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ACRL’s New Information Framework: Why Now and What Did It Discover?
Volume 40, Number 2 - March/April 2016

What do you think young people still struggle with the most when it comes to their information literacy capabilities?

Well, one key problem is that students may think they are good researchers (or rather, searchers), but research studies and our direct experience show that this confidence is not matched by adequate search and evaluation skills.

And what are the current major challenges facing academic librarians?

Well, it goes without saying that, as usual, budget and resources are top of the list—nobody has enough people anymore, and this forces you to rethink what you are doing. One result of this is that all librarians, regardless of position, have got to be intimately involved with faculty and students and finding out what they need, though, of course, faculty and students have a different perspective. Librarians today also require continuing professional development—but again, that has time and budgetary implications. One opportunity though is to pursue more and better online professional development. I’d like to see more online training, not just the standard webinar with a chat box, but training that integrates new and innovative online learning formats that allow for true interactivity for large groups. Librarians themselves need to be more informed and skilled with the latest instructional design methods.

Where does the physical design of the library come into play for enhancing information literacy?

There has to be a compelling reason why students should come to a physical space. Today, libraries are creating collaborative learning spaces to replace or at least complement individual study carrels. These spaces may be enabled by various learning and creation technologies such as 3D printers or digital media equipment, as well as including collaboration spaces like cafés for social learning, as places where students can come and meet others to talk over their research and problem areas and work on current projects together.

I noticed there was no mention of Big Data or data analytics in the new Framework.

Yes, data analytics is not in the Framework specifically, but data literacy is definitely part of the larger umbrella of information literacy. Librarians have begun taking an active role in working with faculty and students in organizing and managing data in research projects. The frames, or “big ideas” in the Framework, provide a context for students to gain a deeper understanding of the purpose, processes, and ultimate goals of research and how they can become part of the scholarly communications process, which includes the production and analysis of data, as well as discovery and management. Nancy Fried Foster, an anthropologist researcher with Ithaka S+R, noted that the Framework more realistically captures how research is really done and provides a better foundation for understanding the scholarly work practice. At Midwinter 2015, the ACRL Board approved the creation of a Research Data Management Roadshow, and two curriculum designers/presenters have been se lected to develop a professional development face-to-face “roadshow” workshop package, with related webinars and online content, to be available later in 2016 (

How does the U.S. compare with other parts of the world in our level and focus on the importance of information literacy for our students and citizens?

As an officer and member of the IFLA Information Literacy Section for the past 6 years, I have been impressed by what I have learned about the information literacy initiatives and accomplishments around the globe. While many countries have national policies on information literacy, created and administered by the central government, we don’t have that approach in the U.S. So we need different approaches to create awareness of the importance of information literacy and figure out how to implement the goal of an information literate population. In K–12 and postsecondary institutions, we have active programs for developing information litera cy competencies and habits of mind for our students, and these efforts are supported by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and ACRL.

While the Framework addresses the development of information literacy habits of thinking and practicing that contribute to academic and professional success, librarians in other countries and international agencies know that information literacy can be a critical survival skill for those living in marginal conditions or under oppressive regimes. At an information literacy conference in Ireland, the audience was near tears as a colleague from Syria described how a group of refugees used information literacy skills in seeking key information and map locations in order to escape from their country and how an elderly man in a near-abandoned village was able to use information-seeking skills to learn how to sustain his family through a garden plot.

Are there certain countries that have done a particularly good or noteworthy job in establishing and introducing information literacy programs?

In developing countries, such as those on the African continent, there is great recognition of the necessity for information literacy skills for citizens at all levels, although they have to begin by working to ensure a basic level of access to the internet (largely through mobile devices) as a first step. IFLA is a strong advocate for the role of libraries in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ( node/9726). A lot of interesting research and practice has come out of the U.K. and Australia, and they have information literacy standards and Frameworks that have parallels with what we are doing here. The Russian Federation has a well-developed program of information literacy, and the Scandinavian countries too are notable for their focus on the importance of providing high-quality, rigorous education for everyone as a key public good.

The IFLA World Library and Information Congress will be held in Columbus, Ohio, in August 2016, so that will be a good opportunity for librarians on this continent to learn more about information literacy initiatives and programs around the world. (See for more information.)

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In addition to being co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, Robert Berkman is author of Find It Fast: Extracting Expert Information in the Age of Social MediaBig Data, Tweets and More, 6th edition. (2015, CyberAge Books).


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