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Reimagining Information Literacy Competencies
Posted On July 29, 2014
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With the delivery of the draft framework in May 2014, librarians were urged to read and reflect on the document and participate in online hearings held in July. This structured approach helped engage the library community individually (e.g., on librarians’ blogs), institutionally, and statewide.

For example:

  • The inclusion of sessions concerning the document at state library conferences throughout this summer encouraged discussions about the implications of the new approach for their institutions. Ellysa Stern Cahoy (vice chair/chair-elect of the ACRL Instruction Section) and Donna Witek (a member of the ACRL Information Literacy Standards Committee) spoke at a Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) meeting about the new standards and implications for practice. This presentation featured additional breakout sessions that continued the discussions.
  • Librarians at Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, and York University in Canada set up a wiki to share their thoughts and continue the brainstorming process. It includes notes taken during a roundtable discussion at the Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU) conference at Western University that talked about how to engage faculty with ideas and possible approaches to take. Others are invited to enter the discussion on this open wiki.

Preliminary feedback has caused the task force to rethink both the structure of the document and elements of the framework itself.

For example:

  • How it might “incorporate and explicitly articulate important critical habits of mind of information literacy development such as civic engagement and addressing social justice issues”
  • The inclusion of metaliteracy (defined as expanding “the scope of traditional information skills … to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments”) and its elevation within the framework

In the initial draft of the document, the task force identified five threshold concepts, originally tagged as units, but now known as Frames. Two of the Frames were renamed (“Format as Process” is now “Format as a Process,” and “Searching is Strategic” is now “Searching as Exploration”) and a sixth Frame, “Information has Value,” was added since the draft document circulated for comment. The latest draft identifies these Frames as follows:

  1. Scholarship is a Conversation
  2. Research as Inquiry
  3. Authority is Contextual and Constructed
  4. Format as a Process
  5. Searching as Exploration
  6. Information has Value

Each Frame encompasses the definition of the threshold concept, as well as the accompanying knowledge practices (abilities) and dispositions. Slides presented during this summer’s online discussions summarize what is expected of learners developing their information-literate abilities. These learners can:

  • Determine how authoritative information should be for a particular need.
  • Identify markers of authority when engaging with information, understanding the elements that might temper that authority.
  • Understand that many disciplines have acknowledged authorities in the sense of well known scholars and publications that are widely considered “standard,” and yet even in those situations, some scholars would challenge the authority of those sources.
  • Recognize that authoritative content may be packaged formally or informally, and may include dynamic user-generated information.
  • Acknowledge that they themselves may be seen, now or in the future, as authorities in a particular area, and recognize the responsibilities that entails.
  • Evaluate user response as an active researcher, understanding the differing natures of feedback mechanisms and context in traditional and social media platforms.

Learners developing these information literate abilities are disposed to maintaining an open mind, finding authoritative sources, assessing content critically, recognizing potential problems with traditional notions of authority, and self-monitoring to maintain these attitudes and actions.

Major alterations of the Framework include:

  • A streamlined Introduction that includes a new definition of information literacy (revised from the previous version of the Introduction).
  • The Self-Assessments sections have been removed, with some of the items moved, as appropriate, into the Dispositions and Knowledge Practices sections.
  • The Assignments sections have been moved to a separate, ancillary document. They will be added to a future online sandbox, rather than reside within the Framework proper, as they may change over time.
  • Suggestions on How to Use this Document, [serves as] a guide for introducing it on campuses.
  • A draft of the actions [the task force] will recommend the ACRL Board take is included as now an ancillary document. …

The inclusions of a glossary and a bibliography in the document have been applauded by those participating in the review process.

On the Road to Adoption

As librarians create strategies for implementation, they can view the framework as a new way to understand the information literacy efforts already underway; as a provider of new language and concepts to communicate what is being done, why, and how; and as a process through which to transform the goals set for information literacy instruction and programs. The new framework encourages librarians, faculty, and others to work together in designing instruction sessions and assignments, incorporating information literacy into course work and curricula as part of student projects. It points to information literacy as a critical component of comprehensive learning assessment.

Final edits will continue through the summer to review the framework’s language for clarity and for its connection to content creation and varied forms of information. The task force is recommending the dissolution of the 2000 standards and the creation of an implementation task force, with a part-time information literacy strategist hired at headquarters to assist. The task force is encouraging disciplinary and topical conferences to explore how the new framework might be applied. As with the 2000 standards, it’s likely that these Frames will be used beyond the academic environment, creating better learners everywhere. 

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Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

Email Barbie E. Keiser

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