About Penn State Library:

The University Libraries at Penn State seek to inspire intellectual discovery and learning through robust information resources and academic collaborations. We pride ourselves on being a world-class research library providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for learning, collaboration, and knowledge creation. The primary means of developing 21st Century skills in our learners is through teaching information literacy. Being information literate in today’s world is critical to being successful. Information literacy for many years meant being able to recognize when information is needed and also be able to locate, evaluate and use that information (see the full report by the American Library Association for more information). More recently, due to the ever-changing nature of information and technology, information literacy is being reframed as a metaliteracy. This transition views information literacy more holistically within learning and includes critical thinking and collaboration at its core.


Emily Rimland, Information Literacy Librarian, Penn State
Victoria Raish, Ph.D. Candidate in Learning, Design, and Technology

Emily Rimland - erimland@psu.eduu
Victoria Raish - victoria@psu.edu


The Penn State information literacy badge set is 10 base level badges which span 3 different topic areas. See diagram at: http://sites.psu.edu/informationliteracybadges/psu-il-badges/

Three badges comprise the “Savvy Searcher” set, three make up the “Questioner of Information” set, and three badges can be found in the “Organizer of Information” set. Each badge requires user’s complete several steps, to demonstrate specific understanding of an information literacy topic. Each step is verified by a librarian or other expert.

Completion of each of the badges in a set will make the earner eligible for a “Meta badge” in that area. Meta badges demonstrate a more thorough proficiency in a given topic area and the recognition they afford can also be used to entice earners to complete more base level badges than they otherwise would have.

For users who wish to demonstrate the ultimate mastery of information literacy, will be the Uber badge (shown in Gold) available soon for anyone who has completed all 3 meta badges and proven their mastery through a cumulative exam and project.


Our badge system is housed in Penn State's badge platform at: http://badgesapp.psu.edu/must_auth.
Through this platform, others can earn our badges; however, our target audience is Penn State undergraduate students. We have done some small scale pilots with badges but hope to work closely with credit courses such as Rhetoric and Composition and Effective Speech in the future in order to see how these badges work when embedded in courses.

Learning Recognized:

One way learning is recognized in our badges is visually. We created information literacy digital badge infographics to visually convey the cognitive processes embedded in the badge steps.(http://sites.psu.edu/informationliteracybadges/psu-il-badges/information-literacy-digital-badges-mapped-to-blooms-taxonomy/) Bloom’s Taxonomy is frequently used to characterize the cognitive processes that students may use when learning.

The intention of using the infographics for the information literacy digital badges is twofold. First, we wanted to present the information literacy digital badges in a more ‘universal’ language so people interested in the badges could understand the types of cognitive processes students use when completing our badges. Second, we wanted to visually represent the processes students are using to the students so they can reflect on if they are obtaining these skills.

Our badges are also recognizing formal information literacy skills. IL skills can be learned within a course but they are not prescribed as part of the curriculum at Penn State (yet!). Therefore, there is an uneven distribution of these skills among students. With these badges, we hope to create more consistent opportunities for students to gain information literacy skills.


Our badges show links and learning artifacts such as reflections, photos, and videos. In many cases, students can use their choice of a variety of web 2.0 tools to submit a learning artifact. Base level badges can also be evidence for earning meta-badges in our system.


Students use a variety of assessments to earn our badges. These include quizzes, reflections, and photos and videos. These items are verified by an expert reviewer in all cases.


In the middle of developing our badges for information literacy skills, the American Library Association published its new Framework for Information Literacy. We knew this would be happening and our badges were aligned with the older set of standards, but we didn't want the forthcoming new Framework to hold up our work. We were delighted to see that the Framework's recommendations supported our research findings about what competencies our digital badges should focus on. 

Our biggest challenges might be yet to come. Penn State is a large institution so issues of scale are very real to us. However, we feel that if our badges are widely adopted then that is a good challenge to have!

Next Steps:

We hope to roll out our badges by embedding them into the curricula of for-credit courses where information literacy skills are needed. This will involve working closely with course coordinators and instructors and fine tuning the content, flow, and evaluation of the badges. We'd also like to see them made available in our LMS in the future.