Many different organisations have put forward definitions of information literacy.

Chartered Institute of Library Information Professionals (CILIP)

“Knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.” 

CILIP have also created more in depth guidance on the skills required to be information literate.

The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL)

“Information literate people will demonstrate an awareness of how they gather, use, manage, synthesise and create information and data in an ethical manner and will have the information skills to do so effectively.”

See also the SCONUL Seven Pillars model.

A New Curriculum for Information Literacy (ANCIL)

ANCIL was developed as the result of a research project by Emma Coonan and Jane Secker, the aim of which was to develop a new approach to information literacy teaching and learning that was suitable for the skills required of a 21st century higher education student.

“Information literacy is a continuum of skills, behaviours, approaches and values that is so deeply entwined with the uses of information as to be a fundamental element of learning, scholarship and research. It is the defining characteristic of the discerning scholar, the informed and judicious citizen, and the autonomous learner.” (ANCIL definition of information literacy, 2011)

ANCIL information literacy diagram


Research Information Network (RIN)

RIN supports the both CILIP and SCONUL’s definition of information literacy, but argues that “it is important to adopt a broader interpretation of information literacy, which (i) recognises that ‘information’ must be taken to include research data; and (ii) clearly also encompasses the ability to manage, and where appropriate preserve and curate one’s own information and data.

Find out more on their website.

NHS Education for Scotland

“An information literate person can recognise an information need and is able to apply the set of transferable skills, attitudes and behaviours needed to find, retrieve, assess, manage and apply information in any situation, throughout life.

Information literacy supports individual and organisational learning, creativity and innovation and contributes to improved healthcare delivery through a continuously evolving, reliable information base.”

They have also developed a framework that can be used in the healthcare context.

Joint Information Services Committee (Jisc)

Jisc defines digital literacies as:

“the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society.”


The Prague declaration of 2003 defines information literacy as encompassing

“knowledge of one’s information concerns and needs, and the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, organize and effectively create, use and communicate information to address issues or problems at hand; it is a prerequisite for participating effectively in the Information Society, and is part of the basic human right of life long learning.”

The Alexandria proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning of 2005 states that:

“Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion of all nations.”

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL)

ACRL adopted an Information Literacy Framework in 2016 which offers the following definition:

“Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”

ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2000) were rescinded in 2016.