Rethinking ACRL’s Information Literacy Standards: The Process Begins

ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (“the Standards”) were first adopted in 2000. Since then the Standards have become one of, if not the most essential document, related to the emergence of information literacy as a recognized learning outcome at many institutions of higher education. In the vast collection of research and writings about information literacy, the Standards are cited thousands of times. Put simply, ACRL’s Standards are the de facto definition of information literacy. Though they have served the academic library profession well over the past thirteen years, the current standards are showing their age. It is time for our association to engage in a process to rethink and reimagine them for the next generation of academic librarians, college students and the faculty.

This process was initiated in July 2011 with the creation of a Task Force to review the Standards in order to determine if ACRL should retain the existing standards for an additional five-year cycle, revise the standards, or rescind the standards if they were regarded as no longer useful. That Task Force recommended to the ACRL Board of Directors that the Standards should be extensively revised. Citing emerging models of information literacy, recognizing the development of multiple new literacies and the need to provide a stronger continuum of literacy from K-16, the recommendations from the Review Task Force were approved by the Board at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.

The Board’s next step was the creation of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force with the following charge:

Update the Information literacy competency standards for higher education so that they reflect the current thinking on such things as the creation and dissemination of knowledge, the changing global higher education and learning environment, the shift from information literacy to information fluency, and the expanding definition of information literacy to include multiple literacies, e.g., transliteracy, media literacy, digital literacy, etc.

With the charge in place, I set about recruiting the individuals who would take on the challenging task of revising the Standards. I believe the roster reflects some of the best minds our profession has currently working in the area of information literacy. At the nucleus of the team are two highly accomplished information literacy experts, Trudi Jacobson and Craig Gibson, who will serve as the Task Force co-chairs. According to Jacobson, Head of Information Literacy Department in the University Libraries of University at Albany, SUNY and a member of the initial Standards Review team, “the Task Force was strategically constituted in order to include members with expertise in the field of information literacy and higher education more generally. The librarian members represent a range of institution types as well as aspects of information literacy.”

Jacobson, who is also noted for co-developing a metaliteracy framework for information literacy, added that “We also wanted to include those with specialized knowledge and affiliations within higher education that will facilitate a broad, multiple-constituency examination of the issues.” The membership of task force includes non-librarians from university departments, higher education organizations, and an accreditor. The full roster for the Task Force is available on the ACRL website.

In a recent prospectus provided to the ACRL Board of Director’s Executive Committee, Jacobson and Gibson outlined their thinking about how they would guide the Task Force in approaching a revision of the Standards (see “additional resources” at the end of this post for links to the prospectus and Board response). According to Gibson, the 2000 Standards have served us well.  However, owing to changes in user behavior, higher education, technologies, and the information environment itself, Gibson said “We now need an expanded set of literacies–those that take us beyond textual information,  that emphasize student participation in creating new content, that encourage students to develop metacognitive abilities and different parts of the brain, and that create more and deeper opportunities for collaboration among librarians, faculty, instructional designers, technologists, and students themselves.” He added that “The Standards need to reflect that information may be textual, visual, audiotory, or data. This is a new learning environment where students lead curriculum projects as often as faculty or other experts.”

In rewriting the Standards, Gibson and Jacobson hope to lead the Task Force in providing good examples of how the blending of competencies across multiple literacies will better serve us in creating more discussion, collaboration, and student and faculty involvement alike.  Their shared vision is that the new Standards are likely to be digests and examples of good practices of collaborative program development around these blended competencies.

If you would like to learn more about the work of the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, I encourage you to attend an open forum being held at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference on Saturday, June 29, 2013, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.

Additional Resources:

Task Force Prospectus on Work Plan

ACRL Board of Directors’ Response to Task Force Prospectus

Report of the Standards Review Task Force