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Library Services for Faculty and Staff

Welcome to the Library Services for Faculty and Staff research guide.

Library Instruction

Library Instruction


Librarians provide assignment-based library instruction when requested by faculty for their students. Instruction is available for all courses, traditional or online. Instruction sessions may include library overview, research databases, library catalog and internet searching, evaluating sources, or other topics as requested by faculty.

Library Sessions Are Content-Based

  • Librarians collaborate with professors in designing instruction sessions.
  • Instruction sessions are tailored for your students' specific needs.

Ingredients for a Successful Student Experience

  • Schedule your session at a time in the semester when the students' need for information is pertinent.
  • Prepare your students by reminding them of the instruction session.
  • Participate in the session
    • Instructors are invited to attend the session or arrange for a faculty substitute.
    • Faculty participation during the session helps students understand the importance of the session.

SWU Online Library Instruction

In addition to scheduling the library instruction session with a librarian, faculty may also arrange for a virtual instruction session via distance learning software.  Please contact Heather Gray for more information.

Creating Effective Library Assignments

Recommendations for Creating Effective Library Assignments

    1. Perhaps most importantly, since students will be coming to the Reference librarians for help, it would aid the library faculty (and therefore the students) to know that your class is coming, and to have a copy of the assignment--and recommended sources--in advance. Please contact us to warn us ahead of time. Examples of the kinds of questions we have about most assignments are as follows:
      • How many students are in the class?
      • What is the assignment?
      • Do students know of specific book titles with which they are to look up information?
      • What level of assistance should we provide? In other words, do the students need to look up the information themselves, or can they ask for help?
      • Are they expected to use specific books for the assignment? If so, we need to know so we can secure the books in an area where everyone can use them, and where they will be free from theft, misplacement, and vandalism.
      • What is the purpose of the assignment? Are they supposed to become familiar with the library, learn how to use the computers, or find a very specific piece of information?
    2. Avoid sending entire classes to use a single volume or find a single journal article. At best, the students will be frustrated with the item's constant absence. At worst, the item will be hidden, vandalized, or lost, making completion of the assignment more difficult (if not impossible) for everyone. When feasible, place copies of the item on reserve at the Circulation Desk or design the assignment so that the use of a variety of similar resources is acceptable.
    3. Be sure that students know why and how to cite information they find in the Library. Share information with them about the documentation style you prefer. Let them know that plagiarism is inexcusable. Tell them you know how easy it is to copy information from the Internet, and that you'll be checking for it.
    4. Ensure that materials cited as mandatory resources in the assignment are actually in the Library. Titles are sometimes discontinued, lost, vandalized, stolen, hidden, or misshelved. The only way to see if the Library has the materials necessary to complete an assignment is to check before the project is assigned. If you are unable to check, have a student come to the library, or contact a library faculty member.
    5. Use clear terminology. Differentiate between magazines and journals. Specify by name the reference book, database, or index that students should use. Clarify with students that a database is not the same thing as the Internet or the Web.
    6. Be mindful of the fact that the Library's resources, especially databases, are continually changing, and that these changes will affect library assignments. Electronic resources typically require specialized instruction and substantial practice for effective use.
    7. Do not assume that students have had prior experience in using the Library, an orientation to the Library, or an orientation that was relevant to the assignment. Freshmen, transfer students, international students, or new graduate students may have had no experience with our library system. Additionally, basic library skills may be inadequate for upper-level subject-based research assignments.
    8. "Scavenger hunts" that ask students to locate random facts are typically among the least effective assignments. They may lack a clear purpose, may often teach little, and may require the same sources of numerous hunters (which means that those sources will continually turn up missing), and thus are very frustrating. Frequently it is the library faculty who end up locating the information for the students, not the students themselves. We recommend assignments that require integration of knowledge rather than finding obscure facts and that actually take the students through the real-world steps of locating the literature they need to find.
    9. Recall that the typical undergraduate's approach to research is not as rigorous, patient, and thorough as a graduate student's or a professor's. They expect information location to be instantaneous and painless. They often are willing to accept the first 10 results from an Internet search engine as their bibliography.
    10. Virtually everyone freed from deadlines procrastinates, so help students pace the assignment. If the assignment is an extended project, establish deadlines for different stages of the assignment to help the students pace their work.
    11. Match the assignment to the educational level of the students.
    12. List some relevant resources available in the Library to get students started.
    13. Visit the Library often to familiarize yourself with the changes, improvements, and new materials that appear almost daily, and don't hesitate to let us know what resources you'd like to see added.