Critical Information Literacy – an asset for modern libraries!

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Hello everyone! Melony here, and for this blog post I’d like to share some information about one of my favorite library topics and its growing importance, not only in the field of librarianship, but in our day-to-day interactions with information in everyday life – Critical Information Literacy!


Critical Information Literacy (or CIL for short!) is a big library concept to define, and so is best described with a few definitions, which I’d like to break down in a mock-dictionary style with help from a few amazing sources (cited) on the topic: 

Critical Information Literacy [krit-i-kuhl | in-fer-mey-shun | lit-er-uh-see]


1 | “[A] library instruction praxis that promotes critical engagement with information sources, considers student collaborators in knowledge production practices (and creators in their own right), recognizes the affective dimensions of research, and (in some cases) has liberatory aims” (Arcadi, 2010 p.xiii). 

2 | A theoretical framework that “. . .take[s] into account the complex power relationships that undergird all of information, including its creation, presentation, storage, retrieval, and accessibility” (Downey, 2016, p.42). 

So, essentially, CIL takes “information literacy,” a traditional, tried and true focus of librarianship that focuses on knowing how to collect and use information, and makes it innovative for progressive needs and applications. It recognizes that information is oftentimes motive-based, and so, because of the quickly-evolving information landscapes that have come about through online platforms, we all have a greater responsibility to vet information to combat new methods of spreading dis/misinformation!

CIL in YOUR library!

CIL’s overarching goal is to empower information consumers (everyone) with the skills needed to discern reliable information over non-reliable information. This means that CIL is pedagogical/andragogical in nature – making its application in every type of library not only absolutely doable but also evidently necessary. By providing library patrons (of all ages) with the techniques and methods of CIL theory so that they become more critical information consumers, we are, by extension, contributing to healthier information environments! Our library patrons will then, hopefully, go on to incorporate into their daily interactions with information. 

So, whether you’re in a school library, public library, or college library there are numerous resources available to help you apply these tenets into your community’s spaces (hyperlinked are my favorite CIL books for each of these library types!). From simple one-off workshops like critical information scavenger hunts, to longer seminar-style courses that you can host in your libraries, there truly is a lasting impact that CIL can have for our communities’ relationships with information.

Finally, if you’ve, like me, found yourself with your curiosity about CIL lit aflame, ALA will be hosting a 4-week, online class in May! This course will engage students with the theoretical frameworks that inform CIL, as well as equip learners with practical techniques designed to embed CIL tenets into everyday librarianship! I’m very excited about this opportunity, and am very close to signing up. Won’t you join me!? 🙂 


Accardi, M.T., Drabinski, E., & Kumbier, A. (2010). Critical library instruction: Theories and methods. Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press. 

Downey, A. (2016). Critical information literacy: Foundations, inspirations, and ideas. Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press.