Definition of Information Literacy

High level definition

Information literacy 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.

Secondary statement

Information literacy incorporates a set of skills and abilities which everyone needs to undertake information-related tasks; for instance, how to discover, access, interpret, analyse, manage, create, communicate, store and share information. But it is much more than that: it concerns the application of the competencies, attributes and confidence needed to make the best use of information and to interpret it judiciously. It incorporates critical thinking and awareness, and an understanding of both the ethical and political issues associated with using information. Information literacy relates to information in all its forms: not just print, but also digital content, data, images and the spoken word. Information literacy is associated and overlaps with other literacies, including specifically digital literacy, academic literacy and media literacy. It is not a stand-alone concept, and is aligned with other areas of knowledge and understanding. Information literacy helps to understand the ethical and legal issues associated with the use of information, including privacy, data protection, freedom of information, open access/open data and intellectual property. Importantly, information literacy is empowering, and is an important contributor to democratic, inclusive, participatory societies; as interpreted by UNESCO, it is a universal human right.

This definition of information literacy was launched by CILIP and the Information Literacy Group in April 2018>p<

As well as knowing the need for information and knowing how and where to find it to be information literate individuals also need to understand the social, economic and ethical use of information. In an online environment information literacy is an interactive process with people more able to add content. This proactive and creative aspect of information literacy needs to be acknowledged across various government agendas.

For more information about the contexts of information literacy within different environments including the role of information professionals please refer to the full document CILIP definition of information literacy 2018.

Information Literacy Statement

CILIP endorsed the Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy in 2011. In doing so we accept the vision outlined in the proclamation as CILIP's statement on information literacy.

Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy

The Alexandria Proclamation states that information literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It believes information literacy empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. The proclamation goes further in that it believes that information literacy is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion of all nations.

In affirming this vision CILIP seeks:

  • To promote fair and equitable access to quality information necessary to support people in making life choices
  • To ensure that the library and information workforce has the skills and knowledge to teach and promote information literacy
  • To advocate the value of information literacy within Government and all economic sectors; private, voluntary, charitable and public
  • To ensure that information literacy has a recognised role in the skills development agenda
  • To campaign for all people to have the opportunity to learn the information skills necessary to be effective in all aspects of their lives
  • To engage with international work on information literacy
  • To work in partnership with other key organisations to deliver this vision