeking as a 
whole process, from definition of topic to finding information, from evaluating 
the information to communicating it to others.

For librarians, information literacy has provided a chance to transform source-based 
library or bibliographic instruction, which in the past often provided students with 
a set of print or electronic library resources instead of teaching them how to locate 
the materials themselves.  The tenets of information literacy provide possibilities 
for programs which will equip people with the tools they need to seek information –  
not just for the immediate project, but for any future information need in any area.  
Information literacy programs give librarians a chance to work with faculty to 
design and deliver more cohesive instruction sessions which incorporate critical 
thinking and encourage transferability of skills.  Given this era of information 
overload, critical thinking skills are more important than ever.  Incorporating 
information literacy components into existing curricula allow students to learn 
more than just which link to click or where the library keeps the magazine.  For 
example, from a partnership of the librarian and the instructor, students can learn 
how to identify and refine a search strategy, use print and electronic sources to 
locate information, learn to evaluate sources for authority, credibility, bias and 
currency, learn to cite materials, and finally, have an opportunity to use the 
information for a paper or presentation.  With an emphasis on skills and strategy 
rather than sources, it is more likely that students will retain and transfer their 
skills to projects for other courses or to real-life information needs. 

The articles included in this issue pull together a variety of approaches to 
information literacy.  From smaller community college settings to larger research 
universities, librarians across the United States and Canada are working together 
and with faculty to provide more meaningful experiences for students.  These authors 
have provided examples of programs which can serve as models for other libraries and 
have raised issues which many of us face.   I hope that librarians find these 
articles useful, but also that teaching faculty are inspired to work with the 
librarians at their institutions in new ways.

Elizabeth Blakesley Lindsay
Literature & Languages Librarian and Instruction Coordinator
University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth 

Endnote
Selected sources for information literacy definitions:

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy 
	standards for higher education. Retrieved 7 November 2002 from 
	http://www.ala.org/acrl/ilcomstan.html

Grassian, E. & Kaplowitz, J. (2001). Information literacy instruction: Theory 
	and practice.  New York: Neal-Schuman.

Information literacy definitions. (n.d.). Retrieved 7 November 2002 from 
	http://www.ucalgary.ca/library/ILG/litdef.html

Information literacy definitions. (2002). Retrieved 7 November 2002 from 
	http://libweb.sfasu.edu/ref/clue2/definitions.htm

Information literacy for the information age. (2001). Retrieved 7 November 
	2002 from http://www.big6.com/

Smith, D.  (2000). Directory of online resources for information literacy: 
	Definitions of information literacy and related terms.  Retrieved 7 
	November 2002 from http://www.cas.usf.edu/lis/il/definitions.html