Information Literacy for Faculty and Administrators

The following brief guide provides an introduction to the concept of information literacy and model information literacy programs. It is designed specifically for academic administrators and faculty. Each of the four sections of the guide include links to other web resources that provide additional information. The four sections are:

  1. What should faculty and administrators know about information literacy programs?

   What Is Information Literacy? back to top

There are many different definitions of information literacy, but perhaps the best succinct and comprehensive definition is:

  • 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." Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. American Library Association . 2006.   (Accessed 27 May 2009)

A more comprehensive definition communicating the substance and breadth of information literacy  is also useful. Jeremy J. Shapiro and Shelley K. Hughes provide a more detailed definition in their article " Information Literacy as a Liberal Art." Briefly put, Shapiro and Hughes make the following major points in their definition:

  • In its narrowest sense, information literacy includes the practical skills involved in effective use of  information technology and print or electronic information resources.
  • Information literacy is a new liberal art which extends beyond technical skills and is conceived as one's critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and even philosophical context and impact.
  • The information literacy curriculum includes:
    • Tool literacy - The ability to use print and electronic resources including software and online resources.
    • Resource literacy - The ability to understand the form, format, location and methods for accessing information resources.
    • Social-structural literacy - Knowledge of how information is socially situated and produced. It includes understanding the scholarly publishing process.
    • Research literacy - The ability to understand and use information technology tools to carry out research, including the use of discipline-related software and online resources.
    • Publishing literacy - The ability to produce a text or multimedia report of research results.

   What should faculty and administrators know about information literacy programs? back to top

If you are an academic administrator or faculty member who is learning about information literacy we suggest the following points of information and advice:

Information Literacy: Past and Present
The idea of resource-based education is well-established and librarians have been involved in teaching the effective use of information resources for over a century. In the past, information literacy has also been labeled as library instruction, bibliographic instruction and library skills.  Information literacy now exists alongside other important literacies in today's society, such as media literacy, computer literacy and visual literacy.

Clarifying The Term
The terms resource-based education, bibliographic instruction, library instruction, computer literacy, and others will often be used in conjunction with the term 'information literacy'.  Information literacy includes both a set of generic skills and concepts as well as skills and concepts which are specific to certain disciplines and subject areas.

Information literacy programs take two forms --separate courses (for credit or non-credit) or activities integrated into general education courses and/or courses in major fields of study.  More informal, co-curricular (outside of class) programs can also encourage students' development of information literacy skills.

To be successfully implemented on campus, information literacy depends on collaboration between classroom faculty, academic administrators, librarians and other information professionals. In order to effectively implement a program all parties must be actively involved.

Leadership of Administrators
Information literacy programs require the leadership and support of academic administrators. Such leadership is not limited to budgetary support. It also includes helping create a supportive atmosphere and practical opportunities for cooperation among librarians, classroom faculty and information technologists. Effective leadership should promote a vision of liberal education as an empowering and transforming endeavor that develops students as skilled independent learners.

The Role of the Librarian
Librarians are deeply involved in addressing the issues associated with developing information literacy programs and national and regional efforts to improve program quality.  For more information, visit Information Literacy in Action.