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Information Literacy – answer to independent learning

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B Radhika Rani Is the information seeker in today’s Knowledge Economy satisfied? Does his endeavour to know the latest developments in his...

B Radhika Rani

Is the information seeker in today’s Knowledge Economy satisfied? Does his endeavour to know the latest developments in his field of interest ever end? The answer is NO. In the present information-hungry world, the availability of relevant, accurate, authentic, timely, precise and effective information efficiently supports him. However, the accessibility of abundant information actually poses a challenge to him.

The students of higher education have to cope up with the everyday information needs for their academic purposes and the education sector expects them to give their best. The institutes offering placements in industries and other sectors too pressurise the job-seekers. In other words, they are expected to be ‘Information Literate’-- to stand out in a crowd. The United States National Forum on Information Literacy defines information literacy as “... the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand."Information Literacy includes the skills and techniques to use resources of modern library, and the Internet as a gateway to information. It stresses for ethical and responsible use of information, especially in higher education. The students must be empowered to become self-directed, independent, critical and self-assessing learners. Unfortunately, many users have fallen prey to commercial database providers and search engines. Voluminous information available on the net is in unfiltered form.

The credibility and authenticity of using such information is a moot question. It is here that the librarian’s role comes to play. The challenge of a librarian today is to teach and educate the users, gather information strategically from the Internet or other sources with minimum use of time. With the growth of electronic resources (ie information resources available in and outside the libraries), simultaneous decline in library budgets and unreliable information on the web in the public domain, competition and work pressures have increased. In such a situation Information literacy surely is one way to manage this state of affairs Alternatively, information professionals can resort to shared subscription, library consortium, Institutional repositories, open access archives, open source gateways etc.

Fortunately, educationists have realised the importance of Information literacy, and identified Library and IT skills as a foundation for searching the electronic information resources in today’s digital era. It would definitely help to make optimum utilisation of information in a broader Information technology environment, especially in higher education. If academic institutions are to prepare to be world-class professionals, it is necessary to include information literacy skills at the core of instruction in every discipline and it needs to be reinforced within and outside of the educational setting. This will enable students to know the difference between factual information and opinions.

It is well known that when we talk of education, academic libraries automatically come into focus. In fact they play a major role in educational changes i.e. in teaching, learning and research in higher education. By providing : appropriate information environment; effective and efficient access to all types of information resources; seeking out and identifying innovations to keep pace with changes, the academic librarian guide can help in building partnership in faculty development, educational assistance, quality research support, and training for students, and assessment of learning outcomes. The ultimate focus being to enhance a student’s ability to harness the power of information to face the continual challenges of the information-centric society.

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