Information Literacy: A Tool for Furthering the Cause of Higher Education in Pakistan Dr. RUBINA BHATTI
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of information literacy for facilitating higher education in Pakistan. It is based on the notion that information environment is complex and is changing rapidly. Individuals have to learn critical thinking and research skills in the evaluation of information in their fields of interests. University libraries of Pakistan have not developed any formal policy on information literacy to enable all its users to meet their educational and information needs independently.
Objectives of this paper
Give a brief account of the present scenario of information literacy programmes in the university libraries of Pakistan
Identify the basic issues and factors regarding the successful implementation, and
Suggest the possible measures for IL in Pakistan
The term Information Literacy has been adopted by UNESCO in the Prague Declaration and it was recognized as firmly established international term to illustrate the concept of teaching the art of life long learning.
There has been many different names that are used for Information literacy: user education; library orientation; bibliographic instruction; library instruction; and information skills training. Information literacy contemplates on cognitive and transferable skills that lead to the development of critical and analytical skill such as problem solving, evaluation and communication skills.
According to the American Library Association (1989):
"To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information"
Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner, Armstrong, C. et al. (2005).
Doyle (1992) also defined an information literate person as one who:
"recognises the need for information;
recognises that accurate and complete information is the basis for intelligent decision making;
identifies potential sources of information;
develops successful search strategies;
accesses sources of information, including computer-based and other technologies;
organises information for practical application;
integrates new information into an existing body of knowledge, and;
uses information in critical thinking and problem solving."
Models of Information Literacy
The Big6 information problem-solving approach is quite widely used in the USA to teach information skills (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 2001). It points out the following six steps around learning:
Information Seeking Strategies
Location and Access
Use of Information
The need for information literacy programmes in Pakistani university libraries
The researcher found complete dearth of literature on IL with reference to Pakistan, thus, this study indicates the need for Pakistani university libraries to improve their professional standards and to take a more active role in formulating a proper policy and aims and objectives on making their students information literate. Teaching the users about library structure, location and layout, resources and services is of great value.
Issues to be considered regarding successful IL in Pakistani University Libraries
The study identified various factors that inhibit the information literacy provision in Pakistani universities. Following issues need to be addressed and ways must be found for the successful implementation.
Lack of formal policy
Lack of formally organized IL programmes
Non-formulation of actual aims and objectives
inadequate IL techniques
inadequate assessment of library users’ composite needs and seeking behaviour
lack of interest by the staff
inadequate training provision
lack of interest on the part of library schools
insufficient support from PLA, HEC and other bodies
lack of collaboration and communication among students, teachers and library staff
outdated curricula and faulty examination system
A proposal for National Committee on Information Literacy: working with allies for furthering the cause of higher education
This study proposes that the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan should, as a matter of priority, start up a National Committee on Information Literacy or a research organisation including the following members:
The Ministry of Education
Higher Education Commission
Pakistan Library Association
The Departments of Library Science
National Library of Pakistan
Teachers from various levels of education
Librarians from various levels of education
Focus Points for the IL Committee
This committee should focus on:
Developing information literacy framework
Formulating the proper aims and objectives for information literacy programmes
Determining competencies or skills set for users which direct is related to the world of work
Establishing plan for the training of library staff members
Facilitating library professional to reach and maintain the highest professional standards and enriching them in the delivery and promotion of high information literacy skill responsive to the needs of the users
Determining what audiovisual aids are significant for such provision in university libraries
Organising the workshops, seminars and conferences in order to highlight the need for advocacy for information literacy in order that government and NGOs can better understand the issue relating to it
Planning to signify the information literacy in the employability and workplace agendas
Advocacy on behalf of information literacy for education and wider community
Working with information literacy organizations both at national and international level
Examining and supporting information literacy in the workplace
Identifying and working with partners, both in education and the wider community
Exploring the role of information literacy in continuing professional development
Recognising barriers and constraints on the development of information literacy policies in Pakistan
Forming links among university libraries at national and international level
Contributing towards the development of IT training strategy into an integrated strategy which combines IT and information literacy training
In such a committee or research organisation, library and academic staff could highlight particular problems, needs and issues in their subjects and later, perhaps, the higher authorities might be persuaded to take the initiative to solve any problem arising. The committee could encourage organisations to collaborate on providing information support to lifelong learners.
Recommendations for improvement
No university library can be accomplished in its desired results from its information litercay programme until it has a clear statement of its goals and objectives.
Those objectives should be in harmony with the parent body’s aims and be relevant to the actual needs of users. Objectives should be realistic, definite and precise
B Surveying User Needs
It is highly recommended that the socio-economic, cultural and previous reading background of student users be surveyed. Good reading habits are not deep rooted in our generation from primary and secondary school levels onwards. So, information literacy should be started as early as possible in the beginning of each new session. It is recommended that authorities should recognise the need of information literacy as one of the tools furthering the cause of education and progress in the country.
C Use of New Technology and New Systems
The advent of computer technology provides a rapid and cost effective means of updating provision. Two aspects are important from the information litercay viewpoint: the use of computerised bibliographic searching, and the use of the Internet in the acquisition of scholarly materials. Both these will need appropriate information literacy training.
D Curriculum Integration and Liaison
University authorities should accept the central concept of IL, as a means of facilitating the cause of education in Pakistan. Information literacy programmes must be integrated with the curriculum as a matter of university (or faculty) policy.
E Training issues
Library staff with training and a positive attitude towards both the library and its students is the key to success.
F Role of the PLA
The PLA should also recommend to the Ministry of Education the establishment of libraries, improvement of library resources, provision of trained library staff and education in the usage of libraries from school level upwards for serving the goal of information literacy.
Today, no nation can survive in the world without up-to-date information. The ever-increasing growth of information emphasises the need to learn and develop logical, creative and critical approaches in handling the information for survival in this modern global society. In order to achieve this objective, users need to be taught to be independent, to acquire a critical approach in using reading resources.
The reasons for not establishing information literacy as an imperative element of higher education cannot solely be described in terms of resource problems. It emerges from the study that most librarians are not equipped with required knowledge and training to teach users effectively. It was also revealed that a majority do not have adequate subject expertise and that library science curricula do not insist on the information and educational objectives of libraries and do not consider making their users information literate as an important element of library practice.