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ACRL Definition of Information Literacy

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.”

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, ACRL, 2000

How to Use the Guidelines


An information society in the 21st century requires an information-literate population. Technological changes are occurring rapidly. As one result, students entering college are bringing very disparate computer skills and attitudes. Some students are reluctant to embrace new technologies; others demand electronic resources for all assignments. Although college students may arrive at our libraries with increased computer skills, their knowledge of information sources may be lacking.

“Knowledge is of two kinds.  We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it” (Johnson 2012). Students require the ability to seek, find, evaluate, appraise, integrate, and apply knowledge toward solving a research problem. This composite skill requires that students be able to work with technology, critically think about issues of media and science, and navigate through a vast array of information tools and sources to retrieve the necessary information to make decisions. Informed decision making requires that people be able to adequately access, understand, and process information to meet their needs. “Usage is very important; therefore, it is essential that users not only have access, but also have the necessary skills to use these resources” (Argüelles 2012). Access refers both to the literal ability to access information resources and also the quality of this access.

Integrating a library literacy program into this process implies that the learning outcomes/skills be assessed. Librarians feel unprepared to measure library information skills and this is why many considered this activity to be in crisis. Academic institutions need to assess learning outcomes as a step to adjust their academic profiles and be in line with the accreditation mandates. The Association of College and Research Libraries Framework for Information Literacy form the backbone of any information literacy (IL) plan. An assessment tool maps those standards giving data on how the library is complying with the goals of an IL literacy plan.  Another reason is the trends in higher education towards the assessment of outcomes at all levels, and the library is no exception.