Relieving Library Anxiety with Anonymous Engagement

Written by Zach Walton, Reference and Instruction Librarian at The Ohio State University at Lima


Something that is constantly on my mind as I design my library one-shots is the role that library anxiety plays in students’ ability to learn and retain the knowledge they’re being presented with. The fact that some students feel anxious about entering a library at all, interacting with library resources, or even asking a librarian a question for fear of judgement or humiliation is deeply troubling. Sometimes, if I’m working with a particularly quiet class, I worry that some students may not be asking questions or participating as a result of library anxiety. Over the course of the past fall semester, I pursued more anonymous in-class activities in order to give a voice to the apprehensive student.

While I’ve explored multiple modes of communication to better engage students anonymously, both low-tech and beyond, the two tools I use the most frequently are Kahoot! and Mentimeter. I was introduced to these teaching tools by several colleagues (most notably Hanna Primeau, who wrote an earlier post on this blog). Kahoot! is a teaching tool that allows you to create games which students can engage in using their phones or another device, and Mentimeter is a teaching tool that allows you to create interactive slides which students can similarly engage with. Both of these tools allow for anonymous engagement in the classroom. For example, beyond functioning as a fantastic ice-breaking activity, Kahoot! gives students the option to play under any name they’d like. I even encourage students to use emojis in place of their name when playing Kahoot!, so that students don’t have to worry about judgement from their peers if they answer a question incorrectly.

While I find Kahoot! immensely useful, I typically use Mentimeter more when visiting classes. I try to frame any class I visit with two slides I’ve developed. The first question is typically fairly low stakes, something along the lines of “have you ever visited the library on campus.” I use this as an introduction to the tool, so that students can see the answers they typed into their phone or another device appearing on the screen anonymously. I then introduce them to my second slide, a Q&A slide where I encourage students to ask me anything. I then explain that, while I enjoy conversation in my one-shots and that I encourage students to interject or ask questions as they come to them, I recognize that some students may feel more comfortable asking questions anonymously and let them know that I’ll be visiting this slide frequently in the class. Because I deliberately word this slide to encourage students to ask me any question they might have, I receive content focused questions as well as not so content focused questions (i.e. what’s your favorite book). I welcome these questions as a chance to show that librarians are people too, that we have our own unique interests, just like the students we work with. By humanizing our profession, and by encouraging communication and engagement through anonymity, I saw an increase in students visiting me for help. Students saw my willingness to answer any questions, content focused or not, and I believe that helped to mitigate anxieties they may have felt about the library.

I’m sure that many of you have different ways of engaging your students, and I’d love to hear about how you’ve provided multiple modes of communication while teaching in the comments section, or give this Menti page a try and see the results below!