Why information literacy?

InformAll is a consultancy and social enterprise that develops understanding of the importance and relevance of information know-how in contemporary society. We are here to help develop awareness of of how skills, competences and confidence in the use of information – whatever form this takes – is beneficial for organisations and individuals. Find out more about who we are and what we have to offer.

Why is this important? Information in all its guises, and the rich seams of data that often underpin it, are fundamental building blocks for democratic and inclusive societies. The relationship that individuals, communities and organisations have with information strongly influences their behaviour. The methods that are deployed to search for, discover, access, retrieve, sift, interpret, analyse, manage, create, communicate and preserve information and data are major factors in how people are educated, develop their careers, play their part as informed citizens in the wider world, and generally go about their business. But they benefit from guidance to take full advantage of their complex relationship with information. How members of society develop appropriate knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence, the support they receive, the training and educational opportunities provided for them, and the take-up of such opportunities are highly pertinent to the way that they relate to information. The capabilities that relate to acquiring this know-how are sometimes referred to as information literacy (IL) – a concept that is closely related to, and overlaps with, media literacy and digital literacy.

These capabilities are critical for individuals to function as learners, employees, employers, and also as citizens. One prominent definition of IL is “the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to reach and express informed views and to engage fully with society”. IL addresses a global challenge: in its Alexandria Declaration (2005), UNESCO affirms that IL “empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion of all nations”. But individuals do not become information literate spontaneously or merely through interacting with an increasingly sophisticated array of technological devices. Enabling IL requires a training and education effort at different life stages and in different contexts. It also calls for an increased awareness across society about the relevance and importance of such capabilities.

InformAll is dedicated to getting IL  – and also media literacy and digital literacy – better recognised and understood across society as an important contributor to education and learning at all stages, as well as to social inclusiveness, citizenship and economic effectiveness.

InformAll’s engagement with diverse sectors is important because, to date, IL has often been seen as the preserve of specific professions: librarians (particularly academic librarians), who are those most likely to be involved in the practice of IL; and certain academics, notably in the fields of information science and education, whose take on IL may be both theoretical and practical. The work undertaken by these players is undeniably important; but if IL is to be better understood and appreciated more widely across society – which is fundamental to InformAll’s purpose – there needs to be a broadening of the dialogue also to include other stakeholders that have had less or no exposure to the concept of IL, such as teachers, trainers, data managers, professional bodies, career advisors, employers, trade unions, policy-makers, the not-for-profit sector… It is correspondingly important to look at the close relationship between IL, media literacy and digital literacy, which have professional communities of their own. And there is also a need to develop the evidence base on the practice and impact of IL in areas, other than in the realm of librarianship and education, where it is less-well researched. Such research, along with promotion and advocacy, is crucial if the relevance and value of IL is to be demonstrated to players whose awareness of it is low.

InformAll is well-placed to identify and make use of experts and interested parties. In the first instance, we can make use of our connections in the library and research worlds, in the UK and internationally; and we constantly strive to expand our range of contacts and prospective partners in other domains with a view to widening the scope for collaborations. InformAll’s close involvement, since the end of 2021, with the Media and Information Literacy Alliance (MILA) underlines the commitment to promote IL, media literacy and digital literacy as vital responses to major societal challenges.