Saturday, January 22, 2011

Information Literacy in the Workplace Context

A friend who is passionate about "information literacy" in the education context recently asked me "Do you have any view on the impact of information literacy or is being addressed in the corporate/business world?"

My interest in information literacy started in mid-1990s when I was exploring my PhD research topic, eventually I specialize in knowledge management (or I prefer to call it knowledge sharing) and focus on helping workers within companies to share and use information effectively . His question made me think more about information literacy in the workplace context.

My response is yes, information literacy is very important and has high impact in the corporate/business world. Knowledge workers interact with information all the time. Information is exchange in business conversation as well. Information literacy can improve knowledge workers' work productivity. On a more strategic level, management team which invest in building a company's capability to share, organize and disseminate information drive innovation, expedite learning, avoid repeating mistakes can result in competitive advantage and reap tangible benefits.

However, the phrase "information literacy" which library and information professionals tend to use is disguised under many different names (e.g. understanding of information use policies/legal and compliance guidelines, awareness of information resources, research and information organizing skills, writing reports, visualizing data/findings, knowledge management, collaboration, marketing and business intelligence scanning, communication and presenation skills, and more recently social media awareness and understanding the implication of its use). I can add more to this list.... but you get what I mean. Some of these information literacy skills are required more in certain role than the others, but no matter what you do, they are required at different times.

How "information literacy" is being addressed in the workplace, I have not heard of any "information literacy" curriculum that companies run for staff , and I don't think it is the right approach either. Information literacy is so embedded in our day to day work that it cannot be separated as something different. The challenge for educators is: how can you prepare students with information literacy skills/mindset so that they can be effective in the workplace context (and in their day-to-day lives). Information literacy education really need to be embedded seamlessly in the whole education curriculum.

I wonder what do you think? I love to hear your views to refine my thinking.


Euan said...

I do reckon people need help making the best use of what we can give them these days in terms of tools and you are right that the language we use really matters.

Bonnie Cheuk said...

Euan, nice to hear from you. I agree people need help not just to learn about the tools, and also thinking through how to use the tools to create value as well as understanding the intended and unintended consequences as a result of using them. Your comment get me thinking and resulting in my next blog post. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I teach information literacy lessons at a secondary school. As I am a librarian I feel that encouraging students who are going on to University to become information literate is very important. I have only recently been concerned about how information literacy might be useful to students who do not go on to higher education but decide to go to work. It is very exciting to me that I now may be able to engage those students who thought I was not of use to them.