How to Keep One-Shots Fresh

By Janell Verdream, Instruction Librarian at Ohio State Newark and Central Ohio Technical College


At the Newark campus, we’ve become familiar with a number of classes that we visit regularly: mainly introductory English, History, and Biology courses. We’ve answered countless questions about the same research projects assigned in these classes semester after semester. Essentially, we could probably teach these one-shots in our sleep, but how can we keep these sessions fresh and engaging so as to not put our students to sleep?

Make a new presentation each time

It may seem tedious, but I’ve found that making a new PowerPoint presentation for each class keeps me from going on autopilot while I’m presenting. I switch up the order of topics, the example search terms I use, and the GIFs I include (did you know you can put GIFs in a PowerPoint?! It’s a game changer!). These little changes help to keep me in the moment during each presentation.

Break up your time wisely

One-shots are never as long as we’d like them to be, so it’s important to use our time wisely. Whether I have 30 minutes or 55 minutes, I never plan on lecturing for that entire time. Personally, I try not to lecture for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. The students like to talk with their peers and play games, so I like to do partner activities and review games. In pairs or groups of three, I sometimes have the students help each other come up with search terms for their individual research questions. Another small group activity could be asking each group to find one or two articles about an assigned topic.

Use apps

Along the same lines of group activities and review games, education apps are a great way to keep students engaged. I always try to leave room at the end of my one-shots for a short Kahoot! review game that goes over topics I discussed. The students get competitive with each other, and they always come up with funny usernames!

Another app I use often is Mentimeter, where students can vote in polls, post questions during my lectures that I can address later, or submit permalinks to articles they found during group activities. There are tons of different tools on Mentimeter, so explore it and get inspired to create new one-shot activities!

Constantly learn and experiment

If you come up with a new activity for one-shots, share that idea with your colleagues! Ask them what they’ve tried during one-shots. What worked? What definitely didn’t? Talking to your peers is a great way to discover best practices.

Don’t be afraid to experiment either. I keep a spreadsheet listing each class I visit, the activities we did, what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. Then, I can look back at my notes for ideas when I’m feeling stuck, or to remember why an idea I had failed.

Have fun!

If you’re not engaged and having fun, you cannot expect your students to be engaged and have fun. Like I said, I like to throw GIFs into my PowerPoints, and I’m sure there are tons of other ways to add personality to your presentations. My main goal for a one-shot is not for each student to remember every single thing I said. Instead, it’s to show each student that I’m a resource on campus (or online) that they should feel comfortable approaching for help. The best way to do that, I’ve found, is to have fun together during the one-shot.

Reflective Teaching in the Time of COVID-19

by Mandi Goodsett, Performing Arts and Humanities Librarian at Cleveland State University


Many instruction librarians have seen their teaching activities significantly change in the past few months, and keeping up with shifting sands of our communities’ priorities and needs can be challenging. But we’re also seeing more than ever how important it is to demonstrate our value and maintain a high level of quality in our services, as difficult as it may be in this changing landscape.

While the formats and delivery of library instruction may be changing significantly as institutions deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, one simple and inexpensive action that we can still take is to engage in reflective teaching. When teachers reflect, they recall their past instruction experience, ask questions about its effectiveness, and make plans for future instruction based on the answers they give. Taking the time to reflect about instruction when we’re all so busy and, in many cases, dealing with less-than-ideal working situations might not seem worthwhile. However, reflective teaching doesn’t require a lot of resources or time to be effective, and even a short reflection about your teaching can improve the quality of your instruction. And the current situation, in which many of us are recording our instruction by default, provides a new opportunity to engage in reflective teaching.

Video-recording your teaching — something you may already be doing to serve a growing number of online courses — allows you to compare your own impressions of your instruction with how it may be perceived by your students, which is a great opportunity for reflection. If you have the time, choose one or two recorded library instruction sessions to review. See if you can take on the perspective of a student as you view the recording and take some notes. Is everything clear? Are there any major gaps in the instruction that might confuse the listener? Is the instruction engaging and informative? Does the delivery of the content provide opportunities for students to ask questions and test their learning? Did you meet your learning outcomes? How do you know?

In your notes, make sure to provide enough detail to make your reflection findable the next time you teach this class or a similar one. If you record your reflections in a digital document that’s searchable, you may even want to provide some tags, such as the course name, instructor name, course topic/content, etc. 

This exercise does involve taking the time to re-watch your entire instruction session, but it can be extremely valuable. When this or a similar class rolls around in a future semester, you can take a moment during your preparation to review your reflection notes and make changes. I have found that this measurably improves my teaching.

While you may find reviewing a recording of your teaching to be helpful, reflection can be even more effective with the help of a peer observer. Since you already have recordings of your teaching at your fingertips, now may be a good opportunity to experiment with peer feedback. Work with librarian colleagues at your own institution (or elsewhere!) to exchange recordings of instruction with the goal of sharing constructive feedback. Doing this kind of activity can be scary! No one really likes to hear criticism about their teaching, and, especially for those who have taught for years, the thought of changing a tried-and-true teaching strategy can be daunting. However, with some ground rules, a willingness to change, and a foundation of trust, peer feedback can be a very valuable form of reflective teaching.

Start with a meeting between the instructor and the peer observer. The instructor should explain what they’re hoping to receive feedback about, and what their goals for the session are. After the peer observer watches the recording, the two should meet again. The peer observer can then ask questions about the instructor’s decisions and share their perceptions of the instructor’s success in meeting their goals for the session. This should be done in a supportive, tactful way — it should include some positive details about how the class went. Then, both instructor and peer observer can engage in some reflective writing about how they might change their instructional approaches going forward. 

As you rethink your library instruction in the coming months, regularly assessing your own teaching can help you improve your approach, especially given the fact that you may now have easy access to recordings of your teaching. Reflecting on your own teaching can be intimidating, but when you approach the task with openness and a willingness to change, it can facilitate a resilient approach to your library instruction in a time of change. Even as the sands continue to shift beneath our feet, reflective teaching helps us find our footing as we continue to show our value as teacher-librarians.

For more details about reflective teaching, see Mandi’s article, “Reflective Teaching: Improving Library Instruction Through Self-Reflection“, published in The Southeastern Librarian in 2014.

Advice for Teaching at a Distance

Considering current events, our guest bloggers for the month of April agreed that offering advice on designing instruction at a distance might be helpful. In this post, Stacey McKenna, Reference and Instruction Librarian at The Ohio State Newark campus, and Jane Hammons, the Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian with University Libraries Teaching and Learning Department, provide their advice to librarians providing virtual one-shots and other forms of instruction, as well as fun tips for being quarantined. Please ask any questions, or leave any comments below!

– – –

Stacey McKenna:

Creating instructional videos to assist professors and students has gone from being a cool extra service we offer, to being completely necessary. However, creating these videos can be tricky, especially if you’ve never tried your hand at it before. The following are some of my tried and true tips for creating a successful video or screencast.

1.) Make sure you are on the same page as the professor about the research requirements

To help me better understand tricky assignment prompts I will ask the professor to send me the list of students’ topics to make sure I’m on the right track.

2.) Make your videos short and concise

There’s nothing worse than having to slog through an hour long recorded lecture from a professor, and since we can’t do our normal in class activities, there’s not as much to break up our talking time. Create videos that are around ten minutes or less to keep students’ attention, and so they can easily go back and review a research concept that is tricky for them. Make sure your titles clearly label what concept you are discussing in that video.

3.) Ask if you can create a supplemental quiz or assignment to go along with your video

There should always be some sort of assignment attached to any instruction you ever do, be it virtual or in-person. If the professor is worried that students will skip over your instructional videos, request adding a short supplemental assignment.

4.) Demonstrate the reference chat feature

Always, always, always demonstrate the chat feature if your library has one. This is a tool that many students have never used before and can be a grade saver. Before doing this, make sure a colleague is currently on chat and can respond right away so that your video flows seamlessly.

5.) Practice your searches ahead of time

I have heard both sides of the argument on pre-planned searches, and both sides have merit. However, I find it best when recording, to have my search terms and showcased articles planned out in advance since there isn’t the interaction there is in an in-person class.

6.) Use your resources

What’s my favorite part of being a librarian? The fact that each of us has a wealth of knowledge on specific topics that we can’t wait to share! If you’re having trouble recording, reach out to one of your more techy colleagues! Having trouble choosing the right search terms or database for a specific query? Hit up your incredibly knowledgeable and friendly subject librarians!

Recording instructional videos is a lot like doing research. It takes several tries and several failed attempts before it really starts to take shape.


Fun tip for being quarantined:

Movie Bracket: Draw out a basketball bracket on a piece of paper with as many head to head matches as you wish. Choose movies to go head to head that you can watch and argue about which is superior. Make sure you don’t include more movies than you think you can watch during the quarantine! You can do this with anything. If you like having enthusiastic debates, do this with anything! Most instrumental character in Star Wars (baby Yoda, obvi), tv show that had the worst finale, most delicious beer, most annoying family member. Be creative!


Jane Hammons:

Some other ways you can support course instructors, other librarians, and students during this crazy period:

1.) Keep accessibility in mind

If you create videos, make sure that your videos have captions or transcripts, or both. If you provide a PPT or slides, be sure that the contrast is good and the font size is readable. Some resources that can help include:

2.) Provide alternatives, if possible

This is more important than ever, since most students have lost the ability to use campus computers. They now may be using an older computer or sharing a single computer with family members. They may not have broadband access or may be watching everything on their phones. Think about alternative ways that they can get the same information or complete the assignment. For example, you could create a narrated PPT as a video, and make the PPT (with notes) available to students who are unable to watch the video. Or, you could provide an annotated bibliography or a Word document with screenshots to go along with a video. Some resources that could help include:

3.) If you have time, offer to serve as a practice audience for instructors or other librarians as they try out new technologies

Some instructors or librarians may be feeling nervous about using Zoom or some other technology, especially for a live session. It can be helpful to have a chance to practice first without the pressure of a student audience.


Fun tip for being quarantined:

Go back to your childhood or teen years. Spend some time watching those movies or tv shows that you haven’t watched in years (or decades, perhaps?). Have a themed movie day—best movies starring the first actor or actress you had a crush on. Or, listen to music by that band that you absolutely loved when you were 13. Play older video games (I have made it my goal for this period to once again be able to make it all the way through the original Super Mario Bros. If I could do it when I was a kid, I can do it now, right?) Pull out the old board games. Have fun!


Surviving Instruction: A New Librarians’ Experience

By Stephanie Porrata, Mary P. Key Diversity Resident Librarian for Area Studies

Library instruction can be intimidating, especially for an early-career librarian with no prior knowledge or experience. This blog post will highlight my approach to library instruction as an early-career librarian through the process of preparing for my first instruction session. My goal is to provide a starting point for other librarians unfamiliar with instruction along with some insight as to how more experienced colleagues can support librarians like myself.

Pre-Instruction Preparation

One of the most helpful ways to cope with the intimidation of my first ever instruction session was to reduce it to its fundamental transferable skills—public speaking, knowledge of the library catalog, knowledge of the information cycle—and connect them to what I have already done. Upon reflection, I realized that my experience as a Residence Hall Library Supervisor coupled with my MLS class work and presentations were my connection points to library instruction. As a supervisor, it was my duty to familiarize my staff with the catalog so that they could connect students with the resources they sought. While these training sessions with my student workers were short and focused on a specific section of the libraries’ catalog, I was in fact doing some preliminary instruction. My MLS coursework involved many presentations and provided an opportunity to improve my public speaking, allowing me to feel —somewhat—confident in front of a crowd. Whenever my anxiety would spike about my upcoming instruction session, I would return to the idea that my upcoming instruction session is not a completely new experience.

With my anxiety under control, I moved into an information gathering phase involving asking for help getting started, shadowing colleagues, and doing my reading. Up until I started my position as an MPK Diversity Resident Librarian, I had very little familiarity with the literature on instruction and any guidelines for best practices. I reached out to our Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian, explained my upcoming instruction session and lack of experience with instruction, and then she provided a suggested reading list based off our conversation. With this reading list in hand, I felt more comfortable going into my instruction session with some kind of best practice road map. At the same time, I made sure to shadow my colleagues’ instruction sessions whenever I could. By watching I could see first-hand what is effective and what is connecting with students. It is also helpful to see the kinds of questions, comments, and activities my colleagues used to engage with students and their learning. Taking notes of these sessions provided me with a toolkit of ideas to draw on when it was time to do my own instruction session. At this point in the preparation process, I was feeling pretty confident. I created my PowerPoint and had several practice runs with my supervisor, asking for any comments or suggestions. I was ready to present!


Post-Instruction Reflections

I survived my first instruction session which was in collaboration with two other librarians and learned a valuable lesson in flexibility and self-compassion. As with anything in life, you can prepare extensively and something will still stray from the plan. In this situation the straying factor was my allotted time. Because I was last to go, my allotted 25 minutes became 14 minutes. My 25 minutes of content had to become 14 minutes of content on the spot. I did the best I could, but there was no denying that I was a little distressed. I did not get to cover everything I wanted to cover and I felt like I did not do my job well. Upon reflection, I realized that flexibility and improvisation are vital skills if you are going to be doing instruction sessions. The ability to adjust according to your environment—timing changes, audience feedback, etc.— is dynamic and engaging and something that can only improve with practice. While I may not have handled the situation with as much grace as I would have liked, I was able to practice some self-compassion. Things did not go according to plan, and that was okay. I walked away with some experience under my belt and an understanding that sometimes things do not go according to plan. Doing instruction is an iterative process that calls for constant research and preparation, flexibility and reflection.


Here are some takeaways based on my experience:

For librarians new to insruction, break down instruction into its transferable skills, gather information through reading, shadowing, and reflecting on other colleagues' approaches, be flexible and self compassionate, and seek out opportunities to keep practicing. For supportive colleagues, share any resources that you think are helpful, invite less experienced colleagues to shadow your instruction sessions, provide opportunities for your colleagues through co-teaching/ connecting them with potential collaborators, and give feedback.


Teaching from the Microcosm: A Practical Idea from The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer

By Beth Black, Undergraduate Engagement Librarian

I recently read the classic book, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer, thanks to its inclusion on the reading list for our campus Teaching Support Program. I am grateful for this push because I found the book inspiring both philosophically and practically. In this post I will share a powerful, practical teaching idea: Teaching from the Microcosm (Palmer, 2007, p. 123-135).

In reaction to the perceived need to “cover the field,” Palmer encourages teachers instead to invite students into the big ideas and practices of a discipline by teaching small but critical samples of the data of the field. Through in-depth exploration students learn how a practitioner of that field generates data, checks and corrects the data, thinks about data, uses and applies data, and shares data with others. The entire lifecycle of information creation and dissemination can be taught through in-depth consideration of a single yet critical sample.

In The Courage to Teach, Palmer provides detailed examples of teaching from the microcosm in two contexts: medical school and a social science research course. In the medical school example, the instructors created learning groups that engaged with actual patients from the beginning and through the in-depth exploration of those cases, applied what they were learning in other courses. In the social science research course example students considered a single data table for a two-week period. During that time, Palmer used questions, some that appeared obvious and stupid, to help students look more deeply at the data table, how it came to be, the assumptions behind it, the processes through which the data was collected, etc. all the way through the social science research process.

In information literacy instruction, we often have a single class visit of 45-90 minutes and we often feel the pressure to “teach research” in this short period knowing it is impossible. Taking the microcosm approach, we might instead select a single search or a single information source and through questions, student exploration and discussion walk with students through a selected frame of the Information Literacy Framework. One example would be taking a single source and exploring how it came to be created through questions about audience, author, and purpose. Then as time allows moving into how this item finds its reader, through questions of dissemination and search.

In what ways have you taught from the microcosm?



Palmer, Parker J. 2007. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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!


Teaching as Learning and Exploration

Written by Jennifer Schnabel, Assistant Professor and English Librarian


The Teaching & Learning Committee is excited to host a showcase and discussion on December 5. Three OSUL librarians will reflect on their approaches to teaching in a variety of roles and environments and brainstorm new strategies as we prepare for next year. Others will share lightning talks with the group.

In preparation for the presentations on our individual teaching methods as librarians, we met over coffee to identify a common thread that might inspire a robust group discussion. A clear theme emerged: “Teaching as Learning and Exploration.”

Jane Hammons, Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian, shared Annie Armstrong’s article about the ACRL Framework and lifelong learning of teaching librarians (citation and link below). Using this piece as a springboard, Jane will talk about how specific frames, such as “Research as Inquiry” and “Scholarship as Conversation,” can inform how librarians view themselves as experts in specific areas while exploring new strategies, however experimental, to engage students.

Courtney Hunt, Art and Design Librarian, will share how she has used object-based learning and informal lesson planning with disciplinary instructors to facilitate student interactions with unique materials such as artists books. These consultations and sessions have led to collaborative class projects and informed studio and design practices. By remaining flexible and valuing her role as facilitator, Courtney has been able to leverage resources at the Fine Arts Library to spark innovative teaching and research in her liaison areas.

Jennifer Schnabel, English Librarian, will discuss how librarians can partner with disciplinary faculty to design project-based learning assignments such as web sites or physical exhibits. Students appreciate that their research and critical analyses will be visible to audiences beyond the classroom; instructors view the class project as a tangible representation of a collective learning experience. By collaborating with other experts in the library and acquiring new skills, such as facilitating a multimodal project, Jennifer supports teaching and learning beyond the one-shot instruction session while exploring methods of scholarly communication to reimagine the traditional research paper assignment.

Librarians who teach: when have you taken a risk in the classroom? What did you learn? Let us know in the comments below.


Armstrong, A. (2019). New models for instruction: Fusing the ACRL Framework and Roles and Strengths of Teaching Librarians to promote the lifelong learning of teaching librarians. College & Research Libraries News, 80(7), 378


Inclusive Teaching in the Library

By Pamela Espinosa de los Monteros, the Latin American Studies librarian and assistant professor at The Ohio State University

In 2019, Ohio State welcomed its most demographically diverse class to-date. Each student will arrive in our classroom with uniquely formative experiences that are a product of their past education, professional and personal experiences, access or lack of access to educational resources, as well as the domestic or global communities that have shaped them.

Designing for a diverse classroom can present itself as an intimidating task. As librarians and instructors, we are responsible for developing curriculum that will be inclusive and effective for each student. The demographic shifts in higher education and the universal use of the library well position librarians to experiment and model inclusive teaching practices. But how does one go about customizing curriculum to meet the needs of diverse students? Below is a short list of suggestions to consider when designing library instructional sessions.

1.) Schedule a planning session with the faculty or instructor to find out more information about the students. In addition to discussing instructional learning objectives or the specifics of a course assignment, use this time to gather information about the students. Inquire about any special populations that may be in the course (e.g. non-traditional students, first-generation, international students, etc.). Has a student disclosed a learning disability that you should be aware of? Are the students highly engaged or relatively quiet? How are students used to receiving instruction and information? Having a better idea about your target audience will help you to select the appropriate instructional style and tools to use.

2.) Design for different styles of participation. Have you designed different ways for students to contribute, digest and share what they are learning? Consider cultural and physical factors that may contribute or hinder a student’s willingness to respond to a standard open-ended question. Are there other ways to engage students (with or without technology) such as through small group discussion or individual reflections that will maximize student participation? Make sure your communication and directions also speak to different learning styles.

3.) Review the visuals, examples, and language that you are using in your instructional session. Does your selection of visual materials assist or potentially impair your examples? Are your visuals or examples clear to a global audience and will they be appealing to your target student demographic? Are you including metaphors, references to U.S. pop-culture, or using regional slang that can be understood by a global audience? Do your slides need captions, definitions, translations, or decoding to help contextualize or fill in information that some students may not have. Test your slides with different audiences to make sure they are achieving their intended purpose.

Examples are the perfect opportunity to expand students’ global knowledge and awareness. I encourage librarians everywhere to be creative with their visuals–in other words refrain from using cat images as your main visuals except when providing instruction to library audiences.

4.) Consider including global information sources in your information literacy workshops. A fundamental pillar of the library is to provide access to a wide range of information resources. It is important for librarians to teach students how to access global information sources in different languages and from different countries. Including open access databases from respected global institutions and acknowledging the contribution of global scholars (at our institutions and beyond) helps support student’s engagement in global conversations. Often it takes extra effort or perhaps a slightly different search strategy to access international sources. Make the effort to do so. In addition to teaching critical information literacy skills required to access this information, it may help students to reflect on the uneven geographies of information online and in our library collections. Omitting global information from our instruction, limits students to echo chambers of information leading to a limited world view. Because our academic campuses seldom reflect the diversity of our world, we must compensate by making our information resources reflect the populations and perspectives that are missing in our academic communities.

5.) Create materials that speak to the different learning styles of your students including presentation slides, a handout, a libguide, and follow-up email. By providing multiple communication tools and methods, different students are able to gravitate toward the learning tools that are most useful to them.

Librarians are well positioned to experiment with inclusive design that helps to engage all students in the classroom. These suggestions are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but perhaps a starting point.

Consider contributing your own examples in the comments below.


Acknowledgements: The content and ideas of this blog post were created in collaboration with Meris Longmeier, Associate Professor and Head of Research Services. The author would like to thank Stephanie Porrata and Zachary Walton for editing and posting this entry.

An 8 am Class: Good or Bad

By Pat Wood, Interim Head Librarian of The Ohio State University at Marion regional campus library


“I did it! I’m still alive!” These are my thoughts sometimes after teaching an 8 am library instruction class to college students. Although this is one of my favorite times to teach, students don’t always arrive with the same sunny disposition as me.

When I first started doing library instruction, I fell into a false sense of security by thinking that if students were looking at me, I had captured their attention. However, I have learned that students’ faces, and body language are not a good indication of that.

Over time, after experiencing blank stares, bobbing heads, or side conversations while trying to capture students’ attention, I have tweaked my sessions using comments and suggestions from surveys that I have students do at the end of any teaching session.

Here are some things that have worked for me from a sample teaching session:

When asked to teach library instruction at 8 am with a time-frame anywhere between 60-90 minutes, I usually arrive to the class instruction session 20 minutes early to set up the room based on the instruction requests of the professor and put out any handouts. This also gives me the opportunity to greet students with a friendly smile as they arrive.

As I am introducing myself while walking around the room, I’m aware of the importance of capturing their attention so I usually add a fun fact about myself that sometimes gets a few laughs which lets me know they haven’t fallen asleep yet. Time for the ice breakers!

Some ice breakers that I have used include Kahoot, which, for those who aren’t familiar is an interactive computer game where you create questions based on a subject (library information) and students answer using an electronic device (I always have a spare or 2 just in case the room doesn’t have technology or a student doesn’t have any). This can be 2-3 questions that can be fun stuff, or information they may not know regarding the library and its services. This is usually 5-7 minutes in length.

I also have done an activity where I write one word on the board (example: baseball) and then I have students make a list of keywords that relate to it. My word selection is usually related to the discipline of the class (example: History course). This activity usually has students talking amongst themselves, which is perfect. I usually give them 3-5 minutes for this activity. We then talk about the importance of good keywords and how they play a role in creating search statements

Now that I have their attention, the real work starts. Here is where I show students how to do academic research related to their assignment. This includes websites such as Google and Research databases from the library catalog. Students get to see the differences in searching and what features each resource must assist with their selections. They also learn how to construct good search statements through trial and error.

Once finished with this task, usually 20 minutes, the students then start doing research on their chosen topic while I wander around the room to answer questions and assist with anything else they need. This type of instruction also includes handouts on the three types of sources as well as the different types of periodicals to choose from. The time frame for this part is usually 30-45 minutes. The wrap up includes a survey of two questions: what information was helpful and what information was confusing.

The above activity is one of my favorites because students learn the difference between using Google and a research database while getting a good understanding as to the benefits of each type of search. Many good talking points have come from these sessions because most students are freshmen and they really don’t know what a database is. Google has been their best friend up to this point, so learning there is something better is sometimes a shock.

Lessons learned from 8 am library instruction sessions include:

Greeting students as they come into the class works well. This seems to help with interaction during the instruction session.

Make sure that you confirm exactly what the instructor is looking for from the session. Asking them detailed questions about what they want from the library instruction session is also very helpful. I once had a professor send me their syllabus in an email that said teach from the first lesson on the syllabus. My response was “WHAT?” We then exchanged many emails to determine what was needed.

Teaching search strategies from multiple sources, and showing students how to verify scholarly information has been a huge success, because today’s assignments seem to be giving students more freedom on their source selection. From my experience on our campus, depending on the course, students’ assignments aren’t requiring a lengthy list of scholarly sources as in the past.

The bottom line is that 8 am library instruction is not the worst thing in the world. Yes, it is true that in some cases no matter how you begin the session or what you plan to teach, you will have disengaged students. The goal is to be successful, sharing great research strategies so that students can complete their class assignments to the best of their abilities.

Resource Links:

Renaming Primary

By Danny Dotson, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist

If you read my previous blog entry, you know I have been pondering a bit lately about the topic of primary sources because I think there is too much emphasis on primary sources. Before anyone starts panicking, let me go into details.

The main reason is that I think the definition is not common across disciplines, yet libraries and librarians often apply a disciplinary definition on the concept to all disciplines. Many non-humanities disciplines would consider the journal literature to be their primary literature, but in reality do not really make use of terms like primary, secondary, or tertiary when describing or categorizing resources. So trying to apply a concept not even used in those disciplines will just create confusion. Sometimes librarians and libraries produce information about this concept as if it’s a standard definition that can and should be applied across all disciplines, which is not the case.

Second, “primary sources” found in libraries are very heavily slanted to certain disciplines. They are heavy on the humanities, medium on the social sciences, and light on the sciences. So trying to encourage the use of these types of items (or implying they are the gold standard) in certain disciplines will leave students of some disciplines with few choices.

A third reason is that the definitions often are applied to the format regardless of purpose or need. For example, a diary is usually considered primary. But what if the diary is used to garner information about a person other than the writer of the diary? That information is secondhand, so is the source being used as a primary source, or is it a secondary source given how it’s being used?

A fourth reason is that students in many courses likely will not use these types of sources. In many cases, books, journal articles, web pages, etc. are what the students will use and are what they need. It is not until students really begin digging deeper when they need what might be called primary sources. But in some disciplines, they may never need or use these types of sources.

A fifth reason is that the primary/secondary/tertiary terms implies value and that primary sources are “better.” Since journal articles are usually considered secondary, some disciplines are being told that their “gold standard” literature (peer reviewed journal articles) is inferior and that they should be using materials which will likely not meet their needs or don’t exist.

Given the above, when should primary sources come up? Only in discipline-appropriate courses when they are likely to be used. Bringing them up at other times is often meaningless for students’ needs or imposing one discipline’s definitions and values on another discipline. And distributing content across disciplines that pushes “primary sources” is doing just that.

So I’m not saying primary sources are bad. I’m saying the concept and term is murky when moving beyond specific disciplines and to act as if it’s a universal concept leads to confusion and problems. I think libraries and librarians should stick to these concepts only when it comes to the disciplines that recognize these concepts as part of their discipline. And I think that we shouldn’t be encouraging the use of these material types for courses/situations where they do not make sense.

I’ll leave with a question to ponder – is there something we can call “primary” materials and talk about them in a way that is more universal and accepted? Perhaps talk about these item types as unique, rare, special, etc. and why they’re important – but not in a manner that implies they’re “better” than other formats?