New Framework For Information Literacy

image via Andreas Levas on Flickr

image via Andreas Levas on Flickr

The current Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education were adopted in 2000. A lot has happened since then. Facebook was founded in 2004. In 2005 Youtube was born. 2006 saw the creation of Twitter. In 2007 the iPhone debuted. We’re now talking about futuristic things like wearable technology, smart everything, and quantum computing. To say that the information landscape has changed would be an understatement. It has been revolutionized and there is no sign of that slowing. That is why I applaud the efforts of the committee working on the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. The draft Framework that they have put out is a step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to the discussion that ensues.

The committee proposes an updated definition of information literacy:

“Information literacy combines a repertoire of abilities, practices, and dispositions focused on expanding one’s understanding of the information ecosystem, with the proficiencies of finding, using and analyzing information, scholarship, and data to answer questions, develop new ones, and create new knowledge, through ethical participation in communities of learning and scholarship.”

In addition to the new definition, the committee uses Threshold Concepts and Metaliteracy as anchoring elements to structure the Framework. I think there are a number of really beneficial elements of the framework as well as additional work to be done, but through the review process the committee has set up this Framework is going to be a solid guiding document for the future.

Benefits of the New Framework

Holistic – The initial draft is feeling more complete than the previous IL Competency Standards. The previous standards focused on important skills but in a piecemeal way. Students may master some skills, such as evaluating information, but fail to recognize the wider information landscape. This makes it harder to transfer these skills easily across different disciplines and situations.

Habits of Mind – The Framework specifically elevates the importance of dispositions or habits of mind in developing information literate abilities. These are things like valuing persistence and tolerating ambiguity and are a necessary element of becoming an expert information user/consumer/creator.

Future Focused – In addition to being holistic, this Framework seems like it will be better able to meet the unknown information challenges that will face us in the future. Our conceptions of privacy our changing. The ways in which information is created and accessed is quickly evolving. Teaching students just how to successfully use tools or evaluate using a set of criteria may serve them well for an assignment but might not prepare them for the future in which the tools and criteria (such as the changing concept of authority) change.

Possible Challenges

One possible challenge for the Framework is that it might not be as accessible for all librarians. One concern I heard raised in the open forum at ALA Midwinter was the introduction of new jargon such as “threshold concepts.” A related concern that was raised is that metaliteracy was not necessary as an anchoring element and could be integrated into the rest of the document so as to reduce jargon. I personally love the ideas of threshold concepts and at least elements of metaliteracy, but I feel that it needs to be clearer how people can use this in practice (which is why I’m excited about the idea of an online sandbox to share resources).

So far the Framework is looking solid and I’m excited to hear  and be involved with the conversations that are developing around it. It addresses issues that we regularly discuss but that might not fit somewhere (such as the idea that there is no one correct answer in research but that you build and refine the answer from what you find). I’ll be sure to share my thoughts and ideas on their feedback survey, but probably after additional conversations with colleagues.

For other thoughtful responses to the Framework, check out:

What are your reactions to the draft Framework?

Andy Burkhardt


  1. Hello Andy,
    I appreciate this conversation and opportunity for input. The new information literacy framework is inspiring for me as it is a move away from the skill- sets based approach (ACRL Info. Lit. Standards from 2000) to specifying interconnected broad concepts. The framework recognizes that students not merely use information resources, but also play a role in knowledge construction. “Ethical participation in communities of learning and scholarship” is a valuable guiding principal in this age of information. And learning is not merely cognitive, but also a question of disposition (interactions and feelings may play a role), as recognized in the new approach. There is an emphasis on collaborating with faculty and our role as a teacher while focusing of the students’ learning process. That’s all fabulous!
    The framework leave institutions a lot of flexibility, which is a strength, but my sense is that it requires more initiative. It seems that ACRL doesn’t yet have good examples on how to tie this to concrete outcomes. I am interested to learn from others. What is your approach to bring about a change?

    Clara Bruns, clara.bruns@goddard.eduDirector of Information AccessEliot D. Pratt Library, Goddard College, 123 Pitkin Road, Plainfield, VT 05667802.322.1603 or 800.468.4888 x 250 http://lits.goddard.edu

  2. Hi Andy,
    I’m curious about the updated definition you posted in this article. I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but I can’t find it mentioned on ACRL’s website now. Do you know if this was ever made “official”?

    Information Literacy Librarian
    Cabrini College

  3. Thanks for your response Andy. I commented because I was looking for an updated definition of information literacy for our website which still links to the old standards-based one (!). For some reason although I’ve read the frameworks what feels like a thousand times, I had missed where it gives a new definition. But of course I found it right away this morning:

    “Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning(new).”

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