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Unique or ubiquitous: information literacy instruction outside academia

Miriam L. Matteson (School of Library and Information Science, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA)
Beate Gersch (Lamont Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 3 April 2019

Issue publication date: 24 April 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how US public libraries offer information literacy (IL) instruction to their patrons.


The study is a content analysis of eight library websites to determine passive IL instruction and active literacy instruction.


Library web guides offer passive IL instruction by highlighting resources patrons may wish to access to resolve information inquiries. Further, the authors found that a little less than 50 per cent of library programming offers some IL instruction, the majority of which relates to helping patrons learn to use tools to create information products.


IL is the ability to recognize the need for information, to effectively find information to meet that need and to use information for some purpose or goal. Academic, school and public libraries believe that understanding and using information critically and effectively bring gains to an individual and to society. However, they diverge in how and why they engage in IL instruction. The authors’ findings suggest that less than half of the libraries surveyed are providing active IL instruction, despite the recognition of the benefits IL provides.



Matteson, M.L. and Gersch, B. (2019), "Unique or ubiquitous: information literacy instruction outside academia", Reference Services Review, Vol. 47 No. 1, pp. 73-84.



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