Thursday, September 30, 2004

Teaching the Library: Best Practices. This article is by Laura Saunders and it appeared in Library Philosophy and Practice Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring 2002).

From the site:

Whether it is called bibliographic instruction, library instruction, or an information literacy program, the teaching of library and research skills to college students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels is a hot topic. There is much debate both in the literature and in the classroom about how best to engage the students’ attention and ensure that they understand what is being taught. When establishing a program of instruction in academic libraries, bibliographic instruction librarians have to consider their audience, their content, and their methods of instruction.

Who is the Audience?

In order to create a program that will be effective for the greatest number of people, instruction librarians must first understand their audience and its needs. There is a variety of methods for determining audience needs, including user surveys, focus groups, and anecdotal evidence.

At first glance, the audience in an academic library may seem to be more homogenous than that of a public library. Most college students are about 18 to 22 years old, having come to college as soon as they finished high school. The majority of the students are probably American, and speak English fluently. In a private college, with an expensive tuition, most of the students might be of particular socioeconomic background. But with a closer look the librarian will notice that in fact there are many differences among the students, even in an academic library.

Most colleges have some sort of program for adult learners, people who did not attend college after high school and who are returning to school later in life. Likewise, if the college offers graduate degrees, there will be some older students in those programs as well. Many schools also accept international applicants, and even of those students who are American citizens, not all will be native born, or have the same language proficiency. Finally, with scholarships and loans, some economically disadvantaged students will be able to attend expensive schools that they otherwise could not afford. Thus, though the patrons of an academic library may seem very alike at first, they do in fact come from all different backgrounds. Moreover, no matter how similar students might otherwise be, there will be students with all different learning styles in every classroom, and these differences in style must also be taken into account.

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