Library Instruction Design || Library instruction

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    Library instruction

    Abstract: This chapter serves as a prelude, in which the history of library instruction is briefl y reviewed. The role of academic librarian has evolved from book keeper to educator. The impact of technology in the information age, the changing scope of library instruction, and the changing role of academic librarians are discussed.

    Key words: library instruction, history, computer, technology, Internet, bibliographic instruction, information literacy, information age.

    Definitions and limitations

    There are variations on the definition of library instruction.1 But it is nearly always tied to bibliographic instruction (BI) or information literacy (IL). For the purpose of this book, the following definitions are adopted:

    Library instruction

    The terms library instruction and bibliographic instruction may be used interchangeably to connote the teaching of the use of access tools such as catalogs of library holdings, abstracts, encyclopedias, and other reference sources that aid library users searching for information. The related term library orientation indicates the explanation to users of the physical layout of a library building. Both terms concern the transmission


  • Library Instruction Design


    of the knowledge necessary for individuals to teach themselves after formal education has been completed.2

    2. Bibliographic instruction (BI)

    This is teaching a set of principles or search strategies relating to the library, its collections or servicesusing predetermined methods in order to accomplish a predefined set of objectives.3

    3. Information literacy (IL)

    The set of abilities enabling individuals to recognize when information is needed andto locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.4

    4. Instructional design

    A systematic process used to develop educational programs in a consistent, reliable manner.5

    5. Course instructor

    To be distinguished from an instructional librarian, a course instructor is a classroom teacher in an academic department or program other than the library, e.g. a biology course instructor. The term may be interchangeable with classroom instructor, classroom professor, classroom teacher, course professor and teaching faculty member.

    While library instructional activities are seen in all types of libraries including public, academic, school, government, and special, this book concentrates on academic libraries in the United States.

    Background and a brief history

    Books were once scarce and expensive. A library was regarded as a prestigious place where books were kept. It was the Storehouse of Knowledge as Brough puts it.6

  • Library instruction


    College libraries in the colonial period, for example, held few books that were regarded as so precious that college authorities believed conserving them to be far more important than making them immediately useful.7 Thus, a librarians job was to keep the materials in a logical order for easy retrieval and to preserve book condition so as to prolong the existence of materials. A librarian was commonly regarded as a keeper only.8 It was, by the nature of the work, a service-oriented profession.9

    Primitive library instructional activities might have included, for example, a library tour, in the days when a librarian would lead visitors to different parts of the library, explaining its physical layout and the locations of different materials. Such activities led to library orientation, a more formal library introduction, which would merge with other instructional activities, such as bibliographic instruction, for example, to fall eventually into the broad category library instruction. In the United States, the role of librarian has changed and evolved gradually over the centuries. Early evidence of library instruction other than casual tours can be traced back to the 1820s, when a librarian at Harvard College gave lectures on rare books owned by the library.10 In advocating the idea that librarians are educators, in order to meet the need for an improved relationship between books and readers, Ralph Waldo Emerson called for the creation and appointment of Professors of books as early as the 1840s.11 Melvil Dewey, founder of the first library school in the United States and the creator of the Dewey Decimal classification system, outlined this new role in 1876 by declaring: The time was when a library was very much like a museum... The time is when a library is a school, and the librarian is in the highest sense a teacher.12 Deweys notion was echoed by Otis H. Robinson, a librarian at the University of Rochester, when he said: a librarian should be much more than a keeper of books; he should be an educator.13 He went on to say: No such librarian is fit for

  • Library Instruction Design


    his place unless he holds himself to some degree responsible for the library education of the students.

    Social and political developments also helped reshape the nature of the librarians work. Since the establishment of public libraries in the late nineteenth century, libraries are no longer luxury facilities for a few people. Different types of libraries came into existence when public, academic, school, corporate, government, and special libraries were created to meet the needs of the modern industrial society. Librarianship as a profession was formally established when the American Library Association was founded in 1876. As a result, different responsibilities were created and developed as functional branches of librarianship. Reference service, circulation control, the cataloging process, material preservation, and user education were among the most common such duties. Meanwhile, academic librarianship became a more instruction-oriented profession, especially for reference librarians. In 1881 Raymond C. Davis, a librarian emeritus of the University of Michigan and pioneer in teaching credit-bearing courses in library science, won approval to offer a credit course in bibliography and reference works.14 Academic librarians dominated the field of library instruction during the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century.15 In 1964 Daniel Gore of Asheville-Biltmore College called for a one-semester course to be created in order to break through the restriction to point-of-need of user education in reference service. The reference librarian cannot answer the questions that are not asked,16 he wrote in Library Journal, and they may well be more important than the ones that are. For this role of teaching, Gore called reference librarians teacher-librarians.

    Although there was never a lack of different opinions and opposing viewpoints on the educator role of librarianship,17

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    library instruction found solid ground, especially after the concept of information literacy gained popularity. Instructional abilities became a standard job requirement in the 1970s.18 Dominated by the digital revolution, the last quarter of the twentieth century is labeled by many as the beginning of the information age. Library science underwent significant changes owing to the rapid advances in computer technology, the rise of information-based industries, and, of course, the invention of the World Wide Web. The card catalog was replaced by the online public access catalog (OPAC), and the electronic reference database became an essential component of any academic librarys holding collection. As a consequence, library instruction has constantly expanded its repertoire to include more digital contents and this trend is continuing in the twenty-first century. Modern library instruction may include traditional components, such as bibliographic instruction, but may exclude some obsolete content, such as an introduction to the card catalog. Other areas are also often covered, particularly and inevitably the use of technology, such as computer applications, communication methods, and web literacy. This new information environment creates an opportunity for librarians to redefine and reposition the profession in a unique way. Library instructional programs, formal or informal, credit or non-credit, are now presented in academic libraries as a de facto necessity in the realm of higher education.

    The impact of technology on information accessibility

    In the year 2000, over half of the households in the United States, 51 percent to be exact, had computers,19 and by 2010 this percentage had jumped to 76.7.20 Computers have

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    become part of peoples daily lives, as televisions did in the 1980s when they started to occupy the living room. Can you imagine doing a research project without a computer nowadays?Difficult, if not impossible. Computers have made a massive impact on the process of seeking information, from beginning to end. Modern technologies have made it easy for information to be accessible, often freely, to many people. This unprecedented information accessibility delivers not only convenience but also speed.

    Computers have also impacted significantly on the nature of the librarians job. A reference librarian today, for example, deals with not only classical reference questions and traditional directional queries but also a significant number of computer-related questions, from how to use Microsoft Word or attach a document to an email to how to use a Windows-based PC, or an iMac. Computer literacy is therefore a prerequisite for a modern librarian. A reference or instructional librarian may not have to study computer science in a formal way, for example, by learning the C++ programming language or mastering Java script, but should be familiar with popular computer applications, such as word processing programs and different web browsers, in order to provide library service and instruction confidently. Advertisements in todays librarian job market confirm this universal requirement.

    The impact of the Internet on information availability

    According to the US Census Bureau, household Internet usage rates in the United States have climbed steadily, from 41.5 percent in 2000 to 68.7 percent in 2009.21

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    The creation of the Internet is one of the most significant events in the modern information world. Library instruction is greatly influenced and enhanced by the Internet, in terms of both the content to teach and the teaching method.22

    Once upon a time, there was something called a card catalog, which typically consisted of a collection of 5 in 3 in cards carrying standard bibliographic information, such as title, author, subject, control number, etc., for each of the books that the library had in its collection. As well as showing the nature and scope of the collection, the card catalog helped users find books quickly. In the old days, using the card catalog was a vital part of utilizing library resources efficiently. To use the card catalog, however, one had to be physically present in the library and visit time might be limited by the librarys operating hours. On top of this inconvenience for the user, the production of the card catalog, whether by handwriting or typing, was labor-intensive and time-consuming. All these problems have been solved since the birth of OPAC, which is made for use by anyone at any time from anywhere. (Lets just observe a moment of silence for the deceased card catalog.) And all these wonderful things happened because of the creation of the World Wide Web.

    That is, for books and monographs. In regard to periodicals, it used to be a tedious procedure for an average user to search print journal indexes or article abstracts in order to find relevant research literature. The World Wide Web has not only brought periodical indexes and abstracts online but also made searching more time-efficient and powerful by hyperlinking to full text articles. One of the most obvious advantages of web sources is hypertext, with which one can navigate from one document to another in a matter of a mouse click. The idea of hypertext was originated

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    by Dr. Vannevar Bush almost seventy years ago with his imaginary Memex system,23 with which one can make, store, and consult records rapidly. A web source typically contains hypertext links to other related documents or websites where one can find additional information. For example, a hyperlink provided by Encyclopedia Britannica Online to Merriam Websters Dictionary not only saves us time and makes our research easier, but also provides a meaningful combination of reference works that we may consult together.

    So, whats new in todays library instruction? Compared with those of the pre-digital era, academic library instruction programs today include new contents that are basic but crucial in this information environment. For example, one must learn how to search OPAC in order to find books; and how to formulate a search statement to find relevant research articles. In terms of teaching method, while we still practice traditional face-to-face classroom teaching and the one-on-one reference desk interview, the Internet opens the door to a world of other possibilities. Podcast, online tutorial, online course, Webinar, and many forms of social media or Web 2.0 tools become optional methods of teaching; and this provides advantages. A more flexible schedule, less travelling, and convenience are among the most frequently cited benefits.

    From bibliographic instruction to information literacy

    Among the various sorts of library instruction programs, bibliographic instruction (BI) may be one of the most specialized library-science-related educational programs.

  • Library instruction


    With a focus on systems used for organizing library materials, BI directly deals with issues of library science in contents while, for example, a library orientation may pay equal attention to the librarys physical layout and information resources. Contents of typical BI programs may include tools for finding library materials (the use of book catalogs, periodical indexes, and bibliographic databases), interpretation of library terminology (how to read citations and bibliographies), introduction to resources of literature on a given subject (comprehensive and exhaustive literature search), information search strategies (relevancy, logic, and techniques), and research methods (procedure and methodologies).

    There is no lack of literature in the history of BI. One of the most important works is User Education in Academic Libraries: A Century of Selected Readings, an anthology compiled by Larry L. Hardesty, John P. Schmitt, and John Mark Tucker. Articles included are written by Justin Winsor, Otis Hall Robinson, Raymond C. Davis, Melvil Dewey, and fourteen others, all prominent figures in their own time. This collection vividly reflects historical trends, developments, and philosophies in library instruction from the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. In 1980 John Mark Tucker published his extensive annotated bibliography, Articles on Library Instruction in Colleges and Universities, 18761932. The authors intention is to provide access to secondary materials for historians and librarians interested in academic library development and, more specifically, the origins and growth of library instruction.24 Also informative is Mary F. Salonys The History of Bibliographic Instruction: Changing Trends from Books to the Electronic World. In her article, Salony presents a concise history of BI in academic libraries from pre-Civil War times to the 1990s. Because of its academic nature, BI was dominant among

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    instructional programs in academic libraries from the nineteenth century until the rise of information literacy, a much broader concept, in the late twentieth century.

    Literacy is a magic word in todays vocabulary. Computer literacy, communications technology literacy, Internet literacy, digital literacy, financial literacy, health literacy the list can go on and on. The definition of literacy has continued to evolve. In their book on the subject, in a chapter titled A New concept of literacy, Patricia Senn Breivik and E. Gordon Gee say In the midst of the information explosion, the ability to access, retrieve, and evaluate information should constitute a significant part of todays definition of literacy.25 The term information literacy (IL) was originally introduced by Paul G. Zurkowski, then president of the Information Industry Association, in November 1974. In his paper, submitted on behalf of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS), Zurkowski described information literacy as the techniques and skills that are used for utilizing the wide range of information tools as well as primary sources in molding information solutions to their problems.26 By this definition, about five-sixths of the US population fell into the category of information illiterate at the time of the report, while nearly 100% were literatein the sense that they could read and write.27 The report suggests that the top priority of the NCLIS should be working to establish a major national program to achieve universal information literacy by 1984, making a ten-year plan. This new approach has generated a huge potential in the field of library user education, which will extend and further its goal to beyond BI and college studies. Zurkowski seems to be ahead of his contemporaries with this idea. His advocacy was seen as visionary, but the world of libraries did not seem to be ready for it in reality. IL was not a popular topic in mainstream

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    library science literature for quite some time. For example, in a library science textbook published fifteen years later, Library Instruction for Librarians, there is still no mention of IL.28 For most librarians, brick and mortar buildings, physical facilities, traditional print materials, and classical BI instruction were still major concerns. Zurkowskis call went unheeded until well into the information age, also known as the digital age.

    The information age, beginning in the 1970s and undergoing a rapid acceleration of growth in the 1980s, has changed peoples lives and is impacting our society dramatically, particularly since the introduction of personal computers for general consumers and the accessibility of the World Wide Web to the public. Unlike the industrial age, when mechanical production of material goods was the new main theme, in an information-based economy, information becomes a commodity. This newly formed information industry demands a new kind of worker, and thus creates an information workforce that is different from the previous one. Typically, people in this workforce are trained in the application of information resources to their work as well as computer-related techniques and skills for utilizing the wide range of information tools. In the core of this workforce there is a category of so-called knowledge workers,29 who, as defined by Thomas H. Davenport, have high degrees of expertise, education, or experience, and the primary purpose of their jobs involves the creation, distribution, or application of knowledge.30 Besides members of familiar professions, such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, financial analysts and computer programmers, librarians fall into the category of knowledge workers, fittingly based upon this definition. The word library was quickly replaced by the word information in library science school names.31 Already in 2005, when Davenports book was published, up to

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    one-third of all workers in developed countries were knowledge workers, according to Davenports estimate.

    In order to be successful in this fast-changing environment, one has to learn how to learn and prepare to be a lifelong learner. Hence, IL has become a survival skill in the information age. Having recognized the inevitable direction of society and new opportunities for the library profession, the American Libraries Association (ALA) formed the Presidential Committee on Information Literacy in 1987. What is true today is often outdated tomorrow. A good job today may be obsolete next year.32 warned the committee; therefore, there is a lifelong need for being informed and up-to-date. The committee released its official definition of information literacy in 1989: To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. The IL movement reached a historic stage in 2000, when the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of ALA, published Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Seven years later, in a state-of-the-art report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) this description of the status of IL in the United States appeared: Accrediting agencies recognize Information Literacy as a core learning ability and now require that educators demonstrate how students are expected to achieve these information competencies. In the wider world, business and government leaders are seeing how efforts at instilling Information Literacy can impact the broader society.33

    IL has become an important part of library user education in the twenty-first century. The obvious change from traditional library instruction programs to information literacy instruction is that the latter deals with not only library science, e.g. BI, and user orientation, e.g. the library

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    floor plan; but also computer applications, e.g. print / save, communication technology, e.g. email, and the ability to evaluate retrieved information. But the most fundamental difference is in teaching philosophy. Both traditional and IL instruction require literacy, that is, the ability to read and write, and critical thinking, but each aims at a different goal. Traditional BI, for example, concentrates on current learning in college and thus sometimes lacks staying power with students when they graduate and move on to join the workforce; while ILs mission is to train lifelong learners who need to learn methods and strategies for future use, whether in further academic studies or in the workplace. The word information in the term information literacy denotes realms beyond the walls of a physical library, and librarians are no longer confined within brick and mortar workplaces.

    Library instruction has evolved to fit the characteristics of the information age. Libraries now have dual presences, physical and virtual, and library instruction has extended its coverage to the digital world. Librarians have been repositioning their professional role since the beginning of the information age. The classic stereotypical image of a librarian is gradually vanishing.34 The rise of IL has created a great opportunity for the library profession. Librarians are regarded, along with teachers and archivists, as supporting information mediators, or infomediaries, who have a multiplying effect in achieving information literate societies.35


    1. Tellingly, the Dictionary for Library and Information Science (Libraries Unlimited, 2004) omits library instruction as an

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    independent entry. Rather, it uses a cross-reference to redirect the user to bibliographic instruction, reflecting todays emphasis in the field of library instruction.

    2. Wiegand, Wayne A. and Donald G. Davis Jr. eds. (1994). Encyclopedia of Library History: 364. New York, NY: Garland Publishing.

    3. Intner, Sheila S. (1990). The Public and Bibliographic Instruction: Missed Opportunities in Creating a Positive Information Environment. The Reference Librarian, 14/31: 17. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press.

    4. The Association of College and Research Libraries (2000). Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education: 2. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

    5. Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2011). Instructional Design for Librarians and Information Professionals: 9. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

    6. Kenneth J. Brough describes in detail the origin and history of the storehouse conception of the library in pp. 267 of his 1972 book Scholars Workshop. Boston, MA: Gregg Press.

    7. Ibid.: 5.8. In 1876, Melvil Dewey called for a role change in his article

    The Profession, in which he advocated a shift in the librarians role from keeper to educator. American Library Journal 1, September 1876: 56. New York, NY: Frederick Leypoldt.

    9. In the early days, instructional practices were generally regarded as personal assistance (Weiss, 2003), a perception that can easily be related to a service-oriented profession.

    10. Metcalf, Keyes D. (1947). The Undergraduate and the Harvard Library, 17651877, Harvard Library Bulletin 1.1, Winter: 49. Online Persistent Link at: . Accessed: September 6 2012.

    11. McMullen, Haynes (1955). Ralph Waldo Emerson and Libraries, Library Quarterly 25 April: 160. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    12. Dewey, The Profession: 6. (See note 8 above.)13. Robinson, Otis H. (1876). Proceedings: First Session,

    American Library Journal 1, 30 November: 123. New York, NY: Frederick Leypoldt.

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    14. R.C. Daviss contribution to bibliographic instruction is acknowledged in Henry Ridgely Evans (1914). Library Instruction in Universities, Colleges, and Normal Schools, Bulletin 34: 3. Washington DC: United States Bureau of Education, Department of the Interior. (Also available as a Google ebook.)

    15. Tucker, John Mark (1994). Library Instruction in Encyclopedia of Library History: 364. (See note 2.)

    16. Gore, Daniel (1964). Anachronistic Wizard: The College Reference Librarian in Library Journal 89/1: 1690. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker.

    17. Notable voices can be found in Lucy M. Salmons Instruction in the Use of a College Library, Bulletin of the American Library Association, 7/4: 3019 (July 1913): 359. Boston, MA: ALA. Salmon, a historian at Vassar College, believes that college professors are better fitted than academic reference librarians to be instructors in library use because of their deeper understanding of course work. Also, the faculty status of academic librarians was questioned for the lack of proper methodological foundations or the lack of the Ph.D. education which is the normal prerequisite for acceptance as a faculty member. (W. Miller and D.S. Rockwood (1981), 198, 129.)

    18. Tucker, John Mark (1980). User Education in Academic Libraries: A Century in Retrospect, Library Trends 29/1 Summer: 22. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    19. The US Census Bureau started collecting data on computer ownership and use in 1984. Detailed 2000 statistics on computers are available at: . Accessed: August 16 2012.

    20. 2010 Computer for households table is available at: . Accessed: August 16 2012.

    21. Data can be retrieved at: . Click on Appendix Table A: Households With a Computer and Internet Use: 1984 to 2009. Accessed: August 16 2012.

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    22. Purely for convenience, the terms Internet and World Wide Web (www) are used loosely and interchangeably in this book, although strictly speaking, the Internet is the network of networks which includes www, electronic mail, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and other network communication protocols.

    23. Bush, Vannevar (1945). As We May Think, The Atlantic Monthly 176, July: 1018.

    24. Tucker, John Mark (1980). Articles on Library Instruction in Colleges and Universities, 18761932. Occasional Papers 143: 3. Urban, IL: University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library Science.

    25. Breivik, Patricia Senn and E. Gordon Gee (1989). Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library: 23. New York, NY: Macmillan.

    26. Zurkowski, Paul G. (1974). The Information Service Environment Relationships and Priorities. Related Paper No. 5. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, November: 6. Washington DC: National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, National Program for Library and Information Services.

    27. ibid, Figure 3, 7.28. Roberts, Anne F. and Susan G. Blandy eds. (1989). Library

    Instruction for Librarians. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

    29. The term knowledge worker was originally introduced by Peter Ferdinand Drucker, the legendary management consultant, in his 1957 book, Landmarks of Tomorrow. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

    30. Davenport, Thomas H. (2005). Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances and Results from Knowledge Workers: 10. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

    31. It is this authors personal opinion that as long as library science stands as an independent major, the word library should have a default place in library school names, no matter what variation the school favors for the full name.

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    32. The committees final report was released on January 10, 1989. The report is available online at: . Accessed: November 23 2012.

    33. UNESCO (2007). Information Literacy: An International State of the Art Report. Paris, France: UNESCO. Available online at: . Accessed: December 1 2012.

    34. A recent book by Ashanti White, Not Your Ordinary Librarian: Debunking the Popular Perceptions of Librarians (Chandos, 2012), gives an interesting analysis of popular media images of the librarian from a historical point of view. A related book by Ruth Kneale, You Dont Look Like a Librarian (Information Today, 2009), focuses on the image of the librarian in the Internet age by presenting the results of a 1000-plus-respondent survey and interviews with librarians in different library settings.

    35. UNESCO (2008). Towards Information Literacy Indicators: 6. Paris, France: UNESCO. Available online at: . Accessed: December 5 2012.