Global Literacy Initiatives:The United States and Developing Nations. This articles was presneted by Lynne Rudasill at the 1998 IATUL Conference, University Library of Pretoria, University of Pretoria, South Africa, 1st June - 5th June, 1998.
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Changing information technologies are forcing librarians in the developed world to take a new look at the criteria for information literacy in their societies. Here we will investigate some aspects of the development of information literacy in the United States. We will explore the definition of the concept and discover some specific competencies entailed in the creation of the information literati as promulgated by libraries and librarians in the United States. Next we will discuss the philosophy that supports some of the policies surrounding the advocacy of information literacy. We will then look at some of the roadblocks to information literacy in developing nations with a view toward exploring alternative routes to information literacy.
Information Literacy in the United States
The concept of information literacy has been formally articulated in the United States since 1989. It is a barometer of the sea change which has occurred as a result of technological advances in the area of information accessibility. Prior to the advent of computer networks, the MARC record, automated catalogs, article databases, and the Internet, one of the primary purposes of the library was to provide a repository for culture. Shera once stated that the “proper study of the librarian is Man.” 1 Although the dissemination of knowledge was a part of the library’s mission, it served first and foremost as the protector and assimilator of the knowledge of a culture as it existed in written form. The model has since shifted away from library as repository to library as facilitator. With the rapid development of communications technology we have moved from the age of knowledge of man to the age of information and its retrieval. As part of this process, our efforts to understand ourselves have moved from preservation to literacy.