April 20, 2014

Information Literacy

What is 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.” 1 Information Literacy also 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. 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:

  • 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

Source: ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

VSC Information Literacy Graduation Standards

The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees has instituted graduation standards for all Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree candidates. The object of these standards is to provide assurance that VSC graduates have certain essential skills for success in the workplace and in life in general.

The Graduation Standards Handbook describes all four of the standards: writing, oral communication, quantitative reasoning, and Information Literacy and the ways that students can meet the standards. The library is most invested in the Information Literacy standard and does its part, through instruction and advocacy, to help students succeed in meeting it.

* Please note this change for 2011-2012 affecting testing for the standards:

“Graduation standards at the bachelor’s level … are almost always assessed by evaluating one or more specific activities within a course, typically a requirement of the student’s major taken during the junior year.” (Graduation Standards Handbook 2012, p. 1)

Information Literacy instruction at Lyndon State College

Most instruction begins in conjunction with first-year English Composition classes, specifically ENG 1051 and ENG 1052.  Sessions include a library tour, and instruction on finding and evaluating books, articles, and websites.

Librarians do most of the instruction in cooperation with English Composition instructors. In addition, faculty members in academic departments are encouraged to integrate information literacy concepts into their coursework so that fluency will increase as students progress toward their degree.

Subject-specific instruction is also available and can be arranged with the appropriate Library departmental liaison. These sessions move beyond general resources to those that are focused on a discipline.

Librarians work closely with instructors to integrate library sessions into class assignments, believing that instruction delivers the most value when students have a need to use the information presented.


TILT: The Information Literacy Tutorial is available from the library website to help your students familiarize themselves with Information Literacy concepts.

Project Information Literacy Progress Report: How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in the Digital Age
A 2010 report about college students and their information-seeking strategies and research difficulties.

Incorporating Information Literacy into the Curriculum: a Faculty Guide was created to provide instructors with information about literacy proficiencies, with strategies and suggestions for assignments that incorporate them.

Term Paper Alternatives
Research papers are a common reason for students to use the library and research tools. However, these suggestions for alternative assignments can also encourage students to use library resources, think critically, and acquire research knowledge.

Information Literacy for Faculty and Administrators
A brief guide from the American Library Association that provides an introduction to the concept of information literacy and model Information Literacy programs. It is designed specifically for academic administrators and faculty.

Developing Research & Communication Skills: Guidelines for Information Literacy in the Curriculum
A handbook from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education designed to provide “colleges and universities with suggestions for how they might develop and implement a mission-driven approach to integrating Information Literacy across the curriculum.