CIL at the Pfau Library

The Pfau Library’s Critical Information Literacy (CIL) Program is designed to help students develop a critical consciousness about the information environment. Our program is based on the belief that becoming informed requires active participation; continual analysis of one’s own and others’ assumptions; consideration about how information is created, produced and distributed; and the ethical use of intellectual property. This commitment serves the Pfau Library’s mission, which includes “supporting lifelong information literacy, critical thinking, and societal engagement,” and is an essential piece of the library’s core value of teaching and learning.

The Pfau Library’s CIL Program-level Outcomes

  1. In an effort to combat library anxiety and to highlight ways library faculty and staff can assist students in their inquiry, students identify the library as a place to get research help and support.
  2. Recognizing that access to information is a matter of social justice and a requisite for engagement in community and university life, students strategically access and utilize library resources (subscription databases, textbooks on reserve, etc.) instead of paying for these resources out of pocket.
  3. Valuing the ability to ask questions and solve problems through inquiry, students apply information literacy research skills and concepts to their coursework and beyond.
  4. Noting that a variety of socioeconomic dynamics shape information, students demonstrate a critical understanding of the information environment, specifically of the ways in which information is created, disseminated, accessed, and used.

The Pfau Library’s Information Literacy Program Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Students explore the economic and social implications of free and fee-based information access in order to critically analyze the information environment.
  2. Students create and use effective search strategies in order to engage in exploratory, inquiry-based research processes.
  3. Students distinguish between popular and scholarly information sources in order to select the sources whose purpose, authority, and audience are consistent with their information needs.
  4. Students examine how information changes over time in order to determine the values, perspectives, and processes that shape it.
  5. Students recognize the essential value of attribution in order to engage ethically and legally in scholarly conversations.

The above outcomes are informed by the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) definition of information literacy:

“Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning” (ACRL, 2015).

Read more about information literacy in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.


Critical Information Literacy (CIL) versus Traditional Information Literacy

Traditional approaches to information literacy focus on skills, such as:

  • Locating information
  • Evaluating information
  • Using information

These skills are all important, and one needs to be competent in them in order to conduct college-level research, but there’s so much more that plays into information literacy.

Critical information literacy not only attends to the skills listed above, but it also asks that students think about how information works. Thus, CIL focuses on key concepts, such as:

How information is created.

  • What are the processes that go into the creation of specific information sources?
  • How is authority socially constructed?
  • How does the information creator’s social location or point of view influence the information source?

How information is disseminated and accessed.

  • Why is it that students cannot access most scholarly sources on the open web and instead need to use the library?
  • What are the societal implications of disparities in information access?
  • Are there alternative models that might lessen such disparities?

How scholarly conversations work.

  • Why do we have to cite our work?
  • How do citation conventions reflect the disciplines?
  • In which ways do we follow similar citation conventions in the real world and online?

For more on our information literacy program, see: Pfau Library Critical Information Literacy Program_ Design & Vision.