Imagine a student in the olden days (let’s say the 1970’s and 80’s). She’s writing a research paper and has had a difficult time finding some sources. She goes to her instructor about the problem. The instructor is very sympathetic and gives her some hints, even allowing her to turn the paper in late.
Now fast forward a few decades: You are also writing a research paper. You go to your instructor and tell him that you can’t find sources. The instructor turns to his desk computer and types in a couple of keywords, and thousands, even millions, of hits appear on the screen.
Which is the harder situation? Well, you should know the Jolly Librarian well enough by now to see that this is a trick question. Both are difficult, but in different ways. Obviously, not being able to find source material is a problem. But since the advent of the Internet and the number of books and articles placed in databases, it’s not a problem the beginning researcher will often encounter.
The problem today is the amount of information you will find: thousands of articles at your fingertips can be overwhelming, and, if you don’t choose carefully, your paper can suffer. Ten weak sources don’t equal one solid source.
With all the information at your disposal, it’s important that you have information literacy. (Yes, here’s another literacy that you should have to be a success in college and the real world, along with reading, writing, math, critical thinking, and computer skills.)
What is information literacy? According to the Association of College and Research Libraries, information literacy is “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.” The ACRL has also issued five standards of information literacy, and that’s what we’ll be discussing for the next few days.
Why should you care about information literacy?
Basically, there is a lot of bad information out there. (Just check the 9/11 conspiracy websites if you don’t believe me.) Being information literate means you can find the information you need, judge its validity, and use it properly. Skills that will serve you well in college and in the workplace!