What Is Information Competency?
In a vastly changed world, college
students are faced with mounds of information. According
to a study by OCLC, a majority of students believe they
can accomplish all of their research online using Google
or even Wikipedia. As instructors, we must both teach
our students the critical difference between “hard”
research and popular culture, and teach the vital
information skills that graduates will need in the
business or professional world.
As defined by
the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges
(1998), information competency is the ability to:
recognize the need for
acquire and evaluate
organize and maintain
interpret and communicate
In other words, an
information-competent student or graduate doesn’t just
know how to find information; s/he has the ability to
determine whether the information is useful and
appropriate. “Learning how to learn” (Palomar College,
2005) will assist students both in college and in life.
In addition, learning the difference between reliable
and non-reliable information will help to return
critical thinking to the position it once had in the
How Will We Teach Information Competency?
It is in faculty’s best interest to
teach information competency partly because information
literate students are independent-thinking students
(Dickinson, 2006). Information competency enhances your
own curriculum and produces students who actively
participate in class discussions and who ask questions.
It encourages professional development of faculty and
The state Academic Senate reports that
“Community college faculty have a primary responsibility
in determining curriculum and developing a program for
information competency on the local campus.” In other
words, information competency doesn’t happen without
input and involvement from faculty.
Teaching information competency has to
go beyond simple library orientations. By incorporating
the use and evaluation of information into your personal
curriculum, you engage and involve your students. The
American Library Association (2000) sees this
curriculum-based approach as a learning environment in
which “inquiry is the norm, problem solving becomes the
focus, and thinking critically is part of the process.
Such learning environments require information literacy
competencies” (p. 5). In other words, using an
information competency approach could make your teaching
Many colleges across California are
incorporating information competency into the
curriculum. Some now have an IC requirement for
graduation. As faculty and administrators recognize the
benefits (not the least of which is higher FTEs), more
community colleges are likely to follow their lead.
Faculty who adopt these measures will be ahead of the
To find out more about including
Information Competency in your lessons, talk with a
College librarian or visit some of the websites under
Information Competency programs are in
use at many community colleges and universities. Iowa
State’s program incorporates IC into the curriculum.
Each participating class works with a librarian and
information concepts are included in the syllabus. For
sample syllabi, visit
The CSU system currently allows each
campus to adopt its own plan for teaching a set of core
An example is CSU Monterey Bay, which includes a
Technology and Information requirement for graduation (http://csumb.edu/site/x4322.xml).
Information competency is likely to be
adopted at an increasing number of CSU campuses;
preparation for this change is another reason for IC
inclusion at the community college level. Cuyamaca
has implemented an integrated program in which courses
include assignments using information competency
concepts. Perhaps the most comprehensive local program
is at Glendale College (http://gcc.glendale.edu/library/instruction/documents/RSRarticle.pdf).
Their curriculum consists of an integrated approach
combined with library instruction classes and online
At least 15 California community
colleges currently implement an Information
Competency/Literacy requirement for the AA degree. For
Ohlone College requires an
Saddleback College students
meet the requirement through three Library-taught
courses. These courses, like Glendale’s, articulate to
the CSU system.
Yes, but what can I do in the
The Library at Rio Hondo College is
here to help faculty and students with all facets of
information competency. We encourage you to schedule a
Library orientation for your classes. During this
50-minute presentation, students will be introduced to
the idea that there are different kinds of information.
They will learn what resources the Library contains, and
the basics of how to choose information.
At Rio Hondo, students have the
opportunity to take LIB 101, Fundamentals of Library
Research. This three-unit class provides more in-depth
instruction than workshops or orientations alone.
The Library also offers “Drop-in”
workshops on a variety of information topics. These will
elaborate on the concepts introduced at Orientation.
Topics include Problem-Based Research, Evaluating
Websites, Using Databases, and more. Many instructors
offer extra credit to students who attend these
For more information or to schedule a workshop
e-mail the librarians at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call x3484, or come to the
Reference Desk on the 2nd or 3rd floors.
Information Literacy for Faculty
From the Association of College and
Research Libraries. This is an excellent concise
introduction to information competency, intended for
non-Library faculty. Contains a basic layout of the
issues and discusses the role of faculty,
administrators, and library staff.
Integrating Information Literacy in
a First-Year University Course
A white paper presented to the World
Library and Information Congress. Provides a case study
example of a college course incorporating information
Integrating Information Literacy
Into the Curriculum
Written by a university professor,
this is a PowerPoint-style presentation
Integration of Learning Outcomes
Intended mostly for CSU faculty, these
pages nevertheless provide excellent tips on how to make
Information Competency a part of your teaching
Lindstrom, J. & Shonrock, D. (2006).
Faculty-librarian collaboration to achieve integration
of information literacy. Reference & User Services
Quarterly, 46(1), 18–23.
Mackey, T., & Jacobson, T. (2005).
Information literacy: A collaborative endeavor.
College Teaching, 53(4), 140–144.
Spence, L. (2004). The usual doesn't
work: Why we need problem-based learning. Portal:
Libraries and the Academy, 4(4), 485–494.
American Library Association. (2000).
Information literacy competency standards for higher
education. Retrieved April 2, 2007 from
Dickinson, G. (2006). The spirit of
inquiry in information literacy. Teacher Librarian,
Moore, D., Brewster, S., Dorroh, C., &
Moreau, M. (2002). Information competency in a two-year
college: One size does not fit all. Retrieved April 4,
Online Computer Library Center. (2005).
College students’ perceptions of libraries and
information resources. Retrieved March 2, 2007 from
Palomar College. (2009). What is
information competency? Retrieved March 21, 2007 from
developed by Bill Smith, 5/2007