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Development of a framework for digital literacy

Julia Feerrar (Department of University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 12 June 2019




Institutions seeking to develop or expand digital literacy programs face the challenge of navigating varied definitions for digital literacy itself. In answer to this challenge, this paper aims to share a process for developing a shared framework for digital literacy at one institution, including drawing on themes in existing frameworks, soliciting campus feedback and making revisions.


A draft digital literacy framework was created following the work of an initial library task force. Focus groups were conducted to gather feedback on the framework and to identify areas for future development.


Focus groups yielded 38 written responses. Feedback themes related to gaps in the framework, structural suggestions and common challenges for learners. Themes in focus group feedback led to several framework revisions, including the addition of Curation as a competency area, the removal of information communication technologies as its own competency area, and the inclusion of Learner rather than Student at the center of the framework.

Practical implications

The approaches described in this case study can be adapted by those looking to create a shared framework or definition for digital literacy on their campuses, as well as to create or revise definitions for other related literacies.


This case study presents an adaptable process for getting started with broad digital literacy initiatives, within the context of existing digital literacy frameworks worldwide.



The author would like to acknowledge the members of the Digital Literacy Task Force: Annette Bailey, Marc Brodsky, Michael Kucsak, Leslie Mathews, Liz McVoy, Stefanie Metko, Andi Ogier and Ginny Pannabecker. The author would also like to thank Amanda MacDonald and Trevor Finney for their contributions to the digital literacy framework.

This research was conducted with approval from the Virginia Tech Institutional Review Board, project number 17-543.


Feerrar, J. (2019), "Development of a framework for digital literacy", Reference Services Review, Vol. 47 No. 2, pp. 91-105.



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