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University Libraries Last updated: 8/28/12
Instruction Services
Plan for Information Literacy at the University of Rhode Island
  1. Introduction
  2. Relationship of Information Literacy to Higher Education
  3. The Information Literacy Program
  4. Incremental Implementation of Information Literacy at the University Libraries
  5. Information Literacy Support Services
  6. Coordination of Information Literacy Efforts
  7. Assessment and Evaluation


I. Introduction

In the Information Age it is a necessity for all URI students, staff, and faculty to be accomplished information users. Recognizing this, the University Libraries’ reference librarians have designed and offer an incremental long range plan that provides library instruction based on the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (approved in 2000).

The ACRL competencies support and address the needs of individuals to become life-long learners. “Information literacy is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed and assume greater control over their own learning.” American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.)

A. What is Information Literacy?

Information literacy is a set of abilities enabling individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."

American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.)

B. Why Information Literacy?

“Have you ever heard of Data Smog? A term coined by author David Shenk, it refers to the idea that too much information can create a barrier in our lives. This data smog is produced by the amount of information, the speed at which it comes to us from all directions, the need to make fast decisions, and the feeling of anxiety that we are making decisions without having ALL the information that is available or that we need.

Information literacy is the solution to Data Smog. It allows us to cope by giving us the skills to know when we need information and where to locate it effectively and efficiently. It includes the technological skills needed to use the modern library as a gateway to information. It enables us to analyze and evaluate the information we find, thus giving us confidence in using that information to make a decision or create a product."

"Introduction to Information Literacy," Association of College and Research Libraries.

II. Relationship of Information Literacy to Higher Education

A. External Standards

New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Standards

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) standards specify that graduates of New England higher education institutions should demonstrate information literacy competency including the capability for life-long learning. (See standards 4.7 and 7.10)

Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

Standard 1 The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.
Standard 2 The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.
Standard 3 The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
Standard 4 The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
Standard 5 The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.


B. University of Rhode Island – Supporting Statements

1. University of Rhode Island Mission Statement:

The University of Rhode Island is the State’s public learner-centered research university. We are a community joined in a common quest for knowledge. The University is committed to enriching the lives of its students through its land, sea, and urban grant traditions. URI is the only public institution in Rhode Island offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional students the distinctive educational opportunities of a major research university. Our undergraduate, graduate, and professional education, research, and outreach serve Rhode Island and beyond. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are united in one common purpose: to learn and lead together. Embracing Rhode Island’s heritage of independent thought, we value:

  • Creativity and Scholarship
  • Diversity, Fairness, and Respect
  • Engaged Learning and Civic Involvement
  • Intellectual and Ethical Leadership

2. University of Rhode Island Libraries Vision and Mission Statements

Vision Statement

“In the twenty-first century, the University of Rhode Island Libraries, utilizing the newest technologies, will insure optimum access to, and delivery of, information for the University and State of Rhode Island. As partners in the teaching, research, and service missions of the University, the libraries will continue to acquire, organize, and preserve materials in all formats and provide instruction in their use.”

Mission Statement

“The library is an academic division within the University which has a mandate to serve the knowledge and information needs of the University Community and the general public. The library is the principal campus resource for human creativity and memory in traditional and electronic formats providing a truly global information environment.

The library is responsive to students and their instructional needs, to faculty and their teaching and research needs, and to administrators and their information needs. Librarians are committed to safeguarding intellectual freedom, to preserving and organizing the institution's records, to providing sophisticated reference services, and to engaging in bibliographic exchange on both regional and national scales.

The library provides an environment conducive to scholarly research and study. It is a vital and interdisciplinary resource whose support by the University exemplifies its commitment to educational excellence.”

3. Information Literacy Mission Statement

The University Libraries are dedicated to the development of a University community that is information literate, as defined by the American Library Association. We offer the University community opportunities to become effective, efficient information consumers for the 21st century. We actively promote our instructional services as the bridge to information literacy empowerment between our patrons and their research needs.

The University Libraries’ faculty encourages the development of an information literate University community in the following ways:

  • By collaborating with colleagues across the campus to integrate information literacy into academic programs.
  • By promoting the use of library resources in all formats, inasmuch as familiarity with both print and electronic formats is essential.
  • By providing instruction formally and informally, to individuals and to classes, in person and online.
  • By providing programmatic instruction that addresses the needs of the University community.
  • By working to make every interaction at the library, especially reference questions, a learning opportunity for users.
  • By evaluating the effectiveness of our approaches and regularly renewing our own skills.

Approved by the Public Services Department
March 21, 2008

Used with permission of Ramapo College, George T. Potter Library.

4. A Teaching Library

The University Libraries are teaching libraries. We actively promote our services as the bridge to information empowerment between our patrons and their research needs. The goal of the Information Literacy Plan is to build on our library instruction and orientation foundations by adding critical thinking and information concepts to our program. We strive to offer the URI community opportunities to become effective, efficient information consumers for the 21st century.

III. The Information Literacy Program

The Information Literacy Program focuses on undergraduate and graduate students as well as the teaching and research needs of the campus faculty.

A. Goals

  1. To develop independent critical thinkers
  2. To relieve “information anxiety” or the perplexing sense of confusion that many students feel when faced with university-level research
  3. To support the goals and objectives of the University's teaching mission
  4. To support the goals and objectives of the University’s General Education program (as an important subset of #3):
    • the ability to think critically in order to solve problems and question the nature and sources of authority
    • the ability to use the methods and materials characteristic of each knowledge area with an understanding of the interrelationship among and the interconnectedness of the core areas
    • a commitment to intellectual curiosity and life-long learning
    • an openness to new ideas with the social skills necessary for both teamwork and leadership
    • the ability to think independently and be self-directed; to make informed choices and take initiative

B. Objectives

  1. To offer programmatic incremental planned information literacy instruction
    1. Deliver information literacy concepts and skills programmatically through URI 101, the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and the Talent Development pre-matriculation program.
    2. Deliver course-related information literacy instruction in conjunction with credit courses in other programs and disciplines.
    3. Deliver credit-bearing information literacy courses.
  2. Develop an undergraduate curriculum mapping project with three stages:
    1. Identify all courses that traditionally receive information literacy instruction from librarians. Further, to identify which information literacy standards are delivered in each of those courses.
    2. Identify General Education courses that have identified themselves as incorporating the “Use of information technology” skill and that are using Web-based research as their skill. Continue to consult with University committees that address information literacy as a content area of academic programs and courses.
    3. Identify capstone courses in each college or program and act in a library liaison role to develop advanced information literacy opportunities for students involved in their capstone projects.

C. Addressing the Needs of Students

To address the information literacy needs of our students we have implemented an incremental program teaching information literacy competencies. The program addresses the competencies as determined by library faculty in consultation with the Association of College & Research Libraries Information Literacy Competency Standards (see II a, above).

The program is available to all URI students by:

  • Providing opportunities for all students to achieve the competencies outlined by the program.
  • Developing measurable outcomes and a means for student accountability.
  • Coordinating with faculty of other departments or colleges to identify the information literacy needs of each discipline.
  • Integrating the concept of information literacy into the curriculum wherever possible.
  • Offering students a variety of ways to achieve the competencies in information literacy.

D. Addressing the Needs of Faculty

The information literacy plan involves faculty in two ways. Faculty play an essential role in collaborating with librarians to deliver information literacy competencies to students. Through this collaboration, librarians will better be able to integrate information literacy into the curriculum in a programmatic way. As well, awareness of information literacy concepts and skills are important to faculty in their own research and teaching.

To address the information literacy needs and awareness of URI faculty we offer the following:

  • New faculty orientation to introduce the library’s information literacy program.
  • Workshops for all faculty to introduce new library materials and services.
  • Consultations with other teaching faculty to develop models of collaborative instruction where information literacy skills can be built into the curriculum.
  • Promote currently existing library services and expertise to facilitate the research process.
  • Participate as facilitators outlining integration of information literacy skills in course material for the Instruction Development Program’s Fall Faculty Workshops and Teaching Fellows Program.

IV. Incremental Implementation of Information Literacy at the University Libraries

A. Prior to matriculation

All incoming Talent Development students will attend an introductory session in the library to acquaint them with the services the library offers and to introduce them to the HELIN catalog. Many high school students enrolled in WRT104 through the Early Credit High School Program in Composition will visit the library for instruction in using reference databases to support their assignments.

B. Freshman/Sophomore Years

By the end of their freshman/sophomore years, all students will have been introduced to ACRL information literacy standards through enrollment in a variety of programs such as URI 101 and its designated alternatives, (MUS 119 and EGR105); WRT 104, 105 or 106; and/or through enrollment in a 3-credit LIB course.

  1. URI 101 Library Experience program will introduce students to the library as place and to information seeking skills as the first step to information literacy. In URI 101, students will:
    • Students will identify primary service areas of the library in order to become familiar with the building.
    • Students will discuss searching the open web in order to evaluate a source's suitability for college-level research.
    • Students will use the Library catalog in order to find books.
    • Students will explore features of the Library's web site in order to locate services and materials for college-level research.

  2. The Writing program instruction session consists of a concept-mapping pre-activity, in-library instruction, and optional follow-up session. In WRT 104, 105 and 106, sessions students will:
    • Use a concept map to write a research question and identify its main concepts in order to formulate a search strategy.
    • Use their search strategy in a general reference database in order to identify citations to appropriate articles.
    • Use library resources in order to retrieve the articles.
    • Evaluate their articles in order to determine their credibility based on authority, currency, accuracy, relevance, and bias.

  3. EGR 105 modules introduce incoming Engineering students to the library building and services, as well as basic information seeking behaviors focusing on Engineering needs. These sessions replace the URI 101 sessions for the Engineering students. EGR 105 students will:
    • Identify primary service areas of the library and its web site.
    • Use the Library catalog in order to find books.
    • Use a engineering reference database in order to identify citations to appropriate articles.
    • Use library resources in order to retrieve the articles.
    • Evaluate their articles in order to determine their credibility based on authority, currency, accuracy, relevance, and bias.
    • Understand the importance of information gathering skills in Engineering work.

  4. LIB 120: Introduction to Information Literacy Students have the option of taking LIB 120: Introduction to Information Literacy (3 credits) which is a University College General Education option under the English Communication area.

  5. LIB140: Special Topics in Information Literacy – This one credit hour course can be developed to deliver incremental subject specific information literacy concepts and skills for any subject content course. 1 credit.

  6. LIB 220: Issues of the Information Age - Critical current issues concerning the use of information are examined and explored through the use of the research process. Students will use information literacy skills and concepts to collaborate and create projects detailing research in areas of global concern. Emphasis will be placed on the interdisciplinary nature of information and on the use of research techniques as a foundation for informed citizenship. 3 credits.

  7. Subject Specific Course Support -- Working with teaching faculty, Librarians teach library instruction sessions to support the goals of specific classes as well as the general information literacy goals of the University.

C. Junior Year

In their junior year, students’ course work becomes more subject-specific as most of the courses they take are in their major area of study. By the end of their junior year, students will have strengthened their mastery of information literacy concepts and skills. Information literacy in the junior year will be delivered primarily through the use of course-related library instruction sessions. Library faculty collaborate with faculty members teaching courses in the students’ major areas of study to design assignments, exercises, and instruction that emphasize subject-specific concepts and resources.

D. Senior Year

By the time students have completed their senior year of study they will have been exposed to and practiced all information literacy concepts and skills.

Capstone Projects

Departments and programs on campus will be encouraged to integrate information literacy competencies into student capstone projects. Librarians will provide assistance in the form of guidelines and assessment tools.

E. Graduate Students

Some graduate students arrive directly from their undergraduate studies; others are just returning to school after a period of time. All graduate students are beginning a new level of research that is far more sophisticated than they have previously experienced.

To prepare these students librarians provide:

  • Library orientation facilitated by subject-specialist liaisons
  • Seminars in subject specific research processes
  • Special sessions focused to familiarize incoming International graduate students with the resources and institutional culture of an American university library
  1. BIO 508/LIB508 Seminar in Biological Literature: The literature of the life sciences will be covered based on the needs of the class. Primary research journals, databases, search strategies, Web sites in the life sciences, citation indexes and more will be covered. This course is offered in the spring and is open to graduate students and upper level undergraduates with permission of the instructor. 1 credit.

  2. International Student Orientation Program: This library instruction programs is provided to incoming international students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The sessions deal with library services, using the catalog and periodical databases, and the basics of discipline-specific searching.

V. Information Literacy Support Services

A. Consultation/Collaboration with Faculty

Library faculty can provide instruction assistance to subject faculty in information research skills. Together faculty can design exercises and assignments to assist students in completing in-class information research exercises and research-based assignments.

B. Subject Specific Instruction Services

Librarians teach methods of research, sources of information, and evaluation of information tailored to fit the specific research and curricular needs of students in particular courses. Librarians will work with subject faculty to design appropriate information literacy instruction articulated with the goals/objectives of the college, department or program. Instruction plans for each department will identify specific IL competency needs for each program and outline when and how the IL competencies will be addressed. Sessions, should, as much as possible, follow an incremental design, with sessions directed primarily at more advanced students addressing the IL skills in a more advanced fashion.

C. Individualized Research Consultations

One-on-one research consultations are available by appointment with one of the Library’s Subject Selector/Specialists.

D. Online Learning and Distance Education

Goal: Appropriate Information literacy instruction services will be provided in order to support the University’s online curricula and distance learning opportunities for students.


  • Propose Online and Distance Learning Commons Librarian position who will coordinate online instruction efforts within the library and work with the Online Education Office.
  • Librarians will collaborate and consult with the University’s Online Learning Office to develop models of information literacy instruction appropriate for various online learning and distance education programs and courses.
  • Develop instruction and consulting outreach plan both for instructors who teach and for students enrolled in research and capstone courses.
  • Embed URI Library LibGuides in all Sakai course shells.

E. Reference Desk

  • As stated in the Public Services Department Information Literacy Mission Statement, librarians will work to make every interaction at the library, especially reference questions, a learning opportunity for users.
  • Informal one-on-one instruction in the use of general and specific library resources delivered via face to face, phone, and instant messaging.

VI. Coordination of Information Literacy Efforts

A. Opportunities for Students in the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies

The University Libraries Public Services Department may offer GSLIS students opportunities to experience/train/develop as information literacy librarians through the following programs:

  1. Reference Student Assistants work with the library faculty at the reference desk and provide introductory information literacy instruction to URI 101 and WRT 104 students.
  2. LSC595 Professional Field Experience (PFE): Opportunities for instruction focused PFEs exist and are designed in consultation with the Chair of Public Services and the Head of Instructional Services at the University Libraries.
  3. Professional Field Experiences as teaching interns for LIB 120 and LIB 220 are available for GSLIS students on an occasional basis.

VII. Assessment and Evaluation

Each program/course should have, built within its structure, clear and measurable goals by which the success and effectiveness of the project can be assessed. As much as possible, the goals should use a standardized language and methodology, so the many and varied instruction sessions can be assessed across the entire IL program.

Assessment of information literacy instruction is an ongoing process. Each instruction program has identified student learning outcomes and an assessment tool. See Appendix III for examples of current assessment tools.

Appendix I. Delivering Information Literacy Competencies

Level of Focus: S - slight M - moderate I - intensive V - variable


Appendix II. Menu of Instruction Options

Instruction can be tailored for introductory, intermediate or advanced levels. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Electronic database demonstrations with time for hands-on practice
  • How to choose and use electronic and print periodical indexes
  • Instruction in general and subject-specific reference material
  • How to use the HELIN library catalog
  • Internet search strategy and evaluation
  • Managing Citations/Academic Integrity/Plagiarism
  • Tour (General or Specific)
  • Creation of online assignment research guides

Appendix III. Assessment Tools and Techniques

Current information literacy programmatic instruction and assessment tools:

  • International Student Orientation - attendees/post-session surveys
  • Talent Development - pre-/post-test, post-session surveys
  • URI 101 - online post-session surveys
  • WRT Program - online student survey, instructor surveys
  • EGR 105 - students/post-session surveys
  • LIB120 - quizzes, project rubrics, comprehensive exam, e-portfolio (True Outcomes)
  • LIB220 - project rubrics, e-portfolio, True Outcomes.

Approved by the Public Services Department Faculty November 2005

2000; revised 2005, 2009, 2011



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