You Have 30 Minutes – Go

By Katie Blocksidge, library director at The Ohio State University at Newark and Central Ohio Technical College


The one-shot is a pretty standard part of any library instruction program: you’re invited to visit one class in the semester, and have between 50 to 120 minutes to discuss library resources, research, evaluation, and anything else that might be necessary for the course.  But occasionally, due to snow days, power outages, or just the restrictions of a 16 week semester, you might also get a request to visit a class for only 20-30 minutes.

So how do you plan for an instructional session that is only half of a class period?


Follow-up with the instructor to determine the assignment students will be working on, as well as the research requirements for that assignment.  If students need to use current newspaper articles for their work, great: that is now the focus of the class.  The difference between primary vs. secondary sources, and how to find them: time to highlight some of the historical databases, and JSTOR.  If students need to build a profile of a business: bypass the databases and highlight resources through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census.

You may not be able to cover everything, but spell out what must be covered for class in order for students to understand and complete their assignment.

Engage your students

With a short time frame, it becomes even more important to give students the chance to practice the skills they will need for an assignment.  Kick off the class with a quick overview of the assignment, and a few resources students can use to find information/research on their topic.  Then break the class into pairs or small groups, and set them loose with a few sample topics or projects; this gives you a chance to circulate around to the small groups and address any questions that might arise.

After about 7-10 minutes, bring the class back together to report out: what did they learn?  What did they find challenging?  How can they apply what they learned to their own research?  Use this time to address any misconceptions with research, and connect the activity with the assignment they need to complete.

Point to additional resources

As part of your prioritization process, you likely had to jettison some topics/resources you would have preferred to cover in class; these are excellent candidates for video tutorials or a course-level LibGuide.  Depending on your relationship with the instructor (and your time frame), consider sending any tutorials or LibGuides to the class ahead of your session.  A pre-class video can provide students with an overview of a library resource or resources, and free up time in class for applying that knowledge.

If you don’t have time to address all of the questions that come up in your instructional session, you can also record a video to provide additional answers and explanations for students.


A shortened class session can feel like the last place you would want to add an assessment component, but it is really the most important.  A multiple-choice quiz at the end of class, a minute paper, or a brief online survey will provide you with feedback on your instruction and identify what students learned and where they struggled.  Even more important than assessing your own instruction, you can use this information in conversation with the course instructor: if a significant portion of the class responds that they are struggling with one aspect of research, this opens up a conversation to schedule a follow-up visit.  Even if it is not possible to visit the class again during the semester, this information can still help you advocate for additional time in future semesters.

Shortened library sessions are frustrating, but allow us to adapt to the needs of faculty and the semester schedule; a successful instruction session can lead to a longer session in future semesters, or the sequencing of smaller instruction sessions throughout the term.