Purpose ' To describe the various landscapes in which information literacy has been explored and to propose new ways of thinking about information literacy. Design/methodology/approach ' Draws on constructivist-influenced grounded theory method employed during doctoral research into information literacy practices of firefighters. Findings ' Information-literate people are more usefully described as being engaged, enabled, enriched and embodied. Information literacy is conceptualized through this research as a way of knowing. The revised and extended definition is a more appropriate one to underpin an emerging ontological perspective on information literacy and to foster an understanding of information literacy as a meta-competency. Research limitations/implications ' The research was limited to an in-depth exploration of one professional group in one geographic location over 18 months. Practical implications ' The provision of a broader definition of the information literacy and the illustration of how information is perceived in a variety of concepts broadens librarians' and educators' understanding of information literacy. It offers librarians and educators a different way of thinking about information literacy. Originality/value ' This paper reports and expands upon original doctoral research of significance to information professionals and educators.