Information literacy: Did Alvin Toffler beat Paul Zurkowski to it?


  • Andrew Shenton Whitley Bay High School



information literacy, information literacy model, information literacy theory, library instruction, UK


Paul Zurkowski is often considered the “father” of the term, “information literacy” (IL). There were, however, other authors who, at a similar time, were writing about concepts we now consider fundamental to the nature of IL. A work of particular significance is Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. In this classic text – better known beyond information science than within it – Toffler addresses major themes such as the importance of evaluating information, the need to construct sense from the material we access and the dangers of “information overload”. He is concerned, too, with the more general requirement that, increasingly, people must “learn how to learn”. Personal experience has shown this author that it is possible to create a tool for information users from the closely related ideas of Zurkowski and Toffler, and that each writer recognises independently that the skills associated with the traditional literacies are insufficient if an individual is to function effectively in modern society. Whilst Zurkowski is cited with greater frequency in discussions on IL, it may be Toffler who has done more to highlight to a wider readership the value of information skills in an ever-changing world. Perhaps Zurkowski’s biggest achievement lies in providing a memorable two-word summarising label to his field of interest; it is one that has endured and remains pertinent today, some fifty years on.