“Information literacy” was a phenomenon of the late 1990s end early 2000s and it is officially dead. Looking at the numbers, you can see that the level of interest globally in information literacy is rapidly approaching zero. Take a look at the Google-trending data for this:
What is “information literacy”? In libraryland, it’s a specific thing (I’ll translate the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority’s definition):
Information literacy is a collection of skills that make a person able to identify when information is necessary, and which make them able to locate, evaluate and use – in an effective way – this information.
This sounds reasonable, however it isn’t, it’s silly: are there any plausible instances where people who are trying to achieve something don’t know when they need information? I hope not. Note that Plinius [Norwegian] has commented (so well in fact that I translated it) that “information literacy” is not really a valid thing in the traditional library sense; an interpretation of information literacy, however, that is viable is one where it is a facet of subject-related competence.
The idea that it is possible to teach localization, evaluation and use of information without reference to a subject-specific set of skill is ridiculous; let me explain: within certain formal disciplines, intuition is a valid way of gathering data, while within others it is really not. Knowing your subject-specific ethics will help you evaluate the content you are looking at. Knowing which sources to look at will also depend heavily on the subject-specific approach you’re taking: if you’re researching language, you might be interested in grammars, but you might equally be interested in literature from medicine and neuroscience. Using information effectively is where the ABM-definition really hits ground: how can you use information effectively without understanding it?
The library really doesn’t have very much to offer in terms of subject-specific skills: yes, an academic library may have subject librarians, but “subject specific” really equates to “individual”, and the extent to which a librarian will know the individual researcher’s needs is based on a dialogue with that individual, not on an understanding of the concept “information literacy”, and whatever they impart of useful information is likely to be based on the local systems in use at that particular library.
It isn’t the case, however, that the library doesn’t have anything to offer; we have a lot of resources that are likely yet to be discovered by researchers, and a number of tips and tricks that will make the researchers’ lives a lot easier. But creating heavyweight courses in CQL and search strategy isn’t going to cut it; it’s about marketing and one-on-one contact.
The death of monolithic library teaching should be nigh, and I hope that it is.
 Informasjonskompetanse — ABM-utvikling – Statens senter for arkiv, bibliotek og museum. (n.d.). . Retrieved January 18, 2010, from http://www.abm-utvikling.no/bibliotek/bibliotekutvikling/kompetanseutvikling/informasjonskompetanse.html
[edited for grammar and imprecise formulation 2010-01-26]
Tags: information literacy