of College and Research Libraries
Model Statement of Objectives for Academic Bibliographic Instruction
Prepared by ACRL/BIS Task Force on the Model Statement of
Objectives. Approved by the ACRL Board of Directors and ALA Standards
Reprinted from C&RLNews, May 1987, a publication of
ACRL, a division of ALA.
The primary purpose of the Model Statement is to generate thinking
in the discipline of bibliographic instruction concerning the
direction of existing instructional programs. It is intended to
help librarians articulate and focus on what their instructional
objectives should be and stimulate research into whether existing
programs are achieving these objectives. As such, the Statement
is not designed to introduce the new librarian to the field, nor
is it designed to introduce an outside faculty member to the relevant
concepts within the discipline. Rather, it is intended to serve
as a statement of general direction for practicing librarians
to review when examining current instructional programs or developing
the keystones of new programs.
The role of bibliographic instruction is not only to provide
students with the specific skills needed to complete assignments,
but to prepare individuals to make effective life-long use of
information, information sources, and information systems. To
this end, the Model Statement attempts to outline the pertinent
processes individuals use when gathering information. The Statement
does not attempt to be comprehensive. The content is designed
as a set of examples or points of departure and is not intended
to serve as an institution's primary document.
The Model Statement is comprised of a set of general and terminal
objectives which describe the processes used when gathering information.
Three objectives are normally used to describe the learning activities
desired for a particular instructional unit. These objectives
describe the overall goals of the programs and what the program
is intended to achieve. Terminal objectives break down the overall
objectives into specific discrete measurable results. Enabling
(behavioral) objectives define the specific knowledge or skills
necessary to achieve the terminal objectives. They are associated
with the behavior of the person who has to master the material.
Since each institution must determine their own enabling objectives,
they are not included in this document, which attempts to generalize
the processes used to access information.
For convenience, the series of general and terminal objectives
listed in the Model Statement has been broken into four broad
areas of concern with corresponding objectives listed in each
of the areas. The Statement outlines how information is:
- identified and defined by experts;
- intellectually accessed;
- physically organized and accessed.
The section headings represent significant areas or topics
of concern to instruction librarians. No set order is intended.
When developing the Model Statement, the Task Force was guided
by the following principles:
1. User groups targeted by the objectives. The Model
Statement is designed to address the needs of all potential user
groups within academic libraries. This was done for two reasons:
1) Experience has shown that there is no homogeneous group of
"students" or even "undergraduates," but rather
there exists a diverse student body whose members operate on a
continuum of research sophistication; 2) Increasing sophistication
in the field of bibliographic instruction has resulted in the
development of many excellent programs of instruction for student,
faculty and university staff alike. The revised document attempts
to reflect the needs of these user groups also.
2. Ordering of the objectives. Depending on the
information need of the individual or group in question, the librarian
may find instruction in "highly sophisticated" information
skills essential for the undergraduate, while the graduate student
or even the faculty member may need training in basic skills.
In order to provide the greatest flexibility, the objectives are
not ordered; rather, it is for the librarian to determine what
objectives fulfill the needs of the specific user group in question.
3. Institution- and tool-specific information.
It would be literally impossible to list all the objectives which
describe institutional and tool-specific differences. The Model
Statement reviews the similarities within these sources and focuses
on the process of using information and information sources, recorded
and unrecorded, rather than focusing on library processes. The
document is therefore conceptually based and does not include
tool-specific or institution-specific detail. The Task Force feels
that tool-specific or institution-specific information is more
appropriately placed within enabling objectives.
4. Language used. The Model Statement uses very
specific language to describe generic processes. Since common
terms used by librarians have different and often divergent meanings,
it is recommended that the attached glossary be consulted when
using the document.
5. Incorporation of technological advances. Advances
in technology have been incorporated into various sections of
the document where appropriate rather than examined separately.
For example, the methods used to retrieve information sources
from an online catalog are explained in the "Intellectually
Accessed" section, and the explanation that a catalog is
a holding list is detailed in the "Physically Organized and
Accessed" section. By describing processes rather than tools,
it is hoped that the Statement will remain effective long after
the present "new" technology becomes old.
6. Evaluation of information sources and systems.
It was felt that evaluation of information, information sources,
and information systems is something that occurs throughout the
search process. To this end, evaluation issues have been incorporated
into each section of the document where appropriate.
7. Evaluation of objectives. Specific attention
was not devoted to developing evaluation designs for the attainment
of objectives in an instructional setting, as it was felt that
guidance in this matter was available through Evaluating Bibliographic
Instruction: A Handbook, published by ACRL's Bibliographic
Instruction Section in 1983.
8. Structural flexibility. The structure of the
document has been designed to permit as much flexibility as possible.
It consists of four major areas of concern, each with its own
general and terminal objectives. It is probable that no one library's
program will include all the objectives listed; rather, each objective
is suggested as an element related to the area of concern. The
flexibility of the document lies in its "mix and match"
nature; terminal objectives of one section may be matched with
terminal objectives of another section depending upon the program
being designed. In addition, the Model Statement simply lists
suggested areas of interest; when designing a program, the librarian
may find that additional terminal objectives must be created in
order to reflect the needs of the group in question.
Using the Model
The Model Statement is designed to be used in two ways. First,
it is intended to serve as a checklist through which to assist
and examine present programs. Second, it is intended to serve
as a resource through which to develop new programs. To use the
Statement effectively for the latter purpose, the following steps
- Define the user group and the present level of sophistication;
- Determine the purpose of instruction;
- Determine which overall sections of the document are relevant
to the proposed program;
- Select the relevant terminal objectives from each section;
- If needed, create additional subpoints to the terminal objectives
- Develop enabling objectives.
of General and Terminal Objectives
1. How information is identified and defined by experts.
The user understands how information is defined by experts, and
recognizes how that knowledge can help determine the direction
of his/her search for specific information.
T1. (T will be used hereafter for "terminal"
objective). The user understands that individuals or groups identify
themselves as belonging to specific areas and/or disciplines.
T2. The user recognizes that individuals within these
groups may combine information from information sources with original
thought, experimentation, and/or analysis to produce new information.
T3. The user recognizes that disciplines use specific
methods to communicate information.
- The user recognizes that information sources can be recorded
or unrecorded sources which may appear in different physical
- The user recognizes that information sources go through various
review processes to be accepted as credible by the research community.
- The user understands the processes through which information
sources are accepted and disseminated in the research community.
T4. Once a topic of interest is selected, the user understands
how it can be refined and can formulate a question.
- The user recognizes when a question is discipline-specific
- The user understands that the initial question may be too
broad or narrow to investigate effectively and that adjustment
in scope, direction, or timeframe may be needed.
T5. The user understands how to construct an approach
or strategy appropriate to the anticipated result of the research
- The user understands that the identification of specific
information sources will depend on the individual question and
the strategy devised.
- The user recognizes that the audience of the end product
will in part determine the direction and type of search conducted.
- The user understands that the form and the purpose of the
end product will in part determine the direction and type of
2. How information sources are structured.
The user understands the importance of the organizational content,
bibliographic structure, function, and use of information sources.
T1. The user understands how the organizational content
of recorded information sources is structured and how this knowledge
can help determine the usefulness of the source.
- The user understands the importance of evaluating the author's
- The user understands how the timeliness or the date of publication
may determine the value of a source.
- The user recognizes that the publisher's reputation may affect
the usefulness of the source. The user recognizes that in periodical
publications, the editorial review process is as important as
the publishing information.
- The user recognizes the importance of title, thesis, preface,
introduction, table of contents, appendixes, summary, and/or
abstract in evaluating the scope, limitations, and special features
of the information source and thereby its usefulness.
- The user recognizes that the purpose of the author in presenting
ideas, opinions, or research may in part determine the usefulness
of the source.
- The user recognizes the organization or arrangement of an
information source may affect its value (hierarchical, alphabetical,
chronological, tabular, regional classified, schematic, or numerical).
- The user recognizes that the amount and type of documentation
used may affect the value of a recorded information source.
T2. The user recognizes that unrecorded information
sources exist and can evaluate their potential usefulness.
- The user recognizes the importance of the individual's or
group's credentials and is able to evaluate this information
to determine the source's credibility in relation to the topic.
- The user recognizes the importance of evaluating the timeliness
of the information.
- The user recognizes the importance of correctly identifying
the source's thesis and arguments to determine whether the information
provided is pertinent to the topic.
T3. The user understands how information sources are
bibliographically structured and how this knowledge can help determine
the usefulness of the source.
- The user recognizes that the information needed to identify
information sources is manipulated into systematic sequences
called citations and that the amount of information required
and the form of a citation may vary from field to field.
- The user recognizes that the bibliographic structure
of recorded information sources may vary among disciplines and
within subject areas.
- The user recognizes the major types of citations and knows
where they typically occur (documentary notes, in-text citations,
bibliographic entries, etc.).
- The user recognizes that the form of a citation varies for
difference subject areas and disciplines.
- The user recognizes that the amount of information required
in a citation varies for different subject areas and disciplines.
- The user understands the relationship of citations to other
- The user understands that the purpose of a citation
is to enable others to identify and locate pertinent information
- The user understands that some sources may indirectly refer
to other sources through the use of incomplete citations (implicit
vs. explicit footnotes).
- The user understands the significance of identifying information
sources which are repeatedly cited by more than one source.
- The user understands the link between the information provided
within a citation and the organizational structure of the source
cited and recognizes the importance of the link in evaluating
the usefulness of the source identified.
3. How information sources are intellectually accessed
The user can identify useful information from information sources
or information systems.
T1. The user understands that although any information
about an information source could be used to help identify and
locate it, there are certain elements of information called access
points which are accepted by the research community as the most
pertinent through which to identify a source.
- The user recognizes that the "author" entry is
a commonly used access point.
- The user recognizes that the title of a recorded information
source is another commonly used access point.
- The user recognizes that a "subject," topic, or
description field is a commonly used access point.
- The user recognizes that the use of additional access points
depends on the structure and format of the source used to identify
- The user recognizes that each element of information
found within a citation may potentially be used as an access
- The user recognizes that information found within an abstract
or summary may potentially be used as access points (usually
through the method of key word searching where each word can
be used as an access point).
- The user recognizes that additional access may be available
through codes, categories, or mapping which may not be obvious
in the information source or system.
- The user understands that some sources use controlled vocabulary
assigned by an indexer, cataloger, or computer programmer as
- The user recognizes that most controlled vocabulary
describes the subject or author of the information source.
- The user recognizes that the rules governing indexing practices
may influence the process of retrieval.
- The user understands that there may be printed or online
lists or thesauri which may aid in the identification of these
- The user recognizes the relationship of broader, narrower,
and related terms.
T2. The user understands that there are a variety of
information sources called access tools whose primary purpose
is to identify other information sources through the use of access
- The user recognizes that access tools used vary by discipline
or subject area.
- The user recognizes that access tools used vary by the type
of information source needed.
- The user recognizes that access tools vary in format and
recognizes the implications of format as it relates to the availability
of access points.
- The user recognizes the importance of the organizational
content of the access tools in determining whether or not it
is a good information source.
- The user understands that no access tool is comprehensive
- The user understands the importance of selecting the appropriate
access tool in order to identify useful information sources.
T3. The user understands how to manipulate access points
to identify useful information or information sources.
- The user understands when it is appropriate to search for
information through the use of a single access point.
- The user understands the concept of Boolean logic and its
importance in searching for information under more than one access
- The user understands the importance of browsing.
- The user understands the importance of proximity searching
(looking for two or more words in the same sentence, paragraph,
record or file).
- The user understands that given insufficient information
to identify a particular access point, there are steps which
may help identify it.
- The user understands truncation.
- The user understands key word searching and knows when it
may be appropriate and possible.
T4. The user can evaluate the citation retrieved or
the accessed information and determine whether or not it is at
the appropriate level of specificity.
T5. The user recognizes the absence of recorded information
sources on a specific topic, realizes the implications and recognizes
- The user realizes that the lack of recorded information sources
does not preclude the existence of unrecorded information sources.
- The user recognizes that the lack of recorded information
may suggest the necessity of original analysis or data collection.
c. The user recognizes that he/she
may have to change the direction of the search if the use of
unrecorded information sources or the gathering of primary data
is not feasible.
4. How information sources are physically organized and
The user understands the way collections of information sources
are physically organized and accessed.
T1. The user understands that libraries and library
systems may group information sources by subject, author, format,
publisher, type of material, or special audience.
- The user recognizes that many library systems are decentralized
and the materials at each location may be distinguished by subject,
format, publisher, type of material, or by special audience.
- The user recognizes that materials in like formats are usually
housed together in special areas of the library or in particular
units of the library system along with the appropriate equipment
needed to utilize these materials.
- The user understands that a library may choose to house materials
by one publisher together in one location or disperse them throughout
the library's holdings.
- The user recognizes that types of materials may be grouped
together in order to provide ease of use or because of preservation
and maintenance concerns.
- The user recognizes that some libraries provide separate
collections for special user groups.
- The user understands that materials on like subjects are
usually housed together.
- The user recognizes that some branches of a library
system may be designated by the subject area or discipline.
- The user understands that classification schemes are designed
to enable libraries to locate materials on the same subject in
the same discipline in close proximity to each other.
T2. The user understands that the library uses call
numbers to assign a unique physical address to each item in the
T3. The user understands that individual items within
a library system's collections are listed in special holdings
or location files.
- The user understands that there is usually a central holdings
or location file for the library's collection and that it might
be in one or more formats.
- The user understands that various special collections in
the library or library system may have special holdings files
and that they may or may not be subsets of the central file.
- The user is aware that there are special files which can
be used to identify the holdings of items available from other
T4. The user understands that the library staff is comprised
of individuals with varying degrees and areas of expertise, who
provide certain services through departments and who may be helpful
in accessing information.
T5. The user understands the policies and procedures
used by library departments and recognizes that these may vary.
T6. The user understands that the campus library is
not the only location through which to retrieve necessary material.
- The user recognizes that libraries do not have comprehensive
holdings and that one library may lend an item from its collection,
or furnish a copy of an item from its collection to another library
not under the same administration.
- The user recognizes that in order to facilitate library cooperation
in resource sharing, many libraries have developed networks and
- The user understands that information sources may be available
for purchase by individuals through publishers and/or document
delivery services and that some information sources are only
available on a purchase basis.
- The user recognizes that personal networks may be essential
to retrieving appropriate information.
Access: to retrieve information.
Access points: specific pieces of information identified
as being useful to the retrieval of information.
Bibliographic structure: the framework of explicit links
of footnote references and bibliographic citations or implicit
links of tacit relationships.
Citation: a bibliographic record (or systematic sequence)
which includes the information necessary to access an information
Communication: the transfer of information in the various
media from one person, place, or device to another.
Data: the symbols or characters of a language. Examples:
the letters of the alphabet, numbers, etc.
Document (Recorded Information Source): a physical entity
in any medium upon which is recorded all or part of a work or
multiple works. Examples: book, journal article, etc.
Information: a grouping of data which has a particular
meaning within a specific context. Examples: a word, a name, etc.
Information source: a single entity from which information is
retrieved. Examples: a person, a book, a journal article, an index,
Information system: an organized structure of interrelated
information sources. Examples: an online catalog, etc.
Intellectual access: the isolation or selecting of useful
information from information sources or systems.
Physical access: the physical retrieval of an information
source. Process: manipulating, preparing, and handling information
to achieve the desired results.
Structure: the logical arrangement or organization of information.
Unrecorded information: oral communication.
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