A person who has learned to manage voluminous amounts of information is termed “information literate.” The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) lists specific skills for a person worthy of such designation. Some are mentioned below. In this digital age, however, you may be surprised that attaining such abilities does not require an app or a link to an IT help desk.
- The ACRL states that an information literate person begins to navigate through mountains of data with a focus on what he wishes to accomplish. He has a purpose for what he is doing and sticks to it. For example, using the Google search engine, a student researching for a report about South Carolina can generate a list of nearly 327,000,000 results. Perusing through even a fraction of that information with no clear topic other than the name of the state can be a time waster and boredom builder.
- Browsing through large amounts of online information without a specific purpose may also lead to an unintended destination. Many boys, girls, men and women have ventured off target and into inappropriate sites—not because they planned to go there but because they found themselves tempted by “pop-ups” or links leading to sites they would typically shun.
- The second ACRL characteristic builds on the first; an information literate person determines the extent of information needed. That means that the student researching South Carolina should select a specific topic about the state and limit data inquiry to what is needed for that topic. If he is searching for ”Upstate Tourism,” keying in those search words rather than the more general topic of “South Carolina” will reduce the original Google results by more than 70 percent.
- A person who is information literate will also evaluate sources critically. Some time ago a radio spot featured a young girl saying, “If it is on the Internet, it must be true.” When asked about the source of that statement, she replied that it came from the Internet. She neglected to consider that much information available digitally is posted by a commercial interest or by someone unqualified to address the topic. Even in New Testament times, the Apostle John admonished people not to believe every spirit. (1 John 4:1)
Accumulating and managing knowledge will continue to grow in both our personal and our business lives. In fact, there are at least two businesses operating in Greenville that could be classified as knowledge companies. Both are homes to independent marketers, public relations, and technical people who can work on their own projects or partner with those sharing the same office space, information, and knowledge. Such is the workforce environment many BJA grads will enter. The good news is that many concepts associated with information literacy are already infused into daily curriculum.