Information Literacy -- Context, Culture and Information Seeking

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Information Literacy Context, Culture, and Information Seeking By: Florence Margaret PaiseyFlorence Margaret Paisey2Knowledge is of two kinds: we know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it. Samuel Johnson, Life of Johnson (Boswell, 1775)Florence Margaret Paisey Table of Contents3Preface.......3 Part I Introduction...........6 Information and Communication: A Decade of Transformations........9 Informat


Information Literacy Context, Culture, and Information Seeking By: Florence Margaret Paisey

Florence Margaret Paisey


Knowledge is of two kinds: we know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it. Samuel Johnson, Life of Johnson (Boswell, 1775)

Florence Margaret Paisey Table of Contents


Preface.......3 Part I Introduction...........6 Information and Communication: A Decade of Transformations........9 Information Ages.........12 Information Literacy: The Long March from Obscurity..15 Part II Information Literacy: Many Roads to Mecca..26 Information Literacy and Information Seeking Behavior....28 Information Literacy: The Social, Political, and Economic Context...35 The ACRL Information Literacy Standards: One Model of Many..........43 Information Literacy: The Practice of Instruction....51 References................................................................................................55

Florence Margaret Paisey Preface Part I of this paper discusses the impact of information and communication technologies within the context of globalization, information-based economies, and the need for context driven information literacy. A general history of library instruction describes its evolution from the role of librarians as an aid to readers to their current role in implementing programs that support information literacy as defined and articulated by the ALA and the ACRL. Part II discusses information and communication technology within a global context, identifying cultural and social disparities and the information skill sets appropriate in


inequitable conditions. A context for applying the ACRL Information Literacy Standards is described and they are analyzed within Wilsons information behavior model and levels of information seeking and searching behaviors. The importance of metacognition as a condition for effective learning is emphasized along with contrasting information literacy to bibliographic instruction.

Florence Margaret Paisey


Part I Information Literacy: Social Implications

Florence Margaret Paisey Introduction On an average weekday, The New York Times contains more information than any contemporary of Shakespeares would have acquired in a lifetime (Anonymous) -- true or false? Whatever your opinion may be, the thought is worthy of consideration; it is not unreasonable or bizarre. It is also not new; The New York Times has been publishing for 156 years, since 1851 its reputation for in-depth, excellent, reliable coverage has met


with few challenges. In 1996, The New York Times broke with tradition and logged on to the current digital, information age; it went online. Such a change revolutionized news coverage; in-depth, comprehensive exposure to an event became available worldwide within minutes of its occurrence. Online news coverage gave the celebrated shot heard round the world new meaning. One shot, one outcry, one speech, one discovery became public and gambit for immediate and widespread deliberation with myriad potentialities. Information relating to international politics, proceedings, terrorist attacks, public affairs, and unexpected incidents was reported in real time. One could boot up any online connection through a desktop, laptop, or portable digital device and read detailed updates, with focused interest and varying, decontextualized viewpoints, at once. Columbine, Dianas death, 9-11, Virginia Tech appeared in writing, online, as fast as reporters could type and upload. Correspondents, individual bloggers, and others with the capability to upload could comment. The New York Times as well as other newspapers worldwide, in many languages, had joined the digital information age. If one believes that the power of the press effects change, that it is an active, transformative tool, rather than

Florence Margaret Paisey


the inverse, a passive mirror of events, then instant global communication through online reporting has played a significant role in transforming our lives. The online environment has flourished and proliferated to the extent that readers can comment on any story publicly, addressing a global audience, through a blog, public forum, or podcast. Those with access have a voice, say-so, representation; some, as Lowell Bergman (2007) discusses, believe there is no division between the layperson who publishes online, and the journalist -- anyone who blogs or participates is reporting. This is one debate in the Frontline series, News War, a program that examines the issues and challenges facing media (Frontline, 2007). It is a debate that is relevant here as one measure of the extent that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed society, shaped a digital elite, and created the need for an information literate population with digital skills. Unlike its traditional rival, broadcast news, online news offers the same capacity for in-depth, multidimensional commentary as print with the added value of exposition and ubiquity. Once online, news and commentary of an event spread worldwide. The online story is written, descriptive, thorough, and pervasive. Broadcasters reach specific audiences, usually within a cultural and linguistic context online stories translate quickly, crossing both cultural and linguistic boundaries. Now, in an average minute, one online issue of The New York Times not only contains more information than any contemporary of Shakespeares would have acquired in a lifetime (Anonymous), but may also update and change with immediacy. The reality of ubiquitous informational immediacy is unprecedented. This abundance of information, together with its

Florence Margaret Paisey immediacy, has effected political, economic, social, psychological, and cultural transformation.


Florence Margaret Paisey Information and Communication: A Decade of Transformations Digital communication technologies existed decades ago, but they were not assumed. Online newspapers, online galleries, e-photos, e-learning, e-health, virtual shopping, e-


banking, e-mail, and personal e-spaces are all routine, often tedious practices of life now. Tele-medicine is widening its net through electronic medical records the U.S. Health and Human Services initiative, Healthy People 2010, includes storing all medical records in an electronic format (2001); other initiatives include imaging for storage and transmission, e-prescribing, as well as evidence-based practice. It will soon be commonplace for one physician, at point of care, to consult another physician regarding a complex medical problem tens, hundreds, thousands of miles away by transmitting sophisticated, detailed images, auditory messages, and text via communication technology. The University of Calgarys Health Telematics Unit (Hunter, 2007) aims to build a lifelong virtual learning global e-health community with the capability to cross all existing geographical, temporal, political, social, and cultural barriers that will gradually change the way healthcare is provided (ibid). If one doubts the fundamental significance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in work, education, and everyday life, look at current habits and expectations of individuals, not only in medicine, but also in all occupations, and in personal lives. In education, resources have been extended to the online environment. From primary to higher education, both educators and students supplement classroom activities with online activities and informational sources found in proprietary databases, the World Wide Web, the invisible Web, e-mail, instant messaging (IM), blogs, podcasts,

Florence Margaret Paisey 10 voice/video chat, videoconferencing, and multimedia authoring tools. Electronic networks support learning communities where learners work on common tasks and negotiate understanding (Glaser & Bassok, 1989). Other subject-related student assignments often involve online collaborative learning projects (ETS, 2001), virtual groups, multimedia presentations, Web pages, blogs, and podcasts. The workplace has been similarly affected; one can no longer obtain employment without basic information and communication skills. Employers increasingly require digital information skills and performances such as facility in utilizing word processing programs, carrying out functions on spreadsheets, managing e-mail accounts, operating fax machines, blogging, navigating the Internet as well as posting on social media sites. Some employers require these skills on computers and mobile devices alike. Supermarket clerks, waiters, clerical workers, nurse aides, security guards, cosmeticians, auto mechanics all need to be able to handle technical, digital equipment in the workplace. From graduating secondary students to high-powered professionals, there is a need for competent skill in information and communication technologies as well as the ability to continue adapting to next generation tools. Skill with communication technologies was desirable a decade ago; now it is standard and required to compete for employment and participate in mainstream society and organizations. Technical skills to utilize digital technologies and communication tools have become routine, yet questions, avoidance, and uncertainty regarding informational skills still abound. We entered the Information Age decades ago (Breivik, 1991); we are a knowledge society; we broker in information (Drucker, 1993, ETS, 2001, UNESCO, 2005). Habits, customs, institutions, careers, social problems have all been affected by

Florence Margaret Paisey 11 this shift it is momentous; it is historic. The need to cultivate an understanding of information behavior and effective information seeking is no longer an ivory tower debate; it is a survival issue.