The idea of considering information literacy (IL) as a ‘space’ emerged from five years of exploring the concept initially in the university sector and more recently in the transition from secondary to tertiary learning.
I was introduced to the term ‘information literacy’ in 2010, when I was the fortunate recipient of a scholarship to research embedding IL into the disciplines. I had been teaching academic literacy for a number of years, yet, this was a term I had never heard. I talked to a number of university librarians around the country, and was struck by their frustrations of IL being contained within the library walls. One university, as part of their strategic management policies, had placed the library with ‘buildings and maintenance’ rather than with ‘academic and research’. Conversations with teachers in secondary schools also indicated that libraries are under-resourced and under-utilised. It seems in both sectors, IL is being firmly placed on the periphery of academic learning.
I soon came to realise that IL is fundamental to all we do as educators, but found the common definition of IL as ‘the ability to find, evaluate and use information’ somewhat limited and not quite capturing what I wanted to see happening in my classroom. I wanted my students to engage deeply with sources they were finding and to be able to determine the good from the bad in the enormous amount of information they were being exposed to online.
As my understanding of IL developed, I was drawn to the more holistic views of the concept found in Jane Secker and Emma Coonan’s, ‘A New Curriculum for Information Literacy’ (ANCIL) framework and Christine Bruce’s informed learning agenda. The recently reframed Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) framework also reveals a complexity of core ideas and perspectives when connecting IL to engaged learning. The updated 2015 ACRL framework recognises students’ roles and responsibilities in creating new knowledge in an increasingly dynamic, uncertain and rapidly changing information ecosystem.
These holistic views of IL highlight the importance of critical awareness of the origin of information and the purpose for which it was created. As students develop IL competencies, they need to think about, learn from and create new information for a range of disciplinary purposes. Thus, simply leaving IL development to chance, or seeing it as separate from the disciplines and contexts within which it is being created and used, is irresponsible.
So we have created our own holistic definition of IL as the centre of learning: IL involves the processes, strategies, skills, competencies, expertise and ways of thinking which enable individuals to engage with information to learn across a range of platforms (both digital and traditional learning environments), transform the known, and discover the unknown.
Given this complexity, we began to question what this information literacy space we all inhabit looks like. We see this space as capturing the unique contribution libraries and librarians, disciplines and teachers, digital information ecosystems and tools, and institutional learning contexts have on creating capable, critical, information literate learners.
We are excited to explore what the information literacy space will reveal. Watch this space!