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Gordon B. Olson Library

How to Achieve a Successful Library Instruction Session
[a hint or two]

  1. Please give the instruction librarian at least two weeks to prepare your instruction session. Librarians take these instruction sessions seriously. Giving them time to prepare a good session for your students is important to its success.

  2. Professors are required to attend their sessions. The professor's presence adds importance to what the librarian is covering, it adds an element of discipline to the class, and input from the professor during the session is welcomed by librarians and students alike. If it is impossible to be present during the instruction session, please call us and we will reschedule it. If the professor is not present for an instruction session, the session will be cancelled.

A Few Helpful Guidlines for Creating Effective Library Assignments:
(gratefully borrowed from sCIL---southern California Instruction Librarians, an interest group of the California Academic & Research Libraries.)

  1. Consult with an instruction librarian before the assignment. Librarians will work with you to design an appropriate assignment that will achieve your course goals/objectives. Sending a copy to the instruction librarian will insure that the staff is ready to help your students when needed.

  2. Assume minimal library knowledge. Although many students will be familiar with using some library tools (e.g., dictionaries, the keyword portion of the catalog), few really understand the intricacies of subject headings or periodical indexes/abstracts; most have never used research journals, but only Time, Newsweek, and the like.

  3. Explain the assignment clearly, preferably in writing. Give students a clear idea of what the assignment involves, suggesting types of sources to be used. Give complete citations for specific works.

  4. Always be sure the library holds the needed information. There are few experiences more frustrating for students than looking for what does not exist, has been discarded, or has been checked out. Use the library's Reserve Service through the Circulation Department for the materials that multiple students will need to use. Send an advance copy of the assignment and its due date to the instruction librarian.

  5. Understand that many of the library's databases are "on the web" and therefore, "on the internet." Proscribing the use of sources "on the Web" and "on the Internet" is confusing to students. All of the library's frequently-used databases (full text article databases, the catalog, etc.) are only accessible via the Internet. Keep in mind that students often understand instructions quite literally.

  6. Avoid the mob scene. Dozens of students using just one book, article, or looking for the same information usually leads to misplacement, loss or mutilation of materials. Give students a variety of topics and sources. Use the Reserve Service as needed.

  7. Teach research strategy when appropriate. Include a list of steps involved in the research assigned. Invite a librarian to review strategies for the assignment with the class, and discuss appropriate tools or types of material.

  8. Avoid assignments that promote vandalism or theft of library materials. Requiring or requesting that students collect or turn in original materials (color illustrations, printed advertisements, magazine articles, etc.) usually leads to at least some students taking the "easy way out". Instead, make it clear that ONLY photocopies, printouts, or forwarded digitized images will be accepted for such assignments.

With sufficient lead-time, librarians can provide library instruction lectures, workshops, and written materials geared specifically to your course and assignment, as well as general orientations for more inexperienced students. PLEASE ASK!