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Library Instruction


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. 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. There are six “frames,” each anchored by a threshold concept. We have begun to integrate the Framework into our library instruction curricula at many levels.

Threshold Concepts

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 word “threshold” represents that learning these concepts is akin to passing through a doorway or portal, after which perceptions of many interrelated concepts change.

The phrase entered widespread use in libraries as a result of an influential paper by Hofer, Townsend, and Brunetti, which ACRL cites in the Framework.

The Changing Face of Information Literacy

photo of students walking up stairway

In 2000, the ACRL created a set of Information Literacy standards, which consisted of a goal-oriented set of outcomes:

  • 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

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.

photo of labyrinth outside Bapst Library, Boston College


The new approach is to use a framework of six interrelated threshold concepts, in which knowledge practices and dispositions are situated:

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

For example, the frame Authority is Constructed and Contextual is associated with knowledge practices such as, "use markers of authority to determine the credibility of sources," and dispositions, such as "develop and maintain an open mind when encountering varied and sometimes conflicting perspectives." 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.

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.

Library Video Tutorials & Quizzes in Canvas

screenshot of canvas commons showing "show public resources" switch set to off

You can import BC Libraries Core Skills Video Tutorials directly into your Canvas courses. Just click on the Canvas Commons link in the left nav bar in Canvas. In Commons, deselect the "Show Public Resources" switch. You will see 8 videos and 7 quizzes. Click on any resource to see a description, and add it to your Canvas course(s) with the "Import Into Canvas" menu in the upper right. Videos will add as pages with embedded YouTube videos, and quizzes are set to "practice quiz" by default - that is, they will not be added to your Canvas gradebook unless you change the quiz settings.

This page is based on a poster developed for BC Libraries in August 2014 by Este Pope, Steve Runge, Kate Silfen, and Wanda Anderson.