This essay first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Choice (volume 57 | issue 11)
“Information literacy instruction” is a broad term that can refer to any pedagogical practice aimed at helping learners develop the skills needed to be considered information literate. Information literacy instruction, in this broad sense, is not new and has been an integral part of academic librarianship for decades, whether at the reference desk, in one-shot library sessions and workshops, or in college credit courses. However, in recent years the focus of information literacy instruction has been shifting from imparting bibliographic strategies to developing critical thinking skills. This shift is largely due to the increasing complexity of the information landscape and the perceived inadequacy of basic bibliographic skills to meet the needs of learners in higher education and beyond. Publication of guiding documents that espouse new conceptual approaches to teaching writing, research, and information literacy has caused a paradigm shift in thinking about information literacy instruction, along with a boom in books and digital resources on the topic.
This essay suggests books that have, for the most part, been published since 2015, when the board of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) filed its newly developed Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (hereafter the Framework), replacing the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (the Standards), which had been adopted in 2000. In 2016 the ACRL Framework was officially adopted, and the following year Standards was officially rescinded. Standards addressed critical thinking and competencies beyond simple bibliographic skills, and still informs information literacy instruction to a certain degree. Its rescinding was controversial, and its integration with assessment initiatives complicates total replacement in many institutions. Nevertheless, a review of the literature makes it clear that the adoption of the Framework has profoundly changed information literacy instruction.
Since its publication, the Framework has inspired new pedagogies, new strategies, and new techniques for instruction librarians. The major trends in the recent body of work on information literacy instruction will be discussed in this essay. Some of the topics covered here—for example, media literacy, learner-centered pedagogy, and critical pedagogy—are discussed only as they pertain to librarian-led information literacy instruction. Although other important facets of these topics are worthy of exploration, this essay focuses on what they are to the literature of information literacy instruction and how they are helping shape the evolution of that literature. Most titles discussed include suggestions for learning activities, lesson plans, or assignments, and many discuss other relevant pedagogical theories and their application to library teaching practices. A majority of these works also explore how various activities, ideas, and learning goals map onto the Framework. Geared toward librarians working and teaching in academic libraries and toward library school students preparing for careers as academic librarians, these books are redefining what information literacy instruction is and reshaping its role in higher education.
Melissa Anderson is assistant professor, Campus Engagement and Research Services Librarian, at Southern Oregon University. She received a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Chicago and an MLIS from San José State University. Her research focuses on pedagogy and information literacy in the disciplines.