Information Literacy

Learning How to Learn

"Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them" (ALA, 1989).

Defining Information Literacy
The Distance Learner
Promoting Info. Lit.
How AU Library Can Help
Selected Resources
Contact Information

Defining Information Literacy

Information literacy has become a hot topic in higher education as students, and their teachers, encounter a rapidly expanding and increasingly complex information landscape. However, the basic principles of information literacy predate the "Information Age." Information literacy is central to the learning process and forms the foundation of lifelong learning.

The Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education developed by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in 2000 defines information literacy as the ability to:

· Determine the extent of information needed
· Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
· Evaluate information and its sources critically
· Incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base
· Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
· Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

This definition has come to be broadly accepted within the higher education community, including the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education, 2002, p. 32). MSCHE Standards 11 (Educational Offerings) and 12 (General Education) explicitly address information literacy.

Both MSCHE and ACRL identify information literacy as requiring more than the skills to use computer software and hardware, or use the Internet and search online databases. These skills are known as "computer literacy" and "technology literacy." Information literacy includes these and other types of literacy, such as "visual literacy" (the ability to understand the meaning and elements of images) and "media literacy" (the ability to effectively analyze and use mass communication). Building technology-related skills is essential in providing students with the practical skills required to access, locate and manage information sources, but information literacy also requires critical thinking about the content and nature of information sources and is independent of technology.

Information literate students can successfully accomplish tasks related to:

· research
· problem solving
· reasoning
· critical reading
· analysis
· reflection
· and the production of new knowledge

Information literacy instruction is tied to preparing students to enter the world of scholarship. As faculty and librarians work to promote information literacy among students, there is an opportunity to promote not only skills, but also a spirit of inquiry and dedication to lifelong learning.

Information Literacy & the Distance Learner

The challenge in the distance education environment is to make possible information literacy experiences that are comparable to those available to campus-based students. Distance learners, particularly those without physical access to local academic and research libraries, require access to a broad scope of scholarly online research materials that meet the needs of the disciplines taught at the institution. Because distance learners often receive much of their instruction in the form of course packages, it is essential to provide built-in opportunities for research, evaluation and other self-directed activities.

Promoting Information Literacy

Since some information literacy skills are incorporated into teaching students how to use the library and its resources, information literacy is often considered to be a library issue. In reality, to ensure that students have learned the competencies required to deal effectively with information both in their academic studies and throughout their lives, information literacy needs to be integrated within the broader educational experience.

Key factors for a successful information literacy program:

· Planning at the institutional level
· Leadership of academic administrators
· Building on models that are already working
· Collaboration among faculty, librarians and other staff
· Integration into the curriculum
· Opportunities for faculty and staff development
· Strong and sustainable library collections
· Ongoing support from librarians
· Assessment

Information literacy instruction that is integrated into the curriculum provides students with opportunities to pose questions, move beyond the prescribed course texts to discover information sources on their own, and think critically about, and incorporate, this information within the framework of their courses. Integration with the discipline permits students to develop an understanding of the discipline's specific approach to the creation, dissemination, discovery, evaluation and use of information.

As subject experts, faculty play a key role in teaching critical thinking and in framing information literacy experiences within the context of course work and knowledge of a discipline. As information retrieval experts, librarians play a key role in helping students make sense of information systems and information sources in different formats. Other departments, such as computing services and educational media development, can play important roles in an information literacy program.

Faculty can promote information literacy by:

· Fostering awareness of the library and its resources by incorporating links to the library in course pages and by providing information about the library in print-based course materials. e.g. Women's Studies

· Including assignments that require students to locate, evaluate, and use library and other information sources.

· Creating opportunities for independent learning by limiting course reserves and supplementary materials lists and encouraging students to locate their own materials to enhance the course content.

· Designing assignments in such a way that students actively consider what is involved in the search process. For example, have students document what search tools they used and what search strategies they tried.

· Stimulating critical thinking about the nature and quality of information sources. For example, have students post and discuss web-based information sources in an online discussion forum. Or, have students submit an annotated bibliography of course related web sites.

· Encouraging critical reading and reasoning within the discipline by requiring students to analyze research articles.

· Considering information literacy as part of a graduated approach that meets the needs of students at different levels and by addressing this at the Centre level to ensure this occurs.

· Collaborating with librarians. Strategies include developing discipline-related tutorials, research guides, instructional modules, and resource pages together or co-authoring information literacy courses, consulting with librarians when developing assignments designed to promote information literacy, inviting librarians to participate in online course discussions, or asking librarians to contribute to program newsletters.

How Athabasca University Library Can Help

· Collaborate in the development of stand-alone learning resources, courses, and tutorials designed to help students acquire information literacy skills.

· Work closely with faculty in the development and delivery of courses, with a focus on incorporating activities for self-directed learning and information discovery.

· Support the University's educational programs and curriculum by identifying, acquiring, making accessible, and managing appropriate intellectual resources and search tools.

· Provide instructional support in the use of information sources in a variety of media and formats.

· Provide telephone and e-mail based instruction to students.

· Provide instruction to faculty and tutors and promote awareness of information literacy.

AU Library Information Literacy Resources:
Help Centre Research Guides
Citing & Referencing Writing
AU Library Information Resources:
Digital Reading Room E-journals
Digital Reference Centre Databases
Digital Thesis & Project Room Library Catalogue
E-books Links by Subject

Selected Resources

Information Literacy Information on the Web:
The following web sites provide a starting point to learning the basics of what information literacy is all about and lead to other resources for learning more.

Information literacy for faculty and administrators
This page from the Association of College and Research Libraries covers the following: What is information literacy? What should faculty and administrators know about information literacy programs? Are there some model programs I can examine? Where can I find more information?

National forum on information literacy
Created in 1989 as a response to the recommendations of the American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Links to reports and programs, related sites, etc.


Sample Courses, Programs & Tutorials:

Universities and colleges around the world are contributing to a rich and growing collection of information literacy initiatives. These provide useful models for educational institutions seeking to develop or enrich information literacy programs.

Athabasca University. INFS 200: Information Seeking & Society in the Information Age
A three-credit course offered by Athabasca University.

Athabasca University Library. Plagiarism Information
A collection of links to anti-plagiarism resources for AU faculty.

California State University. Information Competence Initiative
These documents from California State University identify project goals, outline information competence skills by discipline, list assessment instruments, etc.

Griffith University. Learning Services
This page presents the full range of information training opportunities in the areas of academic skills, computing skills and library research skills available to students at Griffith University. Links to Griffith's online Library Research Tutorial, based on the six standards of an information literate person defined in the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: Principles, Standards and Practice (2004). A guest login is available.

Information Competence for the Discipline of Black Studies
The University Library, California State University, Long Beach developed this tutorial to prepare faculty at CSULB to address the information literacy needs of students in the discipline of Black Studies.

The Gingrich Guide
Albright College offers this web-based training program for information literacy, developed collaboratively by faculty and librarians.

Information Literacy Study
This course was developed as part of the 1997 SUNY (State University of New York) Information Literacy Initiative.

A web-based tutorial developed by University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Open University. UK. Information Literacy Unit
Includes strategies and objectives, help getting information literacy into the OU curriculum, outcomes and links to OU resources. See also MOSAIC (Making Sense of Information in the Connected Age), a for-credit, 12-week online course offered by the Library in conjunction with the Faculty of Education and Language Studies. See also SAFARI (Skills in Accessing, Finding, and Reviewing Information), an interactive tutorial.

Texas Information Literacy Tutorial (TILT)
An interactive tutorial designed to teach research skills to undergraduate students at UT System institutions. The UT system Digital Library makes TILT available for download and customizing at other institutions through an Open Publication License.

Touro College. Information Literacy for Faculty
This page provides information about the Touro initiative. See also the Touro guide to Creating & evaluating effective library & web assignments.

University of California, Los Angeles. Bruin Success with less stress
This tutorial provides students with information about intellectual property, file sharing, documenting sources, and time management.

University of Louisville. Information Literacy Program
Provides information about the program, mission statement, outcomes, plagiarism resources, tutorials and teaching materials.

UWinnipeg Library. Information Literacy
Provides information about the information literacy program at the University of Winnipeg, including a link to the Information Literacy eManual tutorial.


Recommended Reading:

Much has been written about information literacy. The following materials have been selected for their relevance to a higher education and distance learning audience.

Anderson, J. (2006). The public sphere and discursive activities: Information literacy as sociopolitical skills. Journal of Documentation, 62(2), 213. Retrieved from http://0-

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from:

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2008). Standards for Distance Learning Library Services. Retrieved May 1, 2009 from

Buck, S., Islam, R., & Syrkin, D. (2006). Collaboration for distance information literacy instruction: Do current trends reflect best practices? Journal of Library Administration, 45(1), 63-79. doi:10.1300/J111v45n01̱04

Eisenberg, M. B., Lowe, C. A., & Spitzer, K. L. (2004). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age. 2nd edition. Westport CT: Libraries Unlimited. ZA 3075 .E36 2004

Gavin, C. (2008). Teaching information literacy: A conceptual approach. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Green, R., & Bowser, M. (2006). Observations from the field: Sharing a literature review rubric. Journal of Library Administration, 45(1), 185-202. doi:10.1300/J111v45n01̱10

Jacobs, H., & Jacobs, D. (2009). Transforming the one-shot library session into pedagogical collaboration: Information literacy and the english composition class. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 49(1), 72. Retrieved from

Kasowitz-Scheer, A. & Pasqualoni, M. (2002). Information literacy instruction in higher education: Trends and issues. Retrieved November 1, 2004, from

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2003). Developing research & communication skills. Guidelines for information literacy in the curriculum. Philadelphia: Author.

Needham, G., Parker, J., & Baker, K. (2001). Skills for lifelong learning at a distance: Information literacy at the Open University. The New Review of Libraries and Lifelong Learning, 2, 67-77.

Raspa, D. & Ward, D. (2000). The collaborative imperative: Librarians and faculty working together in the information universe. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries. Z 675 .U5 C683 2000

Rockman, I. (Ed.). (2004). Integrating information literacy into the higher education curriculum: Practical models for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ZA 3075 .I61 2004

Thompson, G. (2002). Information literacy accreditation mandates: What they mean for faculty and librarians. Library Trends 51(2), 218-241. Retrieved November 1, 2004, from Academic Search Premier database



ALA. American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. (1989). Final report. Retrieved November 1, 2004, from

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved November 1, 2004 from,

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2002). Characteristics of excellence in higher education: Eligibility requirements and standards for accreditation. Philadelphia: Author. Retrieved November 1, 2004, from,

Contact Information

Comments or questions related to this page, or requests for assistance with information literacy projects, may be addressed to Elaine Fabbro, Head, Information Literacy & Public Services, Library Services.

Phone: (780) 675-6819





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