Library Instruction

To arrange library instruction for your classes please contact your subject librarian. Due to limited resources, the library is constrained in the number of library instruction classes that can be accommodated.

Guidelines for Effective Library Assignments

Well-designed course-related library assignments are an effective way to introduce students to library research. The following guidelines will help to ensure that students have a positive library experience.

    With sufficient lead time, librarians can review strategies for completing an assignment and introduce students to relevant tools or types of material.
  • Consult with your librarian before the assignment.
    Librarians can work with you to design an appropriate assignment that will achieve your course goals/objectives. They can also check existing assignments for accuracy.  Sometimes, instructors write assignments according to their knowledge of a previous library, not realizing that things are organized differently here, that our collection varies from the other library, or that we  have some items in different formats.  Finally, consulting with a librarian will ensure that all librarians are prepared to assist students when they ask for  help at the Reference Desk.
  • Assume minimal library knowledge.
    Many students will be familiar with using some library tools (e.g., dictionaries, thesauri, the author/title portion of the catalogue).  However, few really understand the intricacies of subject headings or periodical indexes/abstracts, and most have never used research journals.
  • 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 library resources that you expect students to use.
  • Always be sure the library holds the required information.
    Students get frustrated when they search for what does not exist, has been discarded, or has been checked out. Place materials that many students need to use on reserve. Send an advance copy of the assignment and its due date to your librarian.
  • Avoid the mob scene.
    Dozens of students using just one book, article or index, or looking  for the same information usually leads to misplacement, loss, or  mutilation of materials. Give students a variety of topics and  sources, and, if it is necessary for many students to use one book  or article, place it on reserve.
  • Avoid scavenger hunts.
    Searching for obscure facts frustrates students, can cause chaos in the stacks, and teaches students nothing useful about research. If planning a library exercise, talk to a librarian about designing one appropriate to the class, and to the library.
  • Avoid frustrating searches.
    Generally, researchers search for items by subject, title, or author.  Therefore, the library catalogue is designed to search for items in this way.  It is not designed to search for items by format (i.e., microfiche) or by number of authors.  Do not frustrate students by asking them to search for items in this way.
  • 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.
  • Present a realistic picture of what is, and what is not, on the Web.
    In general, refrain from encouraging students to use the Web as the only source for information. Students need to know that those expensive databases to which libraries subscribe usually provide quality information that is much easier to find than the kind of hit-or-miss Web searching students often do. When the Web is the best or sole source for the kind of information you require, recommend specific sites, specific expert lists of links, or specific directories to help them find authoritative, timely and useful information.