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Information Competency for Faculty at Rio Hondo College

What is IC?    |    How will we teach it?    |    Is it working?   |    What can I do in the meantime?    |   Resources    |    References
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 information,
  • acquire and evaluate information,
  • organize and maintain information, and
  • interpret and communicate information

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 curriculum.

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 staff.

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 more effective.

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 curve.

To find out more about including Information Competency in your lessons, talk with a College librarian or visit some of the websites under “Resources.”

Is it working?                                                                                                                                                  [top]

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 information competencies. An example is CSU Monterey Bay, which includes a Technology and Information requirement for graduation (

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 College ( has implemented an integrated program in which courses include assignments using information competency concepts. Perhaps the most comprehensive local program is at Glendale College ( Their curriculum consists of an integrated approach combined with library instruction classes and online tutorials.

At least 15 California community colleges currently implement an Information Competency/Literacy requirement for the AA degree. For example, Ohlone College requires an exam, while 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 meantime?

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 workshops.

For more information or to schedule a workshop

e-mail the librarians at 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 competency.

Integrating Information Literacy Into the Curriculum

Written by a university professor, this is a PowerPoint-style presentation                                                            [top]

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 experience.

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, 34(2), 23­–27.

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, 2007 from

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

Researched and developed by Bill Smith, 5/2007
Updated: 10/7/13


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