Historically the term information literacy was first used in print by Paul G. Zurkowski in 1974 in a report written on behalf of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. The phrase was used to describe the "techniques and skills" known by the information literate "for utilizing the wide range of information tools as well as primary sources in molding information solutions to their problems". Although other educational goals, including traditional literacy, computer literacy, library skills, and critical thinking skills, are related to information literacy and important foundations for its development, information literacy itself has emerged as a distinct skill set and a necessary key to one's social and economic well-being in an increasingly complex information society".
The complete information environment is changing rapidly, be it the form, format or resources. The abundance of information available through the Internet in public domain in the form of subject gateways, e-books, e-journals, subject and subject concept based web pages, etc., as well as the information available through different subscription based databases made available by various hosts and aggregators, is bound to play a very important role in teaching, learning and research, particularly in higher education and R&D institutions.
Need of Information Literacy
For maximum utilization of these resources in teaching learning and research, the Information Literacy is the need of the hour. It makes the end users competent enough for retrieving precise and relevant information as per their need. Thus in addition to the traditional library resources and services, today, information literacy is essential to educate the users as to how to determine his/her information need; what are the different information sources, their coverage and features; how to find out relevant and precise information from various electronic information sources; what are the web searching techniques; how to evaluate and establish the authenticity and reliability of information retrieved from public domain; what are the ethics and legalities in using electronic information sources; how to make proper bibliographic citations etc...
With the World Wide Web, students have access to information that has not been subjected to the normal selection criteria of the university library. Before such issues become overwhelming, information literacy needs to become a central part of the higher education curriculum.
Definition of Information Literacy
The American Library Association's (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Final Report states, "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"
Jeremy Shapiro & Shelley Hughes (1996) define information literacy as "A new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact."
The Western Michigan University Libraries define the term as "Information Literacy is the ability to identify, retrieve, evaluate, and use information that is appropriate to a need. Students who develop information literacy skills will be more successful in their studies and their daily lives. They will find that these skills are an essential element in becoming a lifelong learner."