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What New Things Can I Do?: The Roles and Strengths of Teaching Librarians (ACRL, 2017)

Taking a bit of time this summer to catch up on my professional reading, particularly as it relates to instruction, I once again happened across The Roles and Strengths of Teaching Librarians (approved by the ACRL Board of Directors, April 28, 2017). I had observed the advent of this reimagining of the 2007 Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators a little more than a year previously, while in the throes of an end-of-semester blur, but at the time I had filed it away as something to come back to when I could afford it closer attention.

The document describes shifts in thinking about teaching in libraries, precipitated in part by the shift from Standards to Framework in thinking about what and how we teach. Our profession has seen a rapid evolution of skills and responsibilities, and there was a desire to articulate a perspective inclusive of the broader range of work that is being done, the variety of institutional contexts, and the different ways we practice teaching-related work in libraries across our careers. The new document provides a conceptual model of seven roles, and a description of the strengths a librarian might need in order to thrive in each of those roles: advocate, coordinator, instructional designer, lifelong learner, leader, teacher, and teaching partner. The document stresses that these roles can and often do overlap, that individual librarians may find they identify with some of these roles more strongly than with others, and that it is not necessary (and may even be a little crazy to think) that any one librarian would or should possess all of them.

The document suggests certain benefits to this re-conceptualization. If you’ve ever found it challenging to describe the sometimes unique and somewhat abstract teaching work you do, this new model may help you name, describe, and situate your practice relative to the other work of the academic enterprise. Four to eight strengths are listed relative to each of the seven roles. For example, as a teaching partner, you may “[bring an] information literacy perspective and expertise to the partnership,” and as a lifelong learner, “[actively participate] in discussions on teaching and learning with colleagues online and in other forums.” If one goal is to be able to think about and talk about the myriad ways we support learning in libraries, this tool has a lot of flexibility. However, the idea that struck me most in reviewing the document is the notion that, with a reinvigorated and perhaps clearer conceptualization of the teaching-centered practice of academic librarians, we might ask ourselves the question: what new things can I do? As acknowledged by the framers, this document is both reflective of actual practice and aspirational.

As a bonus, I also found myself interested by the process of the revision task force – how they actually arrived at the conceptual model, roles, and strengths. So I encourage you to take a look, if you haven’t already. There’re still a few weeks left before the end of summer and the beginning of chaos.


Accreditation Agencies

Middle States Commission on Higher Education
CUNY’s accrediting body. 
Information Literacy and Accreditation Agencies (Association of College & Research Libraries)
Reviews the presence of information literacy in various accreditation standards.

Information Literacy Standards — Middle States

Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education
Middle States’ standards for accreditation, revised 2011. They require information literacy embedded and assessed in the higher education curriculum. See standards 11 and 12 in particular.
Developing Research & Communication Skills: Guidelines for Information Literacy in the Curriculum
A publication from Middle States offering guidelines and specific suggestions for integrating information literacy throughout the curriculum.  Download the executive summary. Of particular use: “Profile of an Information Literate Student,” a list of student learning outcomes (p. 8), and Learning Goals across Academic Levels, a rubric for information literacy assessment (pp. 11-12).

Information Literacy Framework and Standards

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education
The Framework was filed by the ACRL Board on February 2, 2015. Download the Framework as a .pdf)

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education
These standards were reviewed by the ACRL Standards Committee and approved by the Board of Directors of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) on January 18, 2000, at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in San Antonio, Texas. These standards were also endorsed by the American Association for Higher Education (October 1999) and the Council of Independent Colleges (February 2004). A  PDF of this document is available.

Information Literacy Standards in the Disciplines

ACRL maintains guidelines, standards, and frameworks by topic area, including information literacy and instruction guidelines, standards, and frameworks by discipline.


  1. Inside the Library Classroom
  2. Working with Faculty (in the disciplines)
  3. Further Reading