What is information literacy?

In the digitally quickly developing world we live in today, information literacy is required both in education and in private life. But how exactly is the current state of research concerning information literacy? The Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) assessment framework published by UNESCO (2013) defines a citizen who is information-literate as „ not only […] a consumer of information and media content, but also a responsible information seeker, knowledge creator and innovator, who is able to take advantage of a diverse range of information and communication tools and media“ (p. 17). According to the American Library Association (2000), information literacy is the foundation of lifelong learning and ought the learner to develop a set of abilities in regard of dealing with information.

How can we foster information literacy?

UNESCO (2013) identifies teachers as important multipliers of information literacy, since they share their knowledge in this field with their students, who themselves can become multipliers in their own environments. By those circumstances, the positive changes in society regarding information literacy are able to be large. Furthermore, it is said that information literacy in higher education shall be integrated in all curricula and result from a collaboration of librarians, administrators and faculty. In its publication in 2016, the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) takes the existing standards of the Information Literacy Competency Standards and advances them for a better understanding of conceptualising learning assets. Those adjusted standards are concerned with – among other things – the role of authority in information resources, the value of information and the process of creating information (see ACRL 2016 for a complete listing).

Intercultural aspects of information literacy

Viewing such frameworks with emphasis on intercultural aspects makes clear that they still are deficient, as Hicks’ & Lloyd’s work from 2016 shows. They criticise the inflexible and behaviouristic frames and the expert-to-learner setting, whereas it should rather be developed from within the community. Hicks and Lloyd also name intercultural experiences outside of traditional university and library environments, such as internships or semesters abroad. The lack of considering those experiences results in what they refer to as „short sighted“ (p. 339). A more learner-centered approach on intercultural aspects of information literacy was offered by Nowrin et al. (2019). It is criticised that – even though there are more and more offers of multi-lingual information literacy – most of them stay on the surface by just translating the content. In contrast to this practice, fostering information literacy should consider the learner’s special requirements based on their backgrounds. In the authors’ opinion, the generic approach of information literacy content is more suitable for international environments than specific information literacy, since generic material can be adapted depending on the learning and learner situation. Nevertheless do the authors recommend further research in the field of intercultural information literacy to improve the already existing information literacy models.


ACRL (2016). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education | Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework (last accessed 04.03.21).

American Library Association (2000). Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Retrieved from https://alair.ala.org/bitstream/handle/11213/7668/
%20Higher%20Education.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (last accessed 04.03.21).

Hicks, A., & Lloyd, A. (2016). It takes a community to build a framework: information literacy within intercultural settings. Journal of information science, 42(3), 334-343.

Nowrin, S., Robinson, L., & Bawden, D. (2019). Multi-lingual and multi-cultural information literacy: perspectives, models and good practice. Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication, 68(3), 207-222. Retrieved from https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/20969/1/ (last accessed 04.03.21).

UNESCO (2013). Global media and information literacy (MIL) assessment framework: country readiness and competencies. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000224655/PDF/224655engpdf.
multi (last accessed 04.03.21).