“Being literate about something”: discipline-based information literacy in higher education



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This report examines how academic librarians and theorists have discussed the issue of discipline-based information literacy instructional approaches since the publication of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education in 2000. As Kate Manuel has recently noted, the Standards balance outcomes and indicators of universal or general information-literacy skills with more discipline-specific skills. Prior to the publication of the ACRL Standards, Stephen Plum argued that disciplinary standards can provide valuable frameworks for library instruction; more recent theorists have focused attention on general skills, some arguing that discipline-based skills are the province of subject faculty, others suggesting that discipline-based skills are modeled on more general skills, still others suggesting that liaison librarians work collaboratively with faculty to address discipline-specific information needs. Based on a literature survey, my report is a thought piece addressing the following interlocking questions: how do discipline-based skills relate to more general skills? Who should teach discipline-based information literacy? Is information literacy a discipline in its own right? What role might the subject specialist play in discipline-based information literacy initiatives?