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At the beginning of this century, the information environment is greatly changing throughout the world, and China is no exception. One of the biggest challenges is the exponential growth of information. Information has been regarded as a valuable commodity affected by the knowledge-based economy. The Chinese central government has made it a policy to promote industrialization in relationship to information. A group headed by the prime minister has been organized to lead the information development. This development is a very important factor and will influence the national economy and social activities, thus inevitably affecting the entire education environment as well as the fundamentals of education. Education, especially information education, has become one of the crucial issues. Furthermore, information literacy is an essential component to help individuals gain the competencies to meet the needs of the evolving information society. In China, more than ever, people who deal with education, library, and information science, are becoming involved in discussions on information literacy and are broadening their studies and practices in this arena.
What exactly is information literacy? What purposes or standards of information literacy should be proposed? How should standards of information literacy be enforced? What has been done and what needs to be done next to promote information literacy? These are major concerns in Chinese education, especially on university campuses.
Individuals are facing multiple information choices within the escalating complexity of the environment. Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning and can lead to unlimited sources to produce knowledge. Colleges and universities need to pay serious attention to information literacy and to incorporate it into their educational goals.
The academic library is the information resources center as well as the center of study on the university campus. Due to their expertise and training, librarians are the natural educators for information literacy.
CHINA'S NEW EDUCATION MISSION
In order to advance the goal of information literacy within the population, the Chinese State Department has resolved "To deepen the reform of education and to promote information literacy" for schools, colleges, and universities. Beginning in 2001, the goal that "every school will be networked" began to be realized gradually throughout the country. Information technology will be a major component and requirement for the curriculum in schools. During the next five to ten years, 150,000 schools in China and their 30 million students will be able to learn the fundamentals of information technology because it will become integrated into their basic curricula.
NEW LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Presently more than 80 percent of Chinese universities are connected to the CERNET (The China Education and Research Network, which began operating in …