Frequently Asked Questions

January 2015

Members of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force are grateful for all the robust input provided in reaction to the proposed Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education through online feedback forms, member forums and hearings (face-to-face and online), member emails, conversations in social media, as well as comments from the ACRL Board of Directors. The Task Force has taken the feedback provided by members seriously, and has used this feedback to guide and improve our process. We have been listening to all of your comments and we incorporated much of the feedback into the final version of the Framework, sent to the ACRL Board of Directors for their review on January 16, 2015. As the Task Force carefully considered all the input, we recognized some questions/concerns were recurring. We began addressing those with this FAQ page in July 2014 and have continued adding over the subsequent months.

1. What kind of responses did you receive to the third draft, which was made public in November 2014?
2. What changes did you make to the final version based on these comments?
3. Why did the Framework go through the ACRL Standards Committee if it isn’t a set of standards?
4. How do one-shot (or single course-related) sessions fit into the new Framework?
5. What about assessing information literacy with the Framework?
6.Can I use the Knowledge Practices and Dispositions as my learning outcomes?
7. Why do some Frame titles use “Is,” while others use “As”?
8. Why didn’t the task force map the current Standards to the proposed Framework?
9. What will be the role of the ACRL Information Literacy Strategist?
10.Will this task force be offering more support for librarians?
11. Is the Framework designed to be shared with faculty?
12. How has the task force incorporated feedback into the revision process?
13. Why did the task force select threshold concepts as the main component of the Framework?
14. What will happen to the existing Standards (and other next steps)?
15. Can the language of the new Framework be simplified and some of the jargon removed?
16. Can the new Framework take a stronger stand on social justice issues?
17. How has ACRL communicated about the proposed Framework and sought feedback? How did you engage with higher education stakeholders outside of libraries? Which specific organizations did you target?

1. What kind of responses did you receive to the third draft, which was made public in November 2014?
We received 206 comments via our online form. Many people responding indicated their satisfaction, and there were also suggestions for change.

  • 91% were satisfied with the opportunities to provide feedback to the Task Force on drafts of the Framework.

  • 70% of respondents were satisfied with the responsiveness of the TF to feedback, 15% were dissatisfied to some degree, and 15% did not respond.

  • 67.4% support the new Framework.

  • 63% were satisfied with the proposed definition of information literacy.

  • A majority of respondents were satisfied with the new frames (satisfaction ranged from 71% for Information Creation as a Process to 83% for Scholarship as Conversation).

  • For all fully completed surveys (n = 166), a composite score was calculated for each respondent, tabulating their feedback on the definition, each of the six frames, and overall satisfaction. Using a scale of 1-6, a score of 1 was attributed to all “very unsatisfied” responses and a score of 6 for all “very satisfied” responses; these scores were then added. The maximum composite score was 48, which is equivalent to a respondent indicating “very satisfied” for all eight included elements.

    The mean composite score was 35, equivalent to “satisfied,” and 87.8% of the composite scores fell within the satisfactory range (25-48).


2. What changes did you make to the final version based on these comments?
Task Force members carefully reviewed all of the comments, and had a number of virtual working sessions to address concerns that were raised. While we did not feel it was necessary to make substantive changes, we did:
  • Make small changes to the Frame titles.

  • Standardize the descriptions of each frame (the opening sentence structure and the division of content between the first and second paragraphs).

  • Develop a streamlined definition of information literacy based upon previous versions of the definition. While this definition differs from the earlier ones, it builds upon them, and was made in response to feedback received by the Task Force. The co-chairs of the Task Force consulted with the ACRL Standards Committee about whether it would need another review period. That committee determined that it did not, as it built upon the previous definitions, and was revised based on membership input.

Why did the Framework go through the ACRL Standards Committee if it isn’t a set of standards?
One of the responsibilities of the ACRL Standards Committee is to “Recommend to the ACRL Board the acceptability of proposed standards, guidelines, and related documents.” The Standards Committee has been involved since the ACRL Board of Directors first asked a Task Force to review the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Even though the current Task Force’s work evolved from revision to writing a new Framework, its review still fell under the purview of the ACRL Standards Committee given it is a related document.

4. How do one-shot (or single course-related) sessions fit into the new Framework?
We understand that format and time constraints are big issues for many librarians and that single course-related instruction sessions are an important part of many librarians’ efforts. We also believe strongly that the proposed Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education can fit various institution types and their curricular needs. We encourage librarians to use the Framework to initiate conversations with faculty to move toward a more sustained collaborative and programmatic approach to information literacy.

5. What about assessing information literacy with the Framework?
The proposed Framework is designed as a document that describes the core concepts of information literacy. From this standpoint, each institution’s unique circumstances will suggest the best local curricular decisions. Once these decisions are made, appropriate assessment methods specific to each institution can be designed and applied locally.

We would like to point out a recent pre-print article form by Megan Oakleaf that is illuminating on this point.

Also, the next steps implemented by ACRL will be crucial here, as will the work of members of our community.

6. Can I use the Knowledge Practices and Dispositions as my learning outcomes?
The Knowledge Practices and Dispositions are the general habits and behaviors associated with this new approach to information literacy. As the Framework is not designed as a prescriptive document, local institutions will need to develop learning outcomes based on Knowledge Practices and Dispositions that fit their institutional needs.

The pre-print article by Megan Oakleaf mentioned above illustrates some examples of learning outcomes developed out of the Framework.

7. Why do some Frame titles use “Is,” while others use “As”?
The Task Force acknowledges the feedback requesting that the titles of the six Frames use parallel structure using the word “is.” The Task Force members have discussed this issue, but have chosen to retain the title structure as seen in the third draft. We assert that there is a difference in meaning between “as” and “is” for the two Frames that use “as”: Research as Inquiry and Information Creation as a Process. “Research” encompasses something larger than “inquiry,” it could mean “original investigation” or “scientific method with data collection” or some other specific formulation. The Framework presents a particular way of thinking about research that aligns well with information literacy concepts in general—asking good questions and refining them. To equate research with inquiry through the use of “is,” although parallel in structure with four of the other Frames, does not accurately reflect what this Frame says. The same reasoning applies to the decision to use Information Creation as a Process. Information creation is indeed a process, but it is much more than that, and this Frame focuses on the one aspect of the creation process.

8. Why didn’t the task force map the current Standards to the proposed Framework?
The task force discussed options for mapping between the existing Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and the Framework. Because the two documents start from different premises, however, the task force decided that mapping between the two would be counterproductive. The Standards delineate an inventory of competencies, while the Framework presents a holistic set of core ideas about information literacy. Identifying precise parallels between the two would be inappropriate.

9. What will be the role of the ACRL Information Literacy Strategist?
In short, this is to be a role that supports academic libraries transitioning to the Framework. The person hired to fill the ACRL Information Literacy Strategist position “will encourage adoption of ACRL’s new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education within the profession in order to support ACRL’s strategic goal that librarians transform student learning, pedagogy, and instructional practices through creative and innovative collaborations” (per the ACRL Information Literacy Strategist position announcement).  Elements included in fulfillment of this may include:
•    Educational programming to increase knowledge and encourage use of the Framework by academic librarians
•    Creation and promotion of a pilot campus program
•    Development of an online Sandbox

10. Will this task force be offering more support for librarians?
This task force will have accomplished its charge with the completion of the new Framework. However, there will be a variety of efforts that will support its implementation in the coming months and years. The task force plans to recommend that the ACRL Board of Directors form an Information Literacy Framework Implementation Task Force that will provide support to move forward with the new model. The ACRL Information Literacy Strategist, whose role is described in another of these questions, will play an important role in developing a range of initiatives.

11. Is the Framework designed to be shared with faculty?
Yes! The task force envisions that academic librarians will use the Framework to begin important conversations on their campuses with a variety of stakeholders. Librarians have an important role to play in encouraging the use of the new Framework. However, it is important that faculty, administrators and other campus constituencies become engaged in this discussion. The introductory documents for faculty and administrators have been included to assist in this process.

12. How has the task force incorporated feedback into the revision process?
After the first draft of the Framework was released, with two stages on February 20 and April 4, a task force member conducted a content analysis of the responses from 239 people that were formally submitted via the feedback form. Comments were coded thematically as well as for level of attention required (i.e., critical issues which must be addressed in next draft, issues which require discussion, issues requiring minor changes of minimal effort, and issues beyond scope that should be included in recommendations to the ACRL Board of Directors). The content analysis of this feedback informed the in-person working session which the task force held in late April and greatly improved the second draft, released in on June 17.

Since August, the task force has been systematically reviewing feedback from both the first and second draft of the Framework, including comments, criticism, and praise provided through both formal and informal channels. There were 358 responses to the two official online feedback forms, as well as numerous direct emails sent to members of the task force. The task force likewise has been proactive in tracking feedback on social media, namely blog posts and Twitter. While the data harvested from social media is not exhaustive, the task force has made its best efforts at including all known Twitter conversations, blog posts, and blog commentary. In total, there are 493 feedback documents, totaling well over a thousand pages, under review. The content of these documents has been analyzed by members of the task force and coded using HyperResearch, a qualitative data analysis software.

The preset codes focused on the structure of the document, including each individual frame, the Introduction, and other organizational sections of the document (e.g. Bibliography, How To Use, etc). This has allowed us to focus, at a very granular level, on comments, suggestions, and edits within specific sections of the document. For example, a pair of task force members has carefully reviewed all of the comments made on Information Has Value, and has revised the frame taking into account the formative feedback. The same process of careful review has occurred for each of the Frames within the June draft to ensure that feedback from the community has been incorporated when possible—by pairs of task force members reflecting on comments and suggesting changes to the entire group.

Our emergent codes were thematic, focused on bigger picture issues within the Framework. These things include not only threshold concepts and metaliteracy, but also themes addressing knowledge practices and dispositions, learner progression, working with stakeholders, etc. As these themes are woven throughout the structure of the Framework, the committee is addressing them holistically. For example, the task force is paying particular attention to ensuring the document reflects the needs of all of higher education, including community colleges, technical colleges, and liberal arts colleges, alongside research institutions.

Finally, we have made careful annotations of specific comments on grammar and language choice throughout the entire document, and will be working with a copyeditor to further refine the document before the third draft is released.

13. Why did the task force select threshold concepts as the main component of the Framework?
Threshold concepts not only expand our understanding of information literacy, they will remain flexible over time and frame the instructional design process. Threshold concepts present an avenue to broaden our practice from focusing on skills and indicators to focusing on the development and exchange of knowledge within scholarship, professional discourse, and the larger society.

Threshold concepts:

  • define a developmental trajectory along which students travel,
  • provide a conceptual lens through which to view and initiate the instructional design process,
  • communicate central ideas that can be used for collaboration with faculty,
  • present an overarching context for assessment that remains flexible enough to meet the needs of the diverse higher education landscape,
  • and suggest a means for developing a robust research agenda for our profession.

Threshold concepts are particularly appropriate to meet the needs of promoting information literacy through ACRL. The threshold concept approach challenges individuals within a discipline or profession (in this case librarianship or information science) to reflect back on their intellectual growth, capture the crucial understandings (thresholds) that marked the development of their expertise, and create pathways to help others on a similar journey. In terms of information literacy, there is no organization better prepared to make the implicit threshold explicit than ACRL.

As the experts defining our knowledge domain, the Task Force came to the conclusion through intensive conversation that the audience for the draft of the Framework necessarily had to be librarians. This became a significant breakthrough at the task force’s April 2014 meeting held in Chicago. Before we could write documents for teaching faculty, administrators, accrediting bodies, or others who have a stake in information literacy within higher education, we realized the need to create a central document for librarians which is the June 17, 2014, revised draft. With this revised draft available for review, the Task Force has moved toward brainstorming additional documents needed to communicate the Framework outside of ACRL.

The task force preceding this one (2011-12) reviewed the existing Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education as part of the regular cyclical process to which all ACRL standards and guidelines are subject (per ACRL policy). They made a unanimous recommendation to the ACRL Board of Directors that the standards be significantly revised. Their work marked the starting point of the current process.

As acknowledged in the drafts to date (February 20, April 4, and June 17), the Task Force owes a debt to Lori Townsend (task force member), Amy Hofer, Korey Brunetti , and Silvia Lu who generously shared their early findings from a Delphi study on information literacy threshold concepts. A Delphi study is a qualitative method that brings together identified and anonymous experts in a process for synthesizing ideas around a particular subject. The task force used the IL Delphi study as a starting point for the Framework process; however, we would like to note that the development of the Framework used a significantly different process from that of the Delphi study. The Framework was informed by Delphi study but infused with the expertise and experience of the Task Force members. The Framework will differ from the outcomes of the Delphi study due to this difference in process. The task force views the work of Townsend, Brunetti, Hofer, and Lu (and others who will offer their perspectives in the future) as part of a healthy dialogue within our profession and we envision a rich and scholarly conversation that will continue to further our understanding of information literacy.

14. What will happen to the existing Standards (and other next steps)?
The task force understands that many significant questions remain around the next steps in this process. As noted at the open forum at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, our libraries have fifteen years of infrastructure built around the existing Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. It is logical that many members have asked about the future of these existing Standards. The task force understands that the Framework moves our profession in a new direction and that our work has wide-reaching implications.

The task force will be recommending that the current Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, be sunsetted. How and when this will happen will need to be discussed with the ACRL Board of Directors, its committees, and ACRL sections. As plans develop, the task force wants to communicate the following:

First, now that we have a more complete draft of the Framework, the task force is actively turning toward the concerns of implementation and next steps. Once a final draft is together, implementation will be a top priority of ACRL, although it will not be carried out by members of this task force, as our charge will have been completed.

Second, the task force is recommending a series of actions in our report to the ACRL Board of Directors, which will accompany our final Framework for approval. Some will be led by the new, 2 year staff position of Information Literacy Strategist, with appropriate member input. We will recommend that the Board form an implementation task force in order to guide next steps. It is possible the Board will charge an existing ACRL group, like the Student Learning and Information Literacy Committee, with carrying out some of the recommendations. The suggested makeup and charge of this implementation task force is under discussion. Additionally, the task force is considering other possible mechanisms to help define the implementation process. While details have not been finalized, ideas include meetings with section leaders, identifying test campuses to pilot the Framework, creating educational initiatives, and partnerships with other ACRL initiatives such as the Information Literacy Immersion Program or Assessment in Action.

Finally, the task force has heard questions about continued use of the existing Standards on campuses. While the task force is working to deepen the understanding of information literacy through the new Framework, we recognize that some of the indicators from the current Standards have been adapted and updated for use in the Framework.

15. Can the language of the new Framework be simplified and some of the jargon removed?
The Task Force has received feedback asking that the language of the new Framework should be simplified. Since the Task Force determined that the primary audience of the Framework is for librarians, the level of language used was aimed at our profession. We recognize the need for more accessible language for supporting documents and the Task Force is editing and reviewing changes in this direction.

16. Can the new Framework take a stronger stand on social justice issues?
The Task Force takes the feedback provided by members seriously, and we have used this feedback to guide and improve our process and in particular, we want to acknowledge the feedback we received concerning stronger social justice language within the Framework. The Task Force has spent considerable time at our April meeting in Chicago, in our conference call before the 2014 Annual, and at our meeting during the 2014 Annual discussing social justice issues related to the Framework.

The task force members are sympathetic to the views expressed about social justice. As we have developed the Framework, we have worked to include issues around privileged voices in the information ecosystem, economic barriers to information access, the negotiated nature of meaning, and other issues related to social justice and views advocated by critical information literacy practitioners.

At the task force’s April meeting in Chicago, we worked on a draft frame that took a stronger social justice stance. Ultimately, before releasing the June draft, the Task Force felt that social justice was not its own frame and that social justice components were better served as pieces of other frames. In the end, we incorporated many of its components into other frames in descriptions, practices, and assignments. We made a significant effort to try and draft a frame about information as a human right that took a stronger social justice stance.

We continue to welcome suggestions and ideas that can strengthen the document and supporting elements.

17. How has ACRL communicated about the proposed Framework and sought feedback? How did you engage with higher education stakeholders outside of libraries? Which specific organizations did you target?
ACRL began communicating to our community about the proposed changes to the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (ILCSHE) in a June 2013 blog post. On a regular basis, we used all of ACRL and ALA’s communication channels to reach both individual members and ALA and ACRL units (committees, sections, round tables, ethnic caucuses, chapters and divisions) with updates. We maintain a private email distribution list of over 1,300 individuals who attended a fall, spring, or summer online forum, provided comments to the February, April or June drafts, or were otherwise identified as having strong interest and expertise (such as members of the task force with drafted ILCSHE, leading LIS researchers and national project directors, members of the Information Literacy Rubric Development Team for the Association of American Colleges & Universities, Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education initiative). Via all these channels, we regularly shared updates, invited discussion at virtual and in-person forums and hearings, and encouraged comments on public drafts of the proposed Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

ACRL recognized early on that the effect of any changes to the ILCSHE would be significant, both within the library profession and in higher education more broadly. Knowing this, we sought out a Visiting Program Officer to work on communication outside the library profession, outreach to higher education associations and accreditors, and raising awareness/among non-librarians. Kate Ganski was selected for this role and worked with the task force to identify key communication channels and draft ancillary materials to communicate about the proposed Framework. She was instrumental in helping ACRL reach far outside of our own association.

When the revised June draft Framework was ready and the press release was issued, we again reached out to librarians via our range of communication channels. Additionally, we contacted nearly 60 researchers who cited the ILCSHE in publications outside library and information science literature, asking them to notify people in their organizations/networks of the opportunity to provide feedback. We contacted more than 70 deans, associate deans, directors or chairs of library and information science schools asking them to encourage feedback from LIS faculty and students, particularly those with an interest in information literacy/instruction. And we sent email messages to specific staff leaders (and press or communications contacts) at more than 70 other higher education associations, accrediting agencies and library associations and consortia (see full list) asking them to encourage members of their organizations and networks to read and comment on the draft. Sometimes these messages were sent by ACRL staff who may have relationships with these groups already. Other times ACRL member leaders, such as ACRL liaisons, reached out to their contacts at other organizations. We asked individuals at those 70 organizations to share the revised June draft Framework and encourage members of their networks to provide feedback.

One Response to Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Esther Grassian says:

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this FAQ regarding the Draft ACRL IL Framework for Higher Education. I appreciate the Task Force’s hard work, and the many means made available to provide feedback on the draft. Now some comments regarding the FAQ…

    First, I found it interesting to learn that the draft to date is directed only at librarians. I may be the only person who did not realize this, but perhaps not. If that is the case, then I would suggest renaming the current document as something like “Background for Librarians.”

    Second, I was quite disappointed to read the response to #3 “Can the language of the new Framework be simplified and some of the jargon removed?” The very fact that this is a common refrain should say something of great importance to the Task Force. That is, that many people agree that the reader would benefit from simpler wording (including librarians), and simplifying the language would go a long way toward adoption of the Draft Framework. Cumbersome language is not in the best interests of ACRL, as it is possible that those who have difficulty with the language may simply abandon ACRL’s new approach and turn to other sets of Standards instead—e.g., SCONUL’s 7 Pillars of Information Literacy, or a version of AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner adapted for higher education.

    Third, I have been thinking more and more about the “Threshold Concepts,” and it occurs to me that many academic librarians have been teaching concepts of various kinds for many decades—e.g., format. Of course formats have changed, and so has access to them. One can no longer always count on a linear progression from event through specific types of formats, but the concept of progression from one form of evidence and expertise to others is still valid in many respects. I mention this because I think a number of librarians may consider the teaching of concepts to be entirely new, and not possible in one-shot sessions. This is not the case, and I would urge everyone to read two books from the 1980s that prove this point:
    Oberman, Cerise and Strauch, Katina. 1982. Theories of Bibliographic Education:
    Designs for Teaching. New York: R.R. Bowker Co.

    Reichel, Mary and Ramey, Mary Ann. 1987 Conceptual Frameworks for Bibliographic
    Education. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

    Fourth, I would suggest that librarians experienced in ILI examine their curricula to see where they have already been teaching concepts, and how those concepts relate to the Threshold Concepts identified in the draft. I am now retired, but recall quite well teaching undergrad one-shots the concepts of formats, of information as a commodity, and of scholarly conversations, just to pose a few examples.

    Finally, re the Threshold Concepts themselves, I question the concept of irreversibility of learning regarding the “information ecosystem,” given the continual and rapidly evolving nature of technology. I have made this last point in more than one of my own feedback messages to the Task Force, and am making it here to share it with others, as well.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to provide comments.

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