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Information Literacy Plan: UNH : AALL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education

Information Literacy at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law

UNH Law Adopts American Association of Law Library Standards

In 2012 The American Association of Law Libraries approved Legal Research Competencies and Standards for Law Student Information Literacy to foster best practices in law school curriculum development and design; to inform law firm planning, training and articulation of core competencies; to encourage bar admission committee evaluation of applicants' research skills; to inspire continuing legal education program development; and for use in law school accreditation standards review.

The standards and competencies are the natural outgrowth of the work of the AALL Law Student Research Competencies Task Force, which presented this document's baseline Principles to the AALL Executive Board in 2011. The Principles were based upon the ACRL Standards, but the background of this entire project emerges from the substantial literature on Information Literacy developed by the ACRL and endorsed both by the American Association for Higher Education and the Council of Independent Colleges.

The five AALL Standards are:

  • Principle I: A successful legal researcher possesses fundamental research skills.
  • Principle II: A successful legal researcher gathers information through effective and  efficient research strategies.
  • Principle III: A successful legal researcher critically evaluates information.
  • Principle IV: A successful legal researcher applies information effectively to resolve a specific issue or need.
  • Principle V: A successful legal researcher distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information, and understands the legal issues associated with the discovery, use, or application of information.

The AALL Standards are a set of standards and performance indicators that are based on the ACRL standards discussed above, but tailored to fit the skills, tools, and work product that we train law students to acquire, use, and create. They were drafted by AALL in 2009–2010 subsequent to the adoption of the original UNH Law Plan. While the ACRL Standards are a useful start, and critical to undergraduate education, the committee operated with the understanding that the particularized nature of legal research, with respect to content, research strategies, and tools, requires a subject-specific articulation of information literacy standards and competencies. Using the top-level ACRL standards as a framework, AALL began the work of articulating and hon­ing law school specific standards and competencies in November 2009, in order to create stan­dards that could be used by member libraries of AALL and legal research instructors. While the resemblance to the framework of the top-level ACRL Standards should be apparent, one key distinction between ACRL’s Standards and the AALL Standards is that the latter are explicitly tied to the problem-solving work at the heart of legal analysis and research. This pragmatic approach is reinforced in the competencies and performance indicators that explicate each AALL Standard.

Students arrive at UNH Law with varying levels of library skills, requiring an introduction to both academic tools and research strategies at this important stage of their legal education. As they move through the law school curriculum, additional competencies are required to identify, locate, access and evaluate the appropriate resources for their assignments and entry into the legal profession.  The AALL Standards focus on the needs of students at all levels and list a range of outcomes for assessing student progress toward information literacy. They provide the foundation of UNH Law’s information literacy plan.