New in 2015: The revised ACRL Information Literacy Framework


Published: January 5, 2015 by Dr. Michelle Holschuh Simmons

As many of you know, I teach LIBR 254 Information Literacy and Learning almost every semester. Between 2007 and 2013 this class was called LIBR 287 Information Literacy, and about a year ago I went through the process to get the class its own number. This class is designed to teach aspiring information professionals to teach others how to find, use, and evaluate information efficiently.

This is a particularly interesting time to be teaching this class because the professional association for academic librarians, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is currently in the process of revising the standards that are widely used to guide information literacy programs. The original ACRL standards that were published in 2000 (, while useful, have become dated in the current information environment. For this reason, the ACRL Board of Directors embarked upon a substantial project in 2011 to evaluate the current standards and determine whether new standards were warranted. After much deliberation, the ACRL Board of Directors determined that a major revision was necessary and so developed the following charge:

“Update the Information literacy competency standards for higher education so that they reflect the current thinking on such things as the creation and dissemination of knowledge, the changing global higher education and learning environment, the shift from information literacy to information fluency, and the expanding definition of information literacy to include multiple literacies, e.g., transliteracy, media literacy, digital literacy, etc.” (

In the summer of 2013, ACRL formed a task force, which proceeded to collect feedback from the ACRL membership and other constituencies within the higher education community and then to update the standards extensively. The task force held open forums to solicit input from stakeholders. Hundreds of people (including me!) attended each of the events, and the excitement about the process was evident in the online forums.

A formal draft of the revised standards was released in Spring 2014, and revised versions were released in Summer 2014 and again in November 2014, with a projected release date for the final draft late in January 2015 (see for drafts, FAQs, and recordings of the online forums).

The revised standards were being built around two major concepts: threshold concepts and metaliteracy. Hofer, Townsend, and Brunetti explain threshold concepts in their article in portal from 2012:

“…Threshold concepts are the core ideas and processes in any discipline that define the discipline, but that are so ingrained that they often go unspoken or unrecognized by practitioner. They are the central concepts that we want our students to understand and put into practice, that encourage them to think and act like practitioners themselves. Meyer and Land propose five definitional criteria for threshold concepts:

  • Transformative—cause the learner to experience a shift in perspective;
  • Integrative—bring together separate concepts (often identified as learning objectives) into a unified whole;
  • Irreversible—once grasped, cannot be un-grasped;
  • Bounded—may help define the boundaries of a particular discipline, are perhaps unique to the discipline;
  • Troublesome—usually difficult or counterintuitive ideas that can cause students to hit a roadblock in their learning.” (p. 387-88)

Mackey and Jacobson define metaliteracy as follows in their article in College and Research Libraries in 2011:

“Metaliteracy is an overarching and self-referential framework that integrates emerging technologies and unifies multiple literacy types. This redefinition of information literacy expands the scope of generally understood information competencies and places a particular emphasis on producing and sharing information in participatory digital environments.” (p. 62)

The new framework pushes information professionals to think about and teach about information in complex, contextualized ways. This new way of thinking about information is especially important as our information environment becomes increasingly complex. This is an interesting time to be studying information literacy!


Hofer, A. R. & Townsend, L. & Brunetti, K. (2012). Troublesome Concepts and Information Literacy: Investigating Threshold Concepts for IL Instruction. portal: Libraries and the Academy 12(4), 387-405.

Mackey, T. and T. Jacobson. (2011). Reframing Information Literacy as Metaliteracy. College and Research Libraries 72(1), 62-78.


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