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Getting Back Into the Library: Library Instruction in a Research Course

by Sarah Bull on 2023-07-31T11:51:00-04:00 in Multidisciplinary | 0 Comments

Students watching a library instruction session in 309

Students attend a library instruction session.

Information literacy is defined by the Association of College and Research Libraries as a set of six core competencies which lend themselves to an individual’s overall ability to understand information. These competencies, also called “Frames” include the following: 

  • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual 

  • Information Creation as a Process 

  • Information Has Value 

  • Research as Inquiry 

  • Scholarship as Conversation 

  • Searching as Strategic Exploration 

At the Sherrod Library, these frames are taught by Research and Instructional Services faculty via instruction sessions, course-embedded librarianship, and during reference consultations. As the summer wanes and the school year approaches, I went to speak with our Student Engagement and Instruction Coordinator about the Sherrod’s Instruction program, and the value it can add to a research course. 

Lydia Gywn, the Student Engagement and Instruction Coordinator has a sunny office on the third floor of the building, near to the regular instruction room which can seat fifty students comfortably. Gwyn has a passion for teaching, reflected in her commitment to the instruction program, and the hundreds of educational sessions she has taught in one-shot sessions. 

These one-shot sessions are the Sherrod’s typical method of performing library instruction, and they typically involve both a lesson and an activity. All sessions may be tailored to instructor needs and learning goals for their course, with collaboration between teaching faculty and librarians usually lending itself to a better session overall. 

“It’s great to work with students in a classroom one-on-one,” Gywn said. “To get to see that lightbulb moment, when a student actually gets excited about their research and about writing their paper.” Getting students excited about research is one of the major benefits of an instruction session. Once they have the tools to do research, an entire world opens up to them. 

These experiences play key roles in a student’s academic experience. “Library Instruction Sessions at the library are so important for first year students,” Gwyn explained. “Sherrod is a big building, and it can be intimidating, but when a student is actually here, they get to see that the space is comfortable and warm.” This matters particularly when a student is living in a cramped dorm, or if they feel they don’t belong anywhere on campus when they are not in class. The library welcomes everyone.

Students browse the stacks

Exploring the stacks

This is to say nothing of the value that an instruction session adds to a student's education. Often, when freshman arrive on campus, they will come with next to no pre-existing skills in information literacy. Even those who took dual enrolment courses, we have found, arrive without having used library resources for research before, never having used a database, and not understanding the meaning of “Peer Review.” 

“It is crucial for our students to be information literate,” Gwyn said. “More so than ever before. Information literacy is a life skill, not just a college skill. We are teaching students how to understand information, academic or not, and this may be the only time in their lives that they get this training.” 

Unfortunately, a lot of students end up graduating without that training. In the last academic year, the Sherrod Library hosted sixty-two library instruction sessions, of which forty were at the undergraduate level. That number is then dwarfed by the hundreds of courses that are offered with a research component, and the thousands of students that attend ETSU. “My biggest goal for this year is to see an increase in instruction requests. Our requests have been steadily increasing since returning to campus from COVID, but they still aren't at the pre-COVID levels we were used to seeing.” 

The Research and Instruction Department is gearing up for a school year filled with instruction, student-interaction, and faculty collaboration. We hope to see this year be the year that instruction rebounds from the COVID slump. If you are teaching a research course, now is the time to schedule your library instruction session. 

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