Library instruction with a virtual touch
David J. Duncan*
University Libraries, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS 67260-0068, USA
This piece examines the use of websites prepared for specific library instructional sessions. This
discussion has two main parts. First, the web pages construction process receives a detailed analysis
in terms of various library resources, differing patron learning styles, the preinstructional interview,
and the proper balance between traditional and virtual resources within this activity. Then, the
section entitled Combinations for the Instructional Website discusses several different page types
and their advantages for individual classes. The Conclusion reprises the earlier discussions, asks
questions about the future of library instruction, and places the pages within that future context.
D 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Different students have distinct preferences for learning aides. Some patrons use com-
puters. Others still embrace the traditional book-related materials. Finally, another group
prefers a combination of techniques. Until recently, most students still used paper sources.
However, with societys ongoing transition towards an ever-greater virtual world, many
people believe in what might be called the Ali Baba effect. In other words, instead of three
Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301rubs on the proverbial magic lamp, they expect that two clicks of the mouse will produce the
desired result (Oberman, 1996). Accordingly, this user behavior presents perplexing issues for
librarians on all educational levels.
How does one come to grips with this situation? While discussed widely in the library
literature, this topic has remained largely a case-by-case scenario depending upon each library
0734-3310/01/$ see front matter D 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
* Tel.: +1-316-978-5077; fax: +1-316-978-3048.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (D.J. Duncan).
session, the librarian must understand these elements and how they collaborate to createthe learning environment.
The librarian must know the resources at his or her disposal. These materials can be either
in the library itself or available from another institution. In terms of internal instructional
aides, each library professional should have a general grasp of the print, computerized,
virtual, and specialized collections in their own facility. This specific knowledge might not
extend beyond that persons specific subject fields; however, one should have an idea where
information on a subject resides within the library. Finally, one should also consult with his
or her colleagues if the answer remains a mystery. For outside resources, a general grasp of
the Internet, online union catalogs such as OCLCs FirstSearch and CARL UnCover and
even colleagues at other universities can lend valuable assistance. In the end, whether
through a single or a team effort, the librarian must maintain a knowledge of available
The librarian must also understand different patron groups distinct learning styles (Prorak,and its unique patron population. In such cases, it is safe to say that no two groups learn
exactly the same way. However, since we are in a society in transition, should our
instructional tools reflect every constituency? In my professional experiences, I have
discovered that a specialized class website maintains a balance between the traditional and
the innovative means detailed above. In these sessions, the Internet features links both to in-
house and outside links and serves as a virtual OPAC projector. In this way, the sources still
suit the traditional patron, yet the presentations Internet backdrop holds the computer-
oriented users attention.
How does one put together such a virtual presentation? What goes into it? How is the
preinstructional interview affected? How much do the pages differ from each other? These
questions will be answered in the following sections. As with any instructional presentation,
there is a step-by-step procedure that should be followed to generate successful results.
2. Three basic principles for student interest
The librarians assertive training, experience, and observation remain crucial in
maintaining an advantage on the instructional cutting edge. As noted above, many factors
loom large in this endeavor. New technologies can prove bewildering (Arp, 1995).
Students might not utilize the same research techniques. Keeping up with new acquis-
itions around the library can prove a daunting task as well. In the face of such factors,
replacing traditional research sources and abandoning the old established instructional
techniques seems plausible. However, despite such issues, the professions three traditional
principles still apply: Know Your Resources, Know Your Patrons, and Know Your
Methods. Through the past two millennia and several changes in communicative media
formats, librarians have maintained the flow of information between teacher, student and
the literate public audience (Duncan, 1998). In the case of the virtual library instruction
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301284Gottschalk, & Pollastro, 1984). Throughout the history of education, society has never
learned in one fashion. Rather, in the face of each new communicative innovation, society
splintered off into intellectual factions. These groups differed from each other in their
informational needs, individual usages for the new technology, biases against the new
technology, and timetable for change (Bennett, 1952; Clanchy, 1993; Duncan, 1995;
Eisenstein, 1992; Wattenbach, 1958). Once again, societys rush towards the computer has
created a splintering effect among its constituencies. Three distinct groups dominate the
learning landscape. First, the teenagers and younger adults have grown up with computers
and know little else. Then, our societys older citizens wish to continue their use of traditional
sources. Finally, certain users remain at various stages of transition between these two
The universitys drive to expand its resources has created still more fragmentation in
the librarys patron groups. Educational experience levels differ between resident (on-
campus) students, distance students, and the general public. Each groups needs and access
differs from its counterparts. Onsite exposure shapes the resident students experience.
This group has direct access to campus facilities, professors, and library resources. The
general public, while not officially enrolled, has access to library resources, especially at
state universities. The distance student presents an enigma for educators. How does an
educational program meet the needs of this group when it is not on campus? If the
distance student is within an accessible distance, then he or she also has access to campus
facilities. However, what if the student is across the country from the institution? Which
blend of services and resources should be used in these classes? As demonstrated in
various locations, email and the web can bridge the distance between the faculty member
and the distance student when utilized in satellite courses (Katz & Becker, 1999; Vachris,
1999). However, how do educators structure their instruction to meet these competing
interests when a class session pertains to both groups (McHenry & Bozik, 1995; Spooner,
Jordan, Algozzia & Spooner, 1999)? As Freitas, Meyers, and Avtgis (1998) reported,
educators reconcile these two groups learning environments only with great difficulty.
The fluid nature of the college classroom presents many issues for librarians and other
educators to solve (Burton, 1998; Long, Rangecroft, &Gilroy, 1999; PBS adult learning,
1999; Vachris, 1999; Wilson, 1998).
The librarian should also maintain a variety of instructional techniques in his or her
repertoire. Because the various social groups outlined above have different expectations and
intellectual capacities, different approaches remain a necessity in the instructional classroom.
Perhaps for the traditional student, a gradual nudge towards the computer might be needed.
For the computer group, utilizing a traditional work in an interesting subject field might help
in striking a balance. In the last case, the in-between student groups comfort with both
types of sources holds equal importance in this endeavor. How does one accomplish this task?
Various means offer themselves including help guides, online Cybrarian services, librarians
office hours, and more extensive class materials. Accordingly, each patrons individual needs
challenge the librarians creativity at all times.
Once the librarian has grasped these factors, then the process towards the innovative
instructional sessions has begun in earnest. However, before the project can occur, the
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301 285instructional interview with the faculty member must occur. This item receives attention in
3. The preinstructional interview
The instructional interview between the librarian and faculty member remains a key part in
the formulation of a successful presentation (Arp, 1994). This process involves three steps.
First, the librarian must understand the research patterns of the classs discipline. Then, the
class level should be taken into account. Finally, the instructional interview should reveal
the faculty members goal for the session. Through this process, the two parties discover the
purposes, biases, and tools involved with a respective session.
In many cases, the library instructional session encompasses the students initial research
experience. These sessions can include print, CD-ROM, Internet, and special collections
resources. However, which materials should be included in the presentation? While the
librarian would like to introduce everything to the student, time limitations, and the audiences
ability to absorb information remain key issues in these sessions success or failure (Cannon,
1994). As Oberman (1991) has surmised, bibliographic instruction should serve as the lens
through which every function of the library needs to look through. In planning the class
session, one should consider the subject area and the class level. In terms of the former, some
subject areas have their own source materials. In the Humanities, for example, one might
emphasize books and primary sources (Tibbo, 1993; Watson-Boone, 1994). The Social
Sciences, on the other hand, require materials from all of the sources cited above. As
Whittington (1996) stated, research in the social sciences takes various forms depending
on the nature of the problem to be explored, the level of sophistication of the researcher, and the
resources within the persons reach (p. 5). The Physical Sciences andMathematics draw upon
conference proceedings and electronic journals as well (Hurt, 1998). In addition, the class level
affects the presentation. One usually does not overwhelm the entry-level student with advanced
material, nor should entry-level material find its way into an advanced classs session (Seffert &
Bruce, 1997). These basic principles provide a criterion for the basis of the presentation itself.
The respective faculty members feelings have to be considered as well. How does he or
she feel about the library instructional session and its components? The instructional
interview presents the opportunity to discern any concerns that the faculty member may
have with the potential presentation. One should remember that, while the librarian teaches an
instructional session, the overall class still belongs to the professor. Accordingly, the librarian
should ask certain questions including the following:
What type of presentation are you looking for? Do you want Internet sources included in the presentation? If so, then would you want
internal sources? External sources? How in-depth would you like me to go? Which other types of sources (print, CD-ROM, microforms, special collections, and/or
reference works) would you like included in the presentation? What format would you like the presentation to use? Would you like an accompanying handout?
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301286The answers to these questions will go a long way towards shaping the instructional site.
site (Yahoo), a specific-searching site (Hotbot) and two meta-search engines (Metafind
and Dogpile).4.4. Internet resources II (virtual subject pages)Once the interviewing process is complete, then the librarian can proceed onward and
begin formulating a page to suit the classs needs.
4. What should I put into it?
As Arp (1995) has commented, good system design does not replace instruction.
Therefore, good instructional presentations should endeavor to strike a balance with the
materials. In addition, Chizmar and Walbert (1999) utilized various articles, Excel
worksheets, and other learning tools in their online class materials. Other online learning
aides have also had success (Agarwal & Day, 1998; Daniel, 1999; Dumont, 1996; Pear &
Crone-Todd, 1999; Stone, 1999; Tang & Johnson, 1999); however, with the library
instruction session, how does one strike the proper balance? The answer is that one
should strive to have examples from six or seven broad categories. Yet, in realizing
that the session may or may not cover every point, the instructional sites points
should be open to exploration by the student at a later time. Proper materials can include
4.1. In-house library computerized resources
These materials include the online library catalog, any networked CD-ROM databases
(such as ERIC, Medline, CINAHL), a direct link to the librarys homepage, directed links to
specific areas on the site, and any password-protected Internet sites (such as EBSCOhost,
InfoTrac, Britannica Online). In addition, a link to the institutions Ask a Reference
Librarian site always provides students with a means of contact for the inevitable last
second paper project.
4.2. In-house library paper resources
Depending upon the topic involved and the faculty members preferences, various items
including books, periodical indices, bibliographies, atlases, and microforms.
4.3. Internet resources I (search engines)
This area includes links to various Internet search engines, which include the directory
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301 287Each subject area has its own expert guide sites. If included, place a link to the
main page. In addition, directed links can be included to resources including tables,
maps, charts, chronologies, texts (where appropriate) among other sources, and their
4.5. Tracking software
the designer to track the traffic on his or her site. Accordingly, this tool provides valuable
insight into the sites usefulness.
4.6. Virtual handout
If the instructor would like a handout included with the presentation, then one might use
both print and .pdf (Acrobat) versions.
Just as with an artists palate, the librarian has many options for the prospective presentation.
As Section 5 illustrates, the combinations can differ significantly from site to site.
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301288Fig. 1. Outline for Islamic Civilization Lecture for Economics 3320 (Global Environment).
5. Combinations for the instructional website
Once the interview and the options are known, the librarian can construct the instructional
site. However, depending upon these ingredients, the resulting presentation will differ in its
format. Some formats include the simple outline, a single-page combination outline (with a
few links), a single-page complex presentation and the multipage collage. Each style has its
own distinct advantage. However, as Chizmar and Williams (1997) concluded, the
pedagogy must drive the choices of instructional technology, not the other way around.
Accordingly, the faculty members desires from the instructional interview, the sessions time
limitations, and the class level will all lend themselves to this process and lead to very distinct
The simple outline emphasizes the Internets usefulness without links to distract the
students. This style is most useful for a straight lecture where one wants to go through
material in a short period. Accordingly, just as with a handout outline, the sites organization
is based upon Roman numerals, capital letters, numbers, and bullet pointers for differing
levels of emphasis. The Outline for Islamic Civilization Lecture site (Fig. 1) utilizes this
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301 289Fig. 2. So, Is it an Authoritative Site? tips for determining the value of an Internet site.
Fig. 3. English 101/102 resources.
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301290
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301 291simplicity very well. In the preinstructional interview, the faculty member wanted me to
present a guest lecture on Islamic civilization for two International Finance courses for an
hour each. Therefore, the instructional site only needed to provide a general backdrop for my
talk. The lecture followed most of the points and its free-formed nature allowed for
student questions in the permitted time. In this sense, the site only provided a loose boundary
for the lecture.
Fig. 3. (continued )
Fig. 4. History 200: Introduction to Historical Research.
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301292
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301 293The single-page combination outline offers more support for an instructional session with
more inherent visual aides and examples. Unlike the simple outline above, the very nature of
this presentation gives more color to a presentation. This pages links can be organized in
Fig. 4. (continued )
Fig. 5. Internet resources for World History 1 course.
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301294
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301 295several different fashions. For instance, in the So, Is It an Authoritative Site? page (Fig. 2),
these added features come to the fore. The professor in this case desired that his students
could discern scholarly Holocaust sites from popular ones. Accordingly, the presentation
focused on the single theme of How to Use the Internet and the organization still provided
a prompting mechanism for the students. However, the links added another dimension
through illustrative examples. This site included a section of the WSU Libraries Searching
the Internet workshops page, various Internet guides, a virtual quiz, some Nazi propaganda
sites, a link to WSU Libraries History page, and several starting points for Holocaust
research on the Internet.
Through its design, the page offered illustrations yet still allowed for a loose lecture format.
The complex single-page organization offers the greatest benefit for the typical library
instruction class through its flexibility. This presentation incorporates the outline and the links
of its predecessors thereby allowing for a lecture guide. Yet, it allows one to bring other
(nonvirtual) library materials into the discussion. In this format, depending upon ones
network capabilities, one can introduce Internet resources, link to the online catalog, provide
a direct link to the librarys page, highlight that sites most important links and bring in the
traditional sources for the students edification. For instance, the English 101/102 page
Fig. 5. (continued )
Fig. 6. Selected Internet resources for HCS 4301 (Health Education in Medical Care Settings).
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301296
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301 297(Fig. 3) provides such a balance through the following components: Internet Search Engines,
Library tools, CD-ROM databases, Microforms Resources, Government Documents, and
Internet Style Manuals. However, the History 200: Introduction to Historical Research
page (Fig. 4) differed slightly due to its purpose. In addition to the other resources,
bibliographies and primary sources appear on this page. For the Internet Resources for
World History I Course site (Fig. 5), links to various online reference works and atlases
serve to supplement the lecture and grant students additional resources for use. The Selected
Internet Resources for HCS 4301 (Health Education in Medical Settings) Page (Fig. 6)
includes links to MEDLINE, CINAHL, the Hardin Meta-Directory from the University of
Iowa, and other medical resources. Through a clear collaboration between professor and
librarian in the instructional interview, many distinct ideas can come to the student in a
succinct yet organized manner.
The multipage collage offers the most complex mix of simplicity and detail for a
presentation. This format, usually best for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses,
allows the presenter to use more examples in his or her lecture. In addition, the Power Point-
esque appearance allows the audience to follow bigger text and only a few points on a page.
Fig. 6. (continued )
The library learning environment changes everyday. New technological innovations occur
on a daily basis. Traditional students want to use computers and the Internet in many cases.
On the other hand, returning adult students want to keep the traditional research sources.
Then, the distance programs at many universities exert still more pressure on the curriculum.
Given all of these issues, what are the librarys options? To toss aside the print sources will
certainly deny informational access to many older students. On the other hand, how does one
defray access costs for distance sites whose students deserve equal attention to their on-
campus counterparts? Certainly, as universities continue to expand their coverage areas, these
issues will surface again and again.
The best compromise comes through a blending of resources and materials through a fairly
accessible format, the Internet. With only a few fiber optic cables, educators and librarians
can assist patrons with their informational needs. In the case of the resident student, one can
attend several instructional sessions in the same semester and always learn something new.
The dichotomy between traditional and innovative resources adapt to every learning style
(Oberman, 1996). For the outreach programs, while these resources do not provide access to
CD-ROM materials, key subscription Internet databases are organized and presented to the
students. In addition, the instructional sites organize key research resources in a coherent and
clear fashion. Oftentimes, distance students must make trips into the main campus or rely
heavily on document delivery services. These aids provide organizational frameworks forFor instance, in the History of the Crusades presentation, several different types of
information came together to form a story hhttp://dante6.fanspace.com/crusades/crusades.htmli. Each facet received its own page; therefore, the students saw a chronology and a pagedevoted to each stage of this historical trend ranging from the initial conflicts between the
Byzantines and Muslims up to the conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the West. Each
page included maps and relevant sources so as to make the textbook come alive for the
audience. The Spanish History Resources presentation devoted a page to maps, chronicles
and letters, respectively hhttp://members.tripod.com/~Dante_6/sphist/sphist.htmli. For acomplex presentation, this design provides the greatest flexibility and use of examples for
The presentation format provides many distinct derivations for the instructional presenta-
tion. Depending upon the materials presented, format utilized and the central theme, one can
create different classroom experiences ranging from a straight lecture, to an audience-driven
discussion, to a topic-based storyline. Again, the emphasis depends upon the agreement
reached between the professor and librarian during the instructional interview and the
resources prevalent in the host library. Through innovation and creativity, one can produce
a work to present many different sources in a way that a variety of students will understand
and use frequently throughout their academic experience.
D.J. Duncan / Research Strategies 18 (2001) 283301298further research in the distance sites. Finally, public patrons can also utilize these sites with
reduced levels of access for their own enrichment as well.
discourse happens on two levels. First, the professor and librarian share in the sitesconstruction. The former suggests favorable sites and the latter might add either general or
other resources specific to the librarys unique strengths. Then, through continued discussion,
the two parties agree upon a common theme, other content, and a format for the presentation.
With this combined effort, they create the instructional site. This activity reduces the
competition for control on both sides and leads to a noticeable trust between colleagues.
Trentin (1999) concluded that, here the underlying idea is to establish a bilateral commun-
ication channel between teacher and expert in a given subject (p. 147). In light of this
cooperation, students may be more inclined to ask a librarian for assistance whether at the
Reference desk, through an office consultation, or on the online Cybrarian service. The so-
called triangle of trust between student, professor, and librarian drives the educational
experience and ultimately determines its success or failure (Schloman, Lilly, & Hu, 1989;
As the educational experience continues to advance, the learning environment continues to
mutate. Different learning groups splinter apart. Only with cooperation, collaboration, and the
blending of resources can libraries provide access to their patrons. These sites are one step
along this pathway. Understandably, they present many questions and complicated issues for
universities. For instance, the issues of copyright, intellectual property, and resource access
remain ongoing arguments; however, as educators and librarians continue to utilize new
technologies and present them to their constituent audience groups, the details will iron
themselves out. Just as with the printing press initial boom in the fifteenth through
seventeenth centuries, this adjustment period will pass as well. However, the subsequent
era of learning will provide still greater challenges for everyone. Keefer (1993) has likened
this process to fishing. Just as the fisherman works the pond with differing casting lengths and
lures, so too should the librarian use different techniques to attract the widest variety of users.
Only through everyones collaboration, suggestions and innovations will we meet the
intellectual challenges for the twenty-first century and beyond.
This paper was originally presented to the library faculty and staff at Wichita State
University in August 1999. The author would like to express his appreciation for the many
critiques and comments from both library and teaching faculty members, most notably Drs.
George Schuyler, Ernst Pijning, Keith Pickus, Ariel Loftus, Melissa Shock, Will Klunder, andMost importantly, the professorlibrarian partnership in this activity enriches the students
learning experience. As Cannon (1994) has stated, to have such a BI program, teaching
faculty and librarians must communicate and cooperate (p. 524). Most faculty members, for
various reasons, do not bring their classes to the library for instruction. In many cases, this
situation comes down to control issues. If a professor has input into the instructional session,
then he or she might be more willing to utilize this valuable service (Stahl & Baker, 1997). This
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