Information Literacy: A Definition

Information Literacy: A Definition

The term “information literacy” first appeared in 1974 in a report published by the former National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Authored by Paul G. Zurkowski, then president of Information Industry Association, the concept pertains to the competencies learned and applied by individuals to exploit different tools and sources for uncovering information, as well as in using this information to solve a particular problem.

What is Information Literacy: Definition and Applications

A 1989 white paper commissioned by the U.S. office of the president and authored by the American Library Association defined information literacy as the capability to determine the need for information and to know how and where to look and evaluate such with effectiveness and efficiency to address an issue or solve an existing problem.

It is also one of the main competencies alongside traditional literacy composed of reading and writing, computer literacy, creativity, and critical thinking, among others. A review study by C. C. Kuhlthau explained that the emergence of the information society had necessitated the possession of information literacy to promote the social and economic wellbeing of an individual.

The book by S. Andretta explained further that the concept emerged from the need to address issues from phenomena such as information overload due to rapid developments in communication and related technologies, the growing need of the society for informed members, and the need for a responsive workforce.

Furthermore, researcher M. McTavish argued that promoting the welfare of the entire society requires increasing and maximizing the contribution of the people by expanding the focus of the education system on information literacy.

The definitions mentioned above collectively describe information literacy as one of those critical competencies that an individual must acquire to become an effective and productive member of modern society. Note that the government and its education system, including all educational institutions, have considered this concept as one of the essential areas of learning that they must impart to students at all levels.


  • American Library Association. 1989. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report. Washington DC: American Library Association. Available online
  • Andretta, S. 2005. Information Literacy: A Practitioner’s Guide. Oxford: Chandos Publishing
  • Kuhlthau, C. C. 1987. Information skills for an information society: A review of research. Washington DC: Education Resources Information Center
  • McTavish, M. 2009. “I Get My Facts From the Internet: A Case Study of the Teaching and Learning of Information Literacy in In-School and Out-of-School Context.” Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. 9(1): 3-28. DOI: 10.1177/1468798408101104
  • Zurkowski, P. G. 1974). The Information Service Environment Relationships and Priorities. Related Paper No. 5. Washington DC: National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences. Available online
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