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Library Instruction

This guide provides goals, activities, planning tools, and instruction resources for planning and delivering instruction at Brooks Library.

Engaging With Students

At a basic level, engaging with students is actually just about reaching them wherever they are. If you feel like you're having trouble reaching students in class, ask yourself "how is what I'm talking about relevant to them"? While you may know why it's relevant, they may not. Bridging that gap is one place to start with engagement. Here are some techniques to try in the classroom:

Start with a Story

Start the session with a story. It could be remotely related to libraries or searching, just make sure to bring it back around to why what you're going to talk about is relevant to them. You could also present a theoretical story, "In the unlikely event of an apocolyps, let's imagine that all knowledge about desiduous trees was wiped from our brains. We're starting from scratch. Where should we look to find this information?" 

Start with a Question

Beginning with a big question is another way to engage students and you're essentially asking them to consider whatever you're showing them in a larger picture. For a session on using Jstor, you might start with, "Before we get started, can anyone tell me why we care about looking at research that other peole have done? Why should we even go through all this trouble?" Instead of just showing HOW to do something, asking why you're doing it can engage students further with what's going on.

Incorporate Props

Props can be anything you bring to the classroom as an example. Anything at all. Books, magazines, a stack of articles. You could bring your raincoat to the classroom as a prop as an example of how you might go about analyzing something. Ask the class how they might go about analyzing it. What's the brand? What's the color? Was it recently made? The important thing about props is to make sure you bring it back around as to why you brought it up in the first place.

Further Reading

Antonelli, M. J., Kempe, J., & Sidberry, G. (2000). And now for something completely different—theatrical techniques for library instruction. Research Strategies, 17(2/3), 177-185.

Stage Tips

Standing in front of people can be intimidating. Especially when you're tasked with maintaining their attention, running the show, and engaging your audience, all while trying to convey something new! Here are a few things to consider when you get up in front of a class that can assist you in honing your teaching skills:

How long have I been talking?
Silence can feel very uncomfortable in front of a group and we often have a tendency to fill it. As the presenter, you are in a sense filling the silence. However, as you are presenting, keep an awareness of how long you have been talking without asking the audience a question, or stopping to ask if they have a question for you.

It's okay to be vulnerable
Misspelling words, clicking on the wrong thing, finding that an interface just changed in the last 2 hours, etc. It happens. While these instances generally aren't very much fun and can throw you off your swing, it seriously is okay to show that you're vulnerable and that you're human. Students respond when they can see you're learning right along with them.

Find your teaching voice
Your "teaching voice" is that point in instruction where you reach a place that is comfortable and successful; you've found a style that's natural for you, and engaging for students. This could be the way you use humor, your style of walking around the classroom, how you run active learning activities, etc. It's whatever makes instructing all-around successful. If you're not feeling comfortable with what you're currently doing, try somethign else, experiment.

Be aware of body language
Open body language is not only going to send the message to students that you're welcome to questions, but also make you more confident as well. When standing in front of a group, practice letting your arms fall to your sides (if it's really hard, clasp your hands behind your back), relax your shoulders, take a deep breath, look up at your audience (if looking directly at students is hard, look over their heads to the back wall), try getting out from behind the computer when you're not demonstrating, walk around the room during an activity so students can ask questions. This type of open body language can be more welcoming and engaging, and helps you feel more confident too. 


If you're creating tutorials and would like some software for that purpose. Camtasia has been installed on one of the staff laptops, Staff 13, 96893 and on the Faculty Research room computer.


This software is availabe through Canvas and can be useful for creating tutorials. Keep in mind though that tutorials made with Panopto will demand that your viewers have access to Canvas. This isn't always the best option when you are sharing with a wider community.

Provide Feedback

An important part of improving your instruction skills is getting feedback from your colleagues. Sitting in on an instruction session allows you to learn from your colleagues and it helps them identify some places to improve. Use this feedback form to provide some constructive suggestions.

As a curtesy to your colleagues, let them know beforehand if you plan to sit in on a session.

Primary Sources