Information Literacy Best Practices

ACRL guidance in evaluating the information literacy program -- the LRC's teaching component -- was summarized in the e-mail note from Tom Kirk, dated May 6, 2001, which follows.
Information Literacy read the informative links

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Read carefully.

Below are the two documents referred to above.

Best Practices Guidelines


The set of characteristics below is an attempt to articulate the elements of best practices in carrying out an information literacy program for undergraduate students whether in a four-year or two-year institution. The purpose of this statement is to provide those interested in information literacy programming with a set of characteristics against which to evaluate their program.

This list of characteristics has been under development for about twelve months and work has concluded for this phase of the Best Practices Project. The list of characteristics will be used to select eight to ten institutions for a national invitational conference on best practices in information literacy programming in Atlanta in 2002. As part of that meeting the characteristics will be reviewed and revised based on the discussions at the meeting. A revised edition is expect to be released sometime in late 2002.

Category #1: Mission

A Mission Statement for an information literacy program should:
* be consistent with the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education [ ].
* be consistent with institutional mission statements.
* include a working definition of information literacy.
* clearly reflect the contributions of and expected benefits to all institutional constituencies.
* be consistent with the format of similar institutional documents.
* be reviewed and, if necessary, revised, periodically.
* be appropriately worded for the intended audience.

Category #2: Goals and Objectives

Goals and Objectives for an information literacy program should:
* be stated to reflect sound pedagogical practice and revised periodically.
* be clearly articulated.
* be in concert with the goals and objectives of the institution.
* be developed with input from various constituencies.
* include integration of information literacy across the curriculum.
* accommodate student growth in skills and understanding throughout the college years.
* apply both to traditional and, where appropriate, distance education environments.
* include measurable outcomes that allow students to demonstrate their mastery of the underlying concepts of information literacy.
* be designed to prepare students for their current curricular activities and for effective life-long learning.
* include assessment.

Category #3: Planning

Planning for an information literacy program should:
* be conducted at the program, curriculum and institutional levels.
* include an information literacy definition for the program.
* result in a document or documents charting the course of the program, including establishing the means for implementation and adaptation.
* articulate the mission, goals, objectives and the pedagogical foundation for the program.
* document budgeting for the program, including administrative and institutional support.
* include periodic assessment of the student environment to determine student needs.
* ensure that the program articulates with existing curriculum.
* establish assessment mechanisms at the outset.
* include current and projected staffing levels.
* include a program for professional, faculty and staff development.

Category #4: Administrative & Institutional support

Administrators should
* give clear identification of resources and responsibility to a person, or team of persons, for an information literacy program.
* recognize and encourage collaboration among classroom faculty, librarians and other program staff.
* include in the budgeting and management process the program's staffing, budgetary and continuing education needs.
* articulate their support for the program.
* value and recognize within the institutional reward system participation in the information literacy program.
* recognize, identify, fund and support the need for appropriate formal and informal teaching spaces.

Category #5: Articulation with the curriculum

Articulation with the curriculum for an information literacy program should:
* be developed with and integrated into existing academic and vocational programs in collaboration with departments, rather than solely with individual faculty.
* place the emphasis on students learning in the context of other courses and subjects.
* use teaching methods most appropriate for the educational environment of the institution.
* integrate information skills literacy throughout a student's academic career rather than as a one-time experience.
* progress in complexity as students move through their academic experiences.

Category #6: Collaboration with classroom faculty

Collaboration between classroom faculty, librarians and other program staff in an information literacy program should:
* foster communication within the academic community to garner support for an information literacy program.
* result in a process that includes all groups in planning, pedagogy, assessment, course/curriculum, and assignment development aspects of the information literacy program.
* occur whether the information literacy effort resides in a separate credit-bearing course or in existing discipline-based courses.
* occur before a course syllabus is constructed and distributed.
* provide a mechanism for continuous improvement of the program.
* foster the development of lifelong learning skills.

Category #7: Pedagogy

Pedagogy for an information literacy program should:
* adopt a diverse, multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and learning.
* encompass critical thinking and reflection.
* support student-centered learning.
* include active and collaborative learning activities.
* build on the existing knowledge that students bring into the classroom.
* incorporate variations in learning and teaching styles.
* involve various combinations of teaching and learning techniques for individuals and groups.
* include collaboration with classroom faculty and student researchers.
* relate information literacy to on-going course work.
* experiment with a wide variety of methods.

Category #8: Staff

Staff for an information literacy program should:
* be adequate in number and have appropriate expertise and experience.
* include or collaborate with program coordinators, graphic designers, distance educators, multimedia authoring specialists, librarians and classroom faculty.
* have experience in curriculum development and instruction/teaching, and expertise to develop, coordinate, maintain, and evaluate information literacy programs.
* employ a collaborative approach to working with others.
* be provided with systematic and continual opportunities to take part in professional development and training.

Category #9: Outreach

Outreach activities for an information literacy program should:

* include both communication and publicity to the internal campus constituent groups and to external groups such as higher education professional organizations, librarians and other staff at institutions such as K-12 schools, public libraries, colleges/universities targeted as transfer institutions.

* use a variety of outreach channels: broad mailings of notices/press releases; articles in campus news media; faculty/staff development sessions; annual reports; web pages; campus discipline-based meetings; disciplinary-based publications, etc.

* demonstrate an active involvement in campus professional development training by offering or co-sponsoring workshops and programs that relate to information literacy for faculty and staff.

* include sharing of information, methods and plans with peers from other institutions to further the advancement of information literacy in a region or state.

Category #10: Assessment

Assessment of an information literacy program should:
* be primarily used as part of an ongoing planning / improvement program.
* include measurements of both program and student outcomes.
* be integrated with course and curriculum assessment.
* be included in episodic institutional evaluations and regional / professional accreditation initiatives.
* be directly related to the goals and objectives of the program.
* be focused on performance, knowledge acquisition, and attitude appraisal.
* include both peer and self-evaluation.
* respect differences in learning and teaching styles by using a variety of measures such as portfolio assessment, quizzes, essays, direct observation, anecdotal, peer review, and experience.
* use multiple methods of evaluation.

The following six paragraphs are especially important. -Colby

APPENDIX A: Definition of information literacy


Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." (American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. Chicago: American Library Association, 1989. [] 25 April, 2000.)

Information literacy is increasingly important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources. Because of the escalating complexity of this environment, individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices -- in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives. Information is available through libraries, community resources, special interest organizations, media, and the Internet -- and increasingly, information comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its authenticity, validity, and reliability. In addition, information is available through multiple media, including graphical, aural, and textual, and these pose new challenges for individuals in evaluating and understanding it.

The uncertain quality and expanding quantity of information pose large challenges for society. The sheer abundance of information will not in itself create a more informed citizenry without a complementary cluster of abilities necessary to use information effectively.


Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self_directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:

Information literacy includes information technology skills, such as use of computers, software applications, and information retrieval tools, but it is a broader area of competence that encompasses the content, analysis and communication of information.

ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards


Standard One

The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

Performance Indicators:

  1. The information literate student defines and articulates the need for information.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Confers with instructors and participates in class discussions, peer workgroups, and electronic discussions to identify a research topic, or other information need
    2. Develops a thesis statement and formulates questions based on the information need
    3. Explores general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic
    4. Defines or modifies the information need to achieve a manageable focus
    5. Identifies key concepts and terms that describe the information need
    6. Recognizes that existing information can be combined with original thought, experimentation, and/or analysis to produce new information

  2. The information literate student identifies a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Knows how information is formally and informally produced, organized, and disseminated
    2. Recognizes that knowledge can be organized into disciplines that influence the way information is accessed
    3. Identifies the value and differences of potential resources in a variety of formats (e.g., multimedia, database, website, data set, audio/visual, book)
    4. Identifies the purpose and audience of potential resources (e.g., popular vs. scholarly, current vs. historical)
    5. Differentiates between primary and secondary sources, recognizing how their use and importance vary with each discipline
    6. Realizes that information may need to be constructed with raw data from primary sources

  3. The information literate student considers the costs and benefits of acquiring the needed information.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Determines the availability of needed information and makes decisions on broadening the information seeking process beyond local resources (e.g., interlibrary loan; using resources at other locations; obtaining images, videos, text, or sound)
    2. Considers the feasibility of acquiring a new language or skill (e.g., foreign or discipline-based) in order to gather needed information and to understand its context
    3. Defines a realistic overall plan and timeline to acquire the needed information

  4. The information literate student reevaluates the nature and extent of the information need.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Reviews the initial information need to clarify, revise, or refine the question
    2. Describes criteria used to make information decisions and choices

Standard Two

The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.

Performance Indicators:

  1. The information literate student selects the most appropriate investigative methods or information retrieval systems for accessing the needed information.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Identifies appropriate investigative methods (e.g., laboratory experiment, simulation, fieldwork)
    2. Investigates benefits and applicability of various investigative methods
    3. Investigates the scope, content, and organization of information retrieval systems
    4. Selects efficient and effective approaches for accessing the information needed from the investigative method or information retrieval system

  2. The information literate student constructs and implements effectively-designed search strategies.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Develops a research plan appropriate to the investigative method
    2. Identifies keywords, synonyms and related terms for the information needed
    3. Selects controlled vocabulary specific to the discipline or information retrieval source
    4. Constructs a search strategy using appropriate commands for the information retrieval system selected (e.g., Boolean operators, truncation, and proximity for search engines; internal organizers such as indexes for books)
    5. Implements the search strategy in various information retrieval systems using different user interfaces and search engines, with different command languages, protocols, and search parameters
    6. Implements the search using investigative protocols appropriate to the discipline

  3. The information literate student retrieves information online or in person using a variety of methods.
    Outcomes Include:
    1. Uses various search systems to retrieve information in a variety of formats
    2. Uses various classification schemes and other systems (e.g., call number systems or indexes) to locate information resources within the library or to identify specific sites for physical exploration
    3. Uses specialized online or in person services available at the institution to retrieve information needed (e.g., interlibrary loan/document delivery, professional associations, institutional research offices, community resources, experts and practitioners)
    4. Uses surveys, letters, interviews, and other forms of inquiry to retrieve primary information

  4. The information literate student refines the search strategy if necessary.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Assesses the quantity, quality, and relevance of the search results to determine whether alternative information retrieval systems or investigative methods should be utilized
    2. Identifies gaps in the information retrieved and determines if the search strategy should be revised
    3. Repeats the search using the revised strategy as necessary

  5. The information literate student extracts, records, and manages the information and its sources.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Selects among various technologies the most appropriate one for the task of extracting the needed information (e.g., copy/paste software functions, photocopier, scanner, audio/visual equipment, or exploratory instruments)
    2. Creates a system for organizing the information
    3. Differentiates between the types of sources cited and understands the elements and correct syntax of a citation for a wide range of resources
    4. Records all pertinent citation information for future reference
    5. Uses various technologies to manage the information selected and organized

Standard Three

The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

Performance Indicators:

  1. The information literate student summarizes the main ideas to be extracted from the information gathered.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Reads the text and selects main ideas
    2. Restates textual concepts in his/her own words and selects data accurately
    3. Identifies verbatim material that can be then appropriately quoted

  2. The information literate student articulates and applies initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources.
    Outcomes Include:
    1. Examines and compares information from various sources in order to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias
    2. Analyzes the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods
    3. Recognizes prejudice, deception, or manipulation
    4. Recognizes the cultural, physical, or other context within which the information was created and understands the impact of context on interpreting the information

  3. The information literate student synthesizes main ideas to construct new concepts.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Recognizes interrelationships among concepts and combines them into potentially useful primary statements with supporting evidence
    2. Extends initial synthesis, when possible, at a higher level of abstraction to construct new hypotheses that may require additional information
    3. Utilizes computer and other technologies (e.g. spreadsheets, databases, multimedia, and audio or visual equipment) for studying the interaction of ideas and other phenomena

  4. The information literate student compares new knowledge with prior knowledge to determine the value added, contradictions, or other unique characteristics of the information.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Determines whether information satisfies the research or other information need
    2. Uses consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information used from other sources
    3. Draws conclusions based upon information gathered
    4. Tests theories with discipline-appropriate techniques (e.g., simulators, experiments)
    5. Determines probable accuracy by questioning the source of the data, the limitations of the information gathering tools or strategies, and the reasonableness of the conclusions
    6. Integrates new information with previous information or knowledge
    7. Selects information that provides evidence for the topic

  5. The information literate student determines whether the new knowledge has an impact on the individualís value system and takes steps to reconcile differences.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Investigates differing viewpoints encountered in the literature
    2. Determines whether to incorporate or reject viewpoints encountered

  6. The information literate student validates understanding and interpretation of the information through discourse with other individuals, subject-area experts, and/or practitioners.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Participates in classroom and other discussions
    2. Participates in class-sponsored electronic communication forums designed to encourage discourse on the topic (e.g., email, bulletin boards, chat rooms)
    3. Seeks expert opinion through a variety of mechanisms (e.g., interviews, email, listservs)

  7. The information literate student determines whether the initial query should be revised.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Determines if original information need has been satisfied or if additional information is needed
    2. Reviews search strategy and incorporates additional concepts as necessary
    3. Reviews information retrieval sources used and expands to include others as needed

Standard Four

The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

Performance Indicators:

  1. The information literate student applies new and prior information to the planning and creation of a particular product or performance.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Organizes the content in a manner that supports the purposes and format of the product or performance (e.g. outlines, drafts, storyboards)
    2. Articulates knowledge and skills transferred from prior experiences to planning and creating the product or performance
    3. Integrates the new and prior information, including quotations and paraphrasings, in a manner that supports the purposes of the product or performance
    4. Manipulates digital text, images, and data, as needed, transferring them from their original locations and formats to a new context

  2. The information literate student revises the development process for the product or performance.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Maintains a journal or log of activities related to the information seeking, evaluating, and communicating process
    2. Reflects on past successes, failures, and alternative strategies

  3. The information literate student communicates the product or performance effectively to others.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Chooses a communication medium and format that best supports the purposes of the product or performance and the intended audience
    2. Uses a range of information technology applications in creating the product or performance
    3. Incorporates principles of design and communication
    4. Communicates clearly and with a style that supports the purposes of the intended audience

Standard Five

The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

Performance Indicators:

  1. The information literate student understands many of the ethical, legal and socio-economic issues surrounding information and information technology.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Identifies and discusses issues related to privacy and security in both the print and electronic environments
    2. Identifies and discusses issues related to free vs. fee-based access to information
    3. Identifies and discusses issues related to censorship and freedom of speech
    4. Demonstrates an understanding of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use of copyrighted material

  2. The information literate student follows laws, regulations, institutional policies, and etiquette related to the access and use of information resources.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Participates in electronic discussions following accepted practices (e.g. "Netiquette")
    2. Uses approved passwords and other forms of ID for access to information resources
    3. Complies with institutional policies on access to information resources
    4. Preserves the integrity of information resources, equipment, systems and facilities
    5. Legally obtains, stores, and disseminates text, data, images, or sounds
    6. Demonstrates an understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and does not represent work attributable to others as his/her own
    7. Demonstrates an understanding of institutional policies related to human subjects research

  3. The information literate student acknowledges the use of information sources in communicating the product or performance.

    Outcomes Include:
    1. Selects an appropriate documentation style and uses it consistently to cite sources
    2. Posts permission granted notices, as needed, for copyrighted material

Colby Glass, MLIS