Teaching in the Fall Semester

Written by Zach Walton, Reference and Instruction Librarian at The Ohio State University’s Lima Campus Library

Now that we are firmly in the Fall semester, I thought now would be as good a time as any to reflect on some of the changes we’ve likely made in how we teach at present. It’s likely that some of us are teaching in more of a hybrid format, while others favor more virtual or in-person instruction. In a recent OSUL Teaching & Learning Workshop, a major theme of the session was determining and planning how librarians will be teaching this semester. It was generally agreed upon that OSUL librarians will likely be determining the mode of outreach, engagement, and instruction in a way that best works with campus faculty, colleagues, and students. We discussed how teaching in a virtual environment was incredibly convenient, but also discussed the benefits of face to face instruction.  

How have you been preparing for your class sessions this Fall? Have you encountered any challenges in planning, or have you developed new strategies you’ve been implementing in your instruction? How have you been engaging with your students? Have you had success negotiating with faculty on the best mode of instruction?

Celebrating One Year of Blog Posts

As I’m writing this month’s post in the office space I’ve set up at home, I’m blown away by how far this blog has come, and reminded of the resilience of our statewide colleagues in an incredibly challenging and confusing time. The Teaching & Learning Committee began working on this blog in 2018, and in early 2019 we launched it. The goal was to not only provide links to resources that we on the committee have found incredibly helpful in our own teaching practices, but to offer an advice column for our colleagues, both new to teaching and experienced in teaching, in order to provide guidance and confront challenges faced in the classroom. Since launching, we’ve had some incredible posts made to the blog from some incredibly talented librarians. To those writers who have contributed to the blog, or are planning to write an entry to this blog, thank you again for all of your time and effort in providing instructional guidance to all of our colleagues, not only within The Ohio State University, but across the state. And most of all, thank you for continuing to read the Teaching & Learning Blog.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m amazed at the resilience I’ve observed among librarians across the state. As the stay-at-home order was announced, I’ve seen librarians accomplish Herculean feats. From setting up websites dedicated to providing advice to those teaching online for the first time, to the creative work of committees and task forces working on transitioning events to an online format, librarians have met these challenges head on, and bounced back when circumstances looked troubling. There are many questions I’m sure you have during this time, and if you’d like our guest bloggers to tackle these questions and provide their instructional advice, please leave your questions in the comments section below. Similarly, if you have any stories of resilience you’d like to share, feel free to share them in the comments section as well.

Please know that any teaching librarian is welcome to contribute to the blog. If you’d like to add your own entry, address new teaching opportunities and challenges you perceive in the upcoming Fall semester, or just pose questions for others to answer, please get in touch with us via email (walton.485@osu.edu).

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!