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


National standards

  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 and Information Management Skills. Essential student skills include the ability to retrieve information efficiently and effectively
by searching the chemical literature, evaluate technical articles critically, and manage many types of chemical information. Students must be instructed in effective methods for performing and assessing the quality of searches using keywords, authors, abstracts, citations, patents, and structures/substructures.

The program should provide ready access to technical databases with sufficient depth and breadth of the chemical literature for effective searching. Students’ ability to read, analyze, interpret, and cite the chemical literature as applied to answering chemical questions should be assessed throughout the curriculum. Instruction should also be provided in data management and archiving, record keeping (electronic and otherwise), and managing citations and related information. This includes notebooks, data storage, information and bibliographic management and formatting. Undergraduate research and/or individual or group projects provide excellent opportunities for development and assessment of literature searching and information management skills. A stand-alone course can be an effective means of imparting information-retrieval skills, though such a course usually would not qualify as an in-depth course.

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/technology
Information Literacy Standards for Science and Engineering/Technology
Association of College and Research Libraries, Science and Technology Section