Checklists: Information in use

Pre-trip checklist

By Oregon Department of Transportation (Pre Trip Checklist  Uploaded by Smallman12q) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto illustrates through several case studies the power of checklists.  More importantly it offers advice on harnessing this power.

The book (Gawande, 2010) describes what makes a good checklist: it should contain only the key items and meet the needs of actual users (p. 120).  In other words the checklist needs to suit its real-life context.  Context matters in information literacy overall (ACRL, 2014, pp. 7-8).  In Gawande’s work as a surgeon, a good checklist saves lives (2010, p. 155).

Gawande (2010) also models how checklists improve with refinement and testing (pp. 136-157).   This process mirrors the research process.   In fact the author notes how he researched other checklists (p. 114).

Information literacy is about more than finding information: it involves using information effectively and ethically.  The Checklist Manifesto shows information in use.


Association of College & Research Libraries (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education: Revised draft.  Retrieved from

Gawande, A. (2010). The checklist manifesto: How to get things right. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.


P.S. The mention of saving lives is appropriate on September 11.  Here’s to first responders and the lifesaving work they do year-round!