Information Literacy: Gaps between Concept and Applications. This article is by Leena Siitonen. It was presented at the 62nd IFLA General Conference in 1996.
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Concept: Expanding from its traditional concept as the ability to read and write, literacy has been variously connected with different educational and cultural activities and linked with a great variety of mechanisms and technologies. The concept of literacy has been expanded into information literacy which goes beyond traditional literacy including computer literacy and use of computer produced informat ion. Further, information literacy emphasizes the content rather than technological tools be they digital or multimedia.
Educational Needs of Librarians and Users: Similarly to traditional literacy, information literacy must become the possession of every individual. However, in addition to cultural, educational and economical barriers, many gaps exist which hinder people from acquiring needed knowledge, skills and competencies.
Educators have successfully developed and implemented curricula to bring information specialists' and managers' computer literacy to a level adequate for industrialized society's needs, yet there exists an increasing demand to educate users of information to understand the main concepts of information management -- how to gather, process, utilize, transfer, evaluate and disseminate information. Concurrently, there is expanding a gap between computer literate persons and those who pursue education with conventional methods.
Change of Librarians' Work: For librarians work, mastering new technologies is undeniably and urgently necessary. Looking back at multimedia's use for literacy work is helpful, when we try to understand recent changes. Current exploitation of multimedia technology is changing our understanding of the interconnections of graphics, sound and images and the types of information they represent. Thus, we need to understand bot h human psyche and available technologies in order to create and to interprete new expressions.
Attention to users' information needs:However urgently librarians aspire to change their profession for society's advance, they are both restricted and prompted by the organizational environment, their position in the professional hierarchy, the belonging of library to one of subsystems within a larger educational or cultural and financial entity and, foremost, by the governance of access to electronic information. The bridges neede d for overcoming even some of the existing gaps between library profession and users' information needs require essentially two things: librarians need to educate themselves in order to master not only new technologies but also their influence on individuals and on society at large, and librarians need to emphasize the concept of life-long learning of information literacy skills for the benefit of all members of the society.