Skip to main content

Library Instructional Services

ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

From the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries): "These standards were reviewed by the ACRL Standards Committee and approved by the Board of Directors of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) on January 18, 2000, at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in San Antonio, Texas. These standards were also endorsed by the American Association for Higher Education (October 1999) and the Council of Independent Colleges (February 2004). A  PDF of this document is available."

"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."

These are the standards currently in place, and they are the standards that guide our information literacy program here at Berea College's Hutchins Library. Do note that in 2013-2014, the ACRL put in a place a task force to revise the standards (see more information on this page).

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (aka the new ACRL standards for information literacy)

From the framework website:

"The Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, adopted by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in 2000, have become an essential document related to the emergence of information literacy as a recognized learning outcome at many institutions of higher education. While they are currently in force, during 2013-14 an ACRL task force is extensively revising them.

The task force membership reflects some of the best minds in the library profession currently working in the area of information literacy. Importantly, it includes non-librarians from university departments, higher education organizations, and an accreditor. The Task Force membership is now at full strength with the addition of two new members from liberal arts colleges in fall 2013."

The essence of the new proposal is in the concept of threshold ideas and the six threshold concepts. The six threshold concepts being proposed are:

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


The ACRL task force conducted a series of forums for comment and communication on the new proposed standards You can find links to the forum recordings and PDFs of the presentations on the site. You can also find the document of the revised draft (as of June 17, 2014) on the site.

At this point in time, the instruction team is paying close attention to this discussion in order to ascertain how to best serve the information literacy program. Stay tuned to this space as we make more information available as we learn more. 

Addition 1: If you would like to get a sense of what some librarians in other places are saying, Lane Wilkinson of Sense and Reference blog wrote a post on "The Problem with Threshold Concepts." This author has included a list of links to various other responses about the new framework so far.