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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.