Today's workplace demands a new kind of worker. Data is dispatched in picoseconds and gigabits and this deluge of information must be sorted, evaluated and applied. It is estimated that the average person spends 150 hours per year looking for information. Consider the following:
A Naval Postgraduate School student researching Knowledge Management (KM) finds over 2,000,000 links on the Web. Most of these only mention KM in passing. Because he does not know how to use "proximity operators" to narrow the search, the student has to look through large number of links and settle for what substantive information he has time to find.
A young military family is evicted by a landlord who claims he is within his legal rights. Unless that family knows how to seek information to confirm or disprove the landlord's claim, the family will have to accept the landlord's "expert" opinion.
A DON civilian hears from a co-worker that under the Naval Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) she will no longer have the computer capability she current has. This is in conflict with what she has previously heard, but she's uncertain how to find an authoritative source about NMCI to validate this information.
These stories illustrate a basic fact: there is no lack of information in the world, but the skills needed to search, select, evaluate and use information can vary from total lack of information skills to some level of literacy. How we solve this discrepancy will depend on our ability to embrace a new basic competency … Information Literacy (IL).
IL is a set of information and knowledge age skills that enable individuals to recognize when information is and is not needed, and how to locate, evaluate, integrate, use and effectively communicate information. These skills are critical in dealing with the daily barrage of information, and the broad array of tools to search, organize and analyze results, and communicate and integrate them for decision-making.
IL skills help an individual:
•Determine the nature and extent of the information needed.
•Access needed information effectively and efficiently.
•Evaluate information and its sources critically.
•Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
•Understand the economic, legal, social, and ethical issues surrounding the use of information in a virtual world.
IL skills initiate, sustain and extend lifelong learning, and complement the aggressive work underway throughout the Department to become a knowledge-centric organization and achieve Knowledge Superiority. There is a gap between an individual's understanding and his ability to access what he needs from the external environment. Information Literacy, providing what we could refer to as meta information (or information about information), helps close that gap and provides ways of increasing an individual's ability to access what they need from the external information environment.
Let me use an analogy to point out the importance of Information Literacy. In 1855 pulp papermaking was discovered, providing the opportunity to create paper that was both scalable and economical. But only five percent of the U.S. population could read or write. The impact of the invention could not be fully realized until the level of reading proficiency in the U.S. increased. From 1858 through 1899 systemic schooling raised the level of reading proficiency in the U.S. to 85 percent. Continuing the analogy, the late 20th century ushered in technologies such as the Web, and broadband and wireless communications, providing the opportunity to access information from anywhere in the world using mobile devices. But, what percentage of people has the capability to use information fully? What percentage of people is information literate?
As early as 1989, a Presidential Committee on Information Literacy identified IL as a survival