Instruction and Information Literacy

What is information literacy?

"Information literacy is an intellectual framework for identifying, finding, understanding, evaluating and using information. It includes determining the nature and extent of needed information; accessing information effectively and efficiently; evaluating critically information and its sources; incorporating selected information in the learner's knowledge base and value system; using information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; understanding the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and information technology; and observing laws, regulations, and institutional policies related to the access and use of information. Information literacy is vital to all disciplines and to effective teaching and learning in any institution"

(Middle States Commission on Higher Education Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education: Eligibility Requirements and Standards for Accreditation, 2006).

Lafayette's Strategic Plan and information literacy

The College's strategic plan (2007) states that "Lafayette is committed to supporting a curriculum that meets the needs of its students and graduates in a complex, rapidly changing world" by "balancing the acquisition of key skills with the special benefits that derive from liberal education in the broadest sense." Information literacy is one of these "key skills" that our students and graduates need to succeed in today's world and to become independent, lifelong learners.

Programs at Lafayette

Nuts and Bolts


National standards

Middle States' definition of information literacy is based upon national standards developed by the Association of College and Resarch Libraries:

  1. The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.
  2. The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.
  3. The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
  4. The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
  5. The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

Detailed performance indicators and outcomes are available for each standard in the complete document, Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.

Information literacy in the disciplines

Some professional and accrediting organizations have discipline-specific information literacy guidelines or standards for undergraduate majors.

Anthropology and sociology
Information Literacy Standards for Anthropology and Sociology Students
Association of College and Research Libraries, Anthropology and Sociology Section

Chemical Information Retrieval (pdf)
American Chemical Society

ACS Guidelines for Bachelor’s Degree Programs
7.2 Chemical Literature Skills. Students should be able to use the peer-reviewed scientific literature effectively and evaluate technical articles critically. They should learn how to retrieve specific information from the chemical literature, including the use of Chemical Abstracts and other compilations, with online, interactive database-searching tools. Approved programs must provide instruction on the effective retrieval and use of the chemical literature. A specific course is an excellent means of imparting information-retrieval skills, though such a course usually would not qualify as an in-depth course. Integrating the use of these skills into several individual courses is also an effective approach. Both library and online exercises should be a part of such instruction on information retrieval.

English literature
Research Competency Guidelines for Literatures in English
Association of College and Research Libraries, Literatures in English Section

Information Literacy Instructional Objectives for Undergraduate Music Majors (pdf)
Music Library Association

Political science
Political Science Research Competency Guidelines (pdf)
Association of College and Research Libraries, Law and Political Science Section

Information Literacy Standards for Psychology Students
Association of College and Research Libraries, Education and Behavioral Sciences Section

Science and engineering
Information Literacy Standards for Science and Technology
Association of College and Research Libraries, Science and Technology Section