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Information Literacy: Guidelines & Standards

Please Note

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) has recently adopted the newly developed Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (2015).  The Framework seeks to address some of the limitations of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2000) and offers a revised and expanded definition of information literacy:

“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.” 

The Mount A Libraries Information Literacy pages will soon be revised to reflect the transition from the ACRL Standards to the new Framework.

Stay tuned. 

Information Literacy Guideslines and Standards

Guidelines, Standards & Objectives

The American Approach

In North America, most university libraries base their information literacy programmes on the document Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, developed by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). There are five overarching standards:

  1. The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.
  2. The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.
  3. The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
  4. The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
  5. 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.

These standards are further broken down into 22 "performance indicators" and 87 "outcomes."

The idea that a student can become "information literate" is problematic, as students will require varying levels of information literacy skills over time. The ACRL document can be useful as a starting point, but is certainly not definitive.

More about information literacy from ACRL can be found on the following sites:

Association of College & Research Libraries. Guidelines for Instruction Programs in Academic Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, June, 2003.
Recommended guidelines for a successful instruction program covering program design, human resources and institutional support.

 _____. Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Chicago: American Library Association, Jan. 18, 2000.
Performance indicators and outcomes provide a framework for assessing information literacy skills.

 _____. Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction: A Model Statement for Academic Librarians. Chicago: American Library Association, Jan., 2001.
Breaks down the Competency Standards' performance indicators and outcomes into very specific instructional goals for librarians and classroom instructors. 

The Australian Approach

Australia's approach to information literacy in higher education is derived from the American approach. There are six standards in the document created by the Council of Australian University Librarians:

  1. The information literate person recognises the need for information and determines the nature and extent of the information needed
  2. The information literate person finds needed information effectively and efficiently
  3. The information literate person critically evaluates information and the information seeking process
  4. The information literate person manages information collected or generated
  5. The information literate person applies prior and new information to construct new concepts or create new understandings
  6. The information literate person uses information with understanding and acknowledges cultural, ethical, economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information

(From Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: Principles, Standards and Practice)

As with the ACRL standards, the notion that a person can become "information literate" is problematic.

The British Approach

Another approach to information literacy comes from the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) in the UK. They list seven "headline" information literacy skills:

  1. The ability to recognise a need for information
  2. The ability to distinguish ways in which the information 'gap' may be addressed
  3. The ability to construct strategies for locating information
  4. The ability to locate and access information
  5. The ability to compare and evaluate information obtained from different sources
  6. The ability to organise, apply and communicate information to others in ways appropriate
  7. The ability to synthesise and build upon existing information, contributing to the creation of new knowledge

(From Information Skills in Higher Education: A SCONUL Position Paper)

The British approach seems to be more flexible than the American approach, and it acknowledges varying levels of expertise within the headline skills. More information about SCONUL's approach to information literacy can be found at

Last updated 17 June 2010