Is information literacy just a set of skills?

Information literacy is more than just a set of skills. Skills are an individuals ability to do something well, and if information literacy was just an ability, then there would be greater agreement on what information literacy is; on what know-how is required to become information literate and what outcomes are displayed by an information literate person.

There are so many different viewpoints on what it means to be information literate. While investigating the current topic this blogger has found eight different definitions for information literacy. For example, Abilock (2013, p. 1) states Information Literacy is 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.” Whereas Herring (2004, as sighted in Herring, 2006) defines it as “the skills which pupils use to identify the purpose of, locate, process and communicate information concepts and ideas and then reflect upon the effective application of these skills”. How can information literacy be seen as just a set of skills when there is no clear definition of what it really is?

As the definition of information literacy differs so does the process of becoming information literate also vary. Across the globe there are a range of information literacy models being utilised in schools, from the New South Wales [NSW] model (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2007) currently used in NSW, Australia; the Big 6 model (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1990) used in North America, and the PLUS model (Herring, 2004) in the United Kingdom and many more. While some aspects of each model may be similar [each model encompasses locating information as one of its steps] each model cannot even agree on the number of steps required to becoming information literate some state six, others four, some models only contain three steps. With no agreement on how to become information literate how can information literacy be seen as just a set of skills?

Furthermore, with differing views on what information literacy is and on how to go about achieving it, it is not possible to have a centralised viewpoint on what an information literate individual is able to achieve. While the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework (Bundy, 2004) provides 11 points defining the abilities of an information literate person, these points cover skills such as the ability “to recognise a need for information“, the expertise to “classify, store, manipulate and redraft information collected or generated” and the know-how to “access and use information ethically and legally“. However, due to the extensive number of definitions and models it is impractical to believe that these outcomes will apply to all conditions. Indicating that even the abilities of an information literate person cannot be agreed upon.

In conclusion if information literacy were just an ability to use information well, there would be greater agreement on what information literacy is. Becoming information literate would be a simple, step-by-step process with the fundamentals being embraced by all models across the globe. Finally, the essential skill set of an information literate individual should be similar no matter the framework in place. Due to the lack of consensus it is clear that information literacy is by no means a simple set of skills.


Abilock, D. (2013, 11 22). Information Literacy: Building blocks of research: Overview. Retrieved 01 24, 2014, from NoodleTools:

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).

Eisenberg, M., & Berkowitz, R. E. (1990). What is the Big 6? Retrieved 01 24, 2014, from Information and Technology Skills for Student Success:

Herring, J. (2006, Sep 27). A critical investigation of students’ and teachers’ views of the use of information literacy skills in school assignments. School Library Media Research, 9

Herring, J. (2004). The PLUS model. Retrieved from

New South Wales Department of Education and Training. (2007). Information skills in the school. Retrieved 01 24, 2014, from Curriculum programs and support:


2 thoughts on “Is information literacy just a set of skills?

  1. HI Lisa, your approach to this is interesting, basing it on definitions and models drawn from the readings. Consider reflecting on these differences from a TL to consider just what the broader attributes may be – think about the importance of process over skill acquisition, the disposition a learner needs to want to undertake an inquiry and its relevance to becoming life long learner. 🙂

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