Activity: What differences are there in the definitions of information literacy?

It is clear from the readings in this module that there is no one definition that has been applied to information literacy. What is clear however is that our definition for information literacy is always changing with the times.

The reading by Langford (1998) discusses the transformation of literacy. Breivik & Gee (1989, as cited in Langford, 1998), discuss literacy as a dynamic concept and state that literacy “mirrors the expanding information needs of society.”

Kuhlthau (1995, as cited in Langford, 1998) agreed with Breivik & Gee but adds that literacy is also the ability to construct ones knowledge through a process which would encourage lifelong learning. Kuhlthau’s idea of information literacy as a process has been used in many different definitions and models of information literacy. Kuhlthau also introduced the idea of applying attitudinal behaviours towards information seeking (Langford, 1998), which can change the way we approach information literacy.

Langford (1998) also discusses a “working definition” of information literacy offered by Doyle. Doyle (1992, as cited in Langford, 1998) defines information literacy as the “ability to access, evaluate, and use information from a variety of resources, to recognise when information is needed, and to know how to learn.” This definition is broad which allows it to be used widely.

Abilock (2004), defines information literacy as “a transformational process in which the learner needs to find, understand, evaluate, and use information in various forms to create for personal, social or global purposes.” This definition, like Kuhlthau’s, describes a process that needs to occur and one that is also quiet broad. This will allow it to be used over a range of contexts and not just in education.

Bundy (2004) defines information literacy as an understanding and set of abilities enabling individuals to ‘recognise when information is needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information’. This definition also uses a sort of process. This process is similar to that described by Doyle (1992).

All the definitions mentioned attempt to describe information literacy and are able to be used in an educational context; however they all vary in some way.


Abilock, D. (2004). Information literacy: an overview of design, process and outcomes. Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (pp. 59-72). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).

Breivik, P., & Gee, E. (1989). Information Literacy: Revolution in the library. New York: Macmillan

Doyle, C. (1992). Outcome measures for information literacy within the national education goals of 1990. Final report to National Forum on Information Literacy. Summary of findings. Syracuse, NY: Eric Clearinghouse on Information Resources. (ED 351033)

Kuhlthau, C. (1995). The process of learning from information. School Libraries Worldwide 1(1), 1-12.

Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification.  School Libraries Worldwide (pp. 59-72). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

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