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International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 263–266
Information literacy and information management:
A 21st century paradigm partnership
Forest Woody Horton Jr.
500-23rd Street NW, Apt. B901, Washington, DC 20037, USA
In the last ﬁve or six years a ‘‘new’’ information resources paradigm has been emerging on the world stage
with increasing attention. It is called ‘‘information literacy’’ and I believe the concept can be fairly credited to
the library and educational communities, rather than the ICT communities. Certainly, Google has precipitated
widespread interest in this new paradigm’s potential. As the saying that has by now become a cliche’ goes:
‘‘what good does it do you to retrieve 1 million hits from an online Internet search?’’ In a very real sense, you
are worse off than you were before, because now you realize that there is an enormous amount of information
‘‘out there’’ but you have not learned how to search efﬁciently enough so that you retrieve only the
information you need, and not one citation more.
But this is far more than a search and retrieval challenge. It is, in my view, at bottom an information
management challenge. Google searches are posing stark realities for everyone that are very closely related to
the core notions behind the information management idea. For example:
1. People are ﬁnally beginning to realize that information is a resource that just does not ‘‘pop into mind’’
when you need it; just as in the case of other resources—human, physical, ﬁnancial, and natural resources—
one must plan for its utilization; in short, it takes knowledge and skills to ﬁnd and use the information one
needs for problem-solving and decision-making.
2. Dealing with information imposes both risks and burdens as well as returns values and beneﬁts, and like all
resources, one must make an investment in planning and utilizing the information resource if knowledge is
to be utilized efﬁciently and effectively.
3. Everyone is becoming his/her own information manager now because there is a realization that a great deal
of the information one needs (but not all) can be searched for and retrieved using online search engines,
without using intermediaries; while the bricks and mortar library is still a much-needed knowledge
institution, it is being supplemented with virtual libraries.
4. Information and knowledge have proliferated ‘‘with a vengeance’’ and this phenomenon has brought with
it the concomitant requirement that we learn how to sort and sift through piles and piles of unneeded
information that is irrelevant to our needs, often misinformation and disinformation rather than
information, presented to us in mediums and formats that we cannot use or are unfamiliar with.
5. To use another cliche—where is the information lost in data, and where is the knowledge lost in
information, and where is the wisdom lost in knowledge?
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Beginning soon after the calendar pages turned to 2001, many international institutions turned their attention
to dealing with this challenge. But one in particular has taken the lead in this respect—UNESCO. UNESCO, as
the reader will know, is the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization. It is the primary
international institution responsible for dealing with strengthening the way in which countries and institutions
are able to deal with both information and communications technology (ICT) challenges, as well as
information challenges, including the idea of the Information Society. In 2002, UNESCO sent a representative
from its Information and Communications Sector staff to Washington, DC to attend a brainstorming meeting
convened by the US National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) attended by perhaps
20 international experts who were pioneers in developing and advancing the Information Literacy idea in
several countries including the US. Concurrently the Information Literacy concept had been pioneered in many
different countries and the idea behind the brainstorming meeting was to try to consolidate where things stood
and how the basic concept could be advanced and promoted further internationally.
From that 2002 brainstorming meeting, concrete plans emerged to hold an international conference of
information literacy experts in Prague, the Czech Republic. Such a meeting took place in September 2003 and
brought together some 40 experts from all of the major geographic regions of the world, including Africa,
Latin America, Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. The
gathering produced a ‘‘Prague Declaration: Towards an Information Literacy Society’’ which set forth the
‘‘We the participants at the Information Literacy Meeting of Experts, organized by the US National
Commission on Library and Information Science and the National Forum on Information Literacy, with the
support of UNESCO, representing 23 countries from all of the seven major continents, held in Prague, the
Czech Republic, September 20–23, 2003, propose the following basic Information Literacy principles:
The creation of an Information Society is key to social, cultural and economic development of nations and
communities, institutions and individuals in the 21st century and beyond.
Information Literacy encompasses knowledge of one’s information concerns and needs, and the ability to
identify, locate, evaluate, organize and effectively create, use and communicate information to address
issues or problems at hand; it is a prerequisite for participating effectively in the Information Society, and is
part of the basic human right of life long learning.
Information Literacy, in conjunction with access to essential information and effective use of information
and communication technologies, plays a leading role in reducing the inequities within and among
countries and peoples, and in promoting tolerance and mutual understanding through information use in
multicultural and multilingual contexts.
Governments should develop strong interdisciplinary programs to promote Information Literacy
nationwide as a necessary step in closing the digital divide through the creation of an information literate
citizenry, an effective civil society and a competitive workforce.
Information Literacy is a concern to all sectors of society and should be tailored by each to its speciﬁc needs
Information Literacy should be an integral part of Education for All, which can contribute critically to the
achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and respect for the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
In the above context, we propose for the urgent consideration of governments, civil society and the
international community the following policy recommendations:
The September 2003 Prague Conference Report should be studied and its recommendations, strategic plans
and research initiatives implemented expeditiously as appropriate (the report will be disseminated in
The progress in, and opportunities for implementation of the above should be assessed by an International
Congress on Information Literacy, which could be organized in the ﬁrst half of 2005.
The possibility of inclusion of Information Literacy within the United Nations Literacy Decade
(2003–2012) should be considered by the international community.’’
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Following the Prague meeting, UNESCO then examined the Information Literacy idea carefully and decided
to embrace it as a major priority within the context of its Information-for-All Programme. They also linked
Information Literacy closely to another major programme—the Education-for-all Programme. Finally, they
made it an integral part of the United Nations Literacy Decade, which runs from 2003 to 2012. UNESCO held
several ‘‘thematic debate’’ meetings in Paris to brainstorm more precisely how the Information Literacy
paradigm should be ‘‘ﬁt’’ within the aforementioned operating programmes. Around the world, a few
preliminary regional meetings were held to pinpoint what various key stakeholder groups such as librarians
and educators should be doing.
Then in 2005 it was decided that a second international meeting of experts should be held. This time, in
attention to UNESCO itself, the two other major organizers for the second meeting of experts were the
International Federation for Library Organizations and Institutions (IFLA) and the National Forum on
Information Literacy. NCLIS also participated as an organizer, as did several other individuals and groups,
most notably the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. Some readers may have read that the ancient
library in Alexandria had been totally build anew on the site of the ancient library, the latter having been
virtually totally destroyed in earthquakes and ﬁres centuries ago.
And so the second international meeting was ﬁnally scheduled for early November 2005, and it was decided
to hold it at the grand new, ultra-modern library building in Alexandria. Once again, experts convened from
all of the major geographic regions of the world, and met for three days. The week following the meeting some
of the participants went on to attend the second of the two-stage World Summit on the Information Society
meeting held in Tunis, Tunisia.
Like the Prague participants, the Alexandria participants also produced a declaratory document setting
forth overarching principles, called ‘‘Beacons of the Information Society: Alexandria Proclamation’’:
‘‘Celebrating this week’s conﬁrmation of the site of the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the ancient wonders of
the world, the participants in the High Level Colloquium on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning held
at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on 6–9 November 2005 proclaim that information literacy and lifelong learning
are the beacons of the Information Society, illuminating the courses to development, prosperity and freedom.
Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It 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.
Lifelong learning enables individuals, communities and nations to attain their goals and to take advantage
of emerging opportunities in the evolving global environment for shared beneﬁt. It assists them and their
institutions to meet technological, economic and social challenges, to redress disadvantage and to advance the
well being of all.
comprises the competencies to recognize information needs and to locate, evaluate, apply and create
information within cultural and social contexts;
is crucial to the competitive advantage of individuals, enterprises (especially small and medium enterprises),
regions and nations;
provides the key to effective access, use and creation of content to support economic development,
education, health and human services, and all other aspects of contemporary societies, and thereby provides
the vital foundation for fulﬁlling the goals of the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on the
Information Society; and
extends beyond current technologies to encompass learning, critical thinking and interpretative skills across
professional boundaries and empowers individuals and communities.
Within the context of the developing Information Society, we urge governments and intergovernmental
organizations to pursue policies and programs to promote information literacy and lifelong learning. In
particular, we ask them to support
regional and thematic meetings which will facilitate the adoption of information literacy and lifelong
learning strategies within speciﬁc regions and socioeconomic sectors;
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professional development of personnel in education, library, information, archive, and health and human
services in the principles and practices of information literacy and lifelong learning;
inclusion of information literacy into initial and continuing education for key economic sectors and
government policy making and administration, and into the practice of advisors to the business, industry
and agriculture sectors;
programs to increase the employability and entrepreneurial capabilities of women and the disadvantaged,
including immigrants, the underemployed and the unemployed; and
recognition of lifelong learning and information literacy as key elements for the development of generic
capabilities which must be required for the accreditation of all education and training programs.
We afﬁrm that vigorous investment in information literacy and lifelong learning strategies creates public value
and is essential to the development of the Information Society.’’
As these words are written, all of the major regions of the world are now planning follow-on regional and
thematic meetings (e.g. health information literacy and information literacy for business and economic
development) to take place in the 2006–2007 timeframe. UNESCO, IFLA, NCLIS, NFIL, and other websites
will track these meetings in the event readers wish to learn more about their program content, their venue,
their dates, and so on.
The ﬁeld of information management can and should work in close partnership with information literacy
because they are highly complementary ideas and can each help the other.