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Information Literacy

The Framework for Information Literacy

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) created the Information Literacy (IL) Standards for Higher Education in 2000, and approved a new version called the Information Literacy Framework in February 2015. Though easy to assess, the Standards did not engage with the concepts underlying students' capabilities, and suggested a linear, step-by-step process of research which didn't necessarily reflect the messy realities of knowledge production. The new Framework arose out of a need for “richer, more complex” concepts at the core of IL, the  changing environment of higher education in the context of evolving information systems, and a growing role for students in creating knowledge. 

The Six "Frames" of Information Literacy

photo of labyrinth outside Bapst Library, Boston CollegeThere are six “frames” of information literacy, each anchored by a threshold concept. Developed in 2003 by economists Erik Meyer and Ray Land, a threshold concept is a concept that, for a learner, is simultaneously troublesome, transformative, irreversible, integrative, and bounded. The frames of information literacy are threshold concepts for college students as they learn to seek, locate, evaluate, and use information resources.

These six interrelated threshold concepts, in which knowledge practices and dispositions are situated, include:

  • Authority is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information Creation as a Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration


As a whole, the frames encourage students to see research as an exploratory engagement with other scholars that relies on inquiry, discovery, and serendipity. They also encourage instructors to see research not as a mere array of discrete skills, but as conceptually linked practices and dispositions.We integrate the Framework into our library instruction curricula at many levels.

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.

Research as Inquiry

Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.

Information Creation as a Process

Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.

Scholarship as Conversation

Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.

Information Has Value

Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination.

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.