Information literacy in the programmatic university accreditation standards of select professions in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia

Cara Bradley
2013, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 44-68


University accreditation schemes, in some form or other, are ubiquitous among English-language speaking countries around the world. Some countries employ national or regional accreditation processes, and a few authors have explored the role of information literacy (IL) in these institution-wide accreditation practices. Little, however, has been written about IL  in the context of accreditation standards developed by various professions to regulate the quality of university programmes educating future professionals in the field. This paper investigates the potential of these professional accreditation standards to advance the IL  cause and give it a higher profile on campus. It undertakes a qualitative content analysis of the professional accreditation standards for three professions-- nursing, social work, and engineering –in Canada, the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), and Australia to determine:

  • If (and in what context) the term IL is used in the accreditation criteria
  • Other terms/language used in the accreditation criteria to describe IL  and associated skills and competencies
  • Correlations between outcomes outlined in the accreditation documents and IL competencies outlined by the library profession

The study identifies trends, both within specific professions, and within the documents produced by each of the four countries under consideration. It reports significant variation in the language used in the professions to describe the concept of IL, highlighting the alternative language used in the various professions to describe this ability. The study also maps outcomes outlined in the accreditation documents to the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL’s) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education ((ACRL 2000) in order to identify areas of overlapping concern. In doing so, this study helps familiarise librarians with the accreditation standards in several subjects, and provides a model for librarians to use in analysing accreditation standards in other subject areas in order to advance IL  on their campuses.


This article is based on a paper presented at LILAC 2013



information literacy; accreditation; standards; academic libraries; undergraduate education; engineering; social work; nursing; Canada; UK;US; Australia

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