Information Literacy: more than a set of skills (Blog Task #3)

On consulting widely accepted definitions of information literacy (IL) (Abilock, 2004), one might initially form the opinion that the term is primarily concerned with skills. Verbs such as find, evaluate and use (Abilock, 2004) suggest a mastery of these skills would produce information literate individuals.  However, a more thorough analysis of the literature shows that IL runs deeper than mere skills or an ability to use these skills within the confines of a school library.

Reaching past the mastery of skills, the process or practice of IL (Herring, 2011) is transformational and can be enhanced as an individual proceeds through life if the individual remains open to learning (Bruce, 2004). The skills of IL are utilised although firstly the user must recognise when information is needed – an ability to know how to learn (Kuhlthau, 2004).

It is easy to reduce IL to a set of specific skills such as computer or research skills however this view carries consequences. IL is not a short term practice and is associated with successful lifelong learners – not confined to library experiences. To narrow down IL to specific skills would result in students lacking the necessary preparation when encountering new technology or environments.  For example, teaching IL skills specific to the library catalogue or print-based resources does not prepare students for potential information environments in future educational or workforce areas (Lloyd, 2005).

In considering these views, it would seem that the suggestion of IL as a skill-set is a shallow view. Certainly, there are specific skills needed, however students must be exposed to a spectrum of experiences (Abilock, 2004) that enable them to extend these skills beyond simply finding and evaluating to recognising feelings, information gaps and a positive attitude to lifelong learning (Kuhlthau, 2004).

More recently, the term ‘transliteracy’ (TL) may replace IL (Ipri, 2010).This concept does not originate from the library realm and is considered to provide learners with everything IL does however tends to highlight transferrable skills rather than teaching tools (Ipri, 2010). Although a relatively new concept, many information professionals feel that TL is another buzz word and that IL was never primarily concerned with just teaching tools or a basic set of skills (Iris, 2012) but also covered transferrable skills.

However one chooses to view IL, the outcome of becoming information literate is an essential quality one must obtain to fully participate as a digital citizen. Those who exist in an information society must be equipped to make intelligent and informed choices rather than consume resources without critical question.  Those with such abilities and attitudes will be able to participate fully in various scenarios presented in an overloaded information landscape.



Abilock, D. (2004). Information literacy: an overview of design, process and outcomes. Retrieved from

Bruce, C. (2004, 13-16 June). Information Literacy as a Catalyst for Educational Change. [Paper presented at International Lifelong Learning Conference, Yeppoon]. Retrieved from

Herring, J. (2011). Assumptions, Information Literacy and Transfer in High Schools. Teacher Librarian, 38(3), 32-36.

Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy: What does it mean to academic libraries? C&RL News, 532-533.

Iris (2012). Inflammatory Statement: transliteracy is Information Literacy for latecomers. In Pegasus Librarian. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Learning as a process. In Seeking meaning a process approach to library and information services (2nd ed.) (pp. 13-27). Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.

Lloyd, A. 2005. No man (or woman) is an island: information literacy, affordances and communities of practice. Australian Library Journal, 54(3). Retrieved from


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