Politics, Policy & International Relations Companion Document on Information Literacy

Mary K. Oberlies, with contributions from Chelsea Nesvig, Sandy Hervieux and Michael David Miller

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) adopted the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education in January 2016. The Framework is centered on six core concepts (frames), organized around information, research, and scholarship that are central to information literacy. It contains knowledge practices and dispositions for each frame which describe how learners can understand and demonstrate the ideas embodied in the frames.

In 2018, the Politics, Policy and International Relations Section (PPIRS) of ACRL began work creating a companion document to the Framework. The Companion Document to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Politics, Policy, and International Relations, highlights how the Framework applies to research competencies for students within politics related fields of study, and demonstrates how each frame might manifest in the real world. The intention behind this document is to provide guidance and support to instruction and research librarians within politics-related fields. This guidance and support applies not only to creating learning goals and objectives for information literacy instruction, but also to conversations with faculty.

The document gathered information from faculty interviews, competency guidelines established by APSA and ISA, and conversations with librarians working in PPIRS disciplines. We asked about student research needs, essential skills students need to learn, and the current focus of information literacy instruction within government, law and political science areas of study.

For each of the six frames, we provided a description of the frame with consideration of policy, politics and international relations and included examples of how it might manifest within the real world context (ex: how might someone demonstrate mental flexibility when searching for information) that we call “Evidence of Frame in Action.” We finished each frame with sample learning goals librarians or faculty might use while teaching this information literacy concept. We kept our descriptions and learning goals intentionally broad, recognizing there are many disciplines under the umbrella of politics, policy, and law; ideally they might serve as a launching pad to create more specific learning objectives and learning activities.

To accompany our formal written document, we created a LibGuide which details each of the frames through the lens of politics related disciplines, but also includes resources for librarians. These include a link to a sandbox site for lesson plans to which librarians can contribute, an infographic that can be shared with faculty to start conversations, and a Padlet for sharing how we’ve worked with faculty. Ideally, these resources can be used to create a bridge between the work faculty and librarians engage in to teach students information literacy skills.

Using the Companion Document

Two liaison librarians, Sandy Hervieux and Michael David Miller, at the McGill University Library used the ACRL Framework to plan an information literacy instruction session for graduate students in public policy. The goal of the session was to provide students in a Policy Lab course with the skills to search for information sources and critically evaluate them in order to create an extensive policy brief. The librarians consulted the PPIRS Companion Document which helped contextualize the frames for public policy and enabled them to map their learning objectives to the appropriate knowledge practices and dispositions. They then used this mapping to create content and learning activities for the session. The librarians found the Companion Document particularly useful to address sources that differ from traditional academic articles such as grey literature and data. The “Evidence of Frames in Action” sections and learning goals were very helpful when designing the instruction session and discussing its goals with the faculty member teaching the class. The librarians delivered a successful workshop and were able to communicate their goals clearly to faculty with the use of the PPIRS Companion to the Framework.

We hope that this document is useful to faculty as well as librarians and welcome opportunities to collaborate with you in working toward student success with information literacy.

Mary K. Oberlies is an Instruction and Research Librarian at William and Mary Libraries and incoming chair of the Politics, Policy, and International Relations Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. She earned her MA in Information Science and Learning Technology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, an MA in Violence, Terrorism, and Security from Queen’s University at Belfast, and a BA in International Studies from Berry College.

The Association of College and Research Libraries is a partner professional association. APSA has agreements with a number of associations to foster collaborative partnerships. Relationships include reciprocal panel allocations at one another’s conferences, as well as participating in interdisciplinary membership exchanges. Find out more here.


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