Over the past year my library, which serves the students and faculty of a small technical college, has placed a new emphasis on classroom instruction. As a result, usage of library materials and student research skills have increased while the number of plagiarism cases have decreased.
In previous years our librarians visited only freshman orientation classes, in which they discussed library services and resources without detailed instruction on using the resources. Students would have to come to the library for a one-on-one session for that. It was clear that instruction services were deficient in our library. After attending the ALAO Annual Conference in 2012 and visiting a poster session on instruction menus presented by librarians at Miami,1 we decided to develop our own menu.
First, we researched other library instruction menus. Miami’s poster session, with an emphasis on mixing and matching topics, inspired our decision to break our menu into beginner, intermediate, and advanced subjects (or Appetizers, Entrees, and Specialty Items, to fit the theme). An article by the instruction librarians at Radford University further inspired us to consider the menu’s utility as a marketing tool to increase awareness of the library services to instructors.2
With these things in mind we created a list of topics for first quarter class visits which could be covered in 30 minute one-shot sessions (or combined for longer lessons). They cover topics from how to search the databases, to setting up papers in APA format, to using iPads in the classroom, and more. Following Radford’s model, we promote the menu on a monthly basis via email to instructors and announce our availability at monthly staff meetings.
After just a few months, the number of classes we were invited into rose dramatically, from 2 per month to between 9 and 12. We saw a 30% jump in use of our databases and other electronic resources and the number of technical and directional questions asked at the reference desk decreased, opening up time for librarians to handle more in-depth research questions. We have positive anecdotal evidence from faculty comments that plagiarism on research papers has decreased significantly as well.
We are now one year into our menu-driven model of instruction and while we continue to market our services monthly, we get a lot of “repeat business” from faculty who had invited us into their previous classes and seen improvement in the research skills of their students. Other departments in the college have successfully adapted our menu for their own class visits, and we are now reaching out to faculty with topic suggestions tailored to their classes and assignments.
- Miller, Lindsay, Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, and Eric Resnis. “Creating an a la carte menu to increase the impact of first-year library instruction.” Poster session presented at the Annual Conference of the Academic Library Association of Ohio, Wilmington, OH, October 2012.
- Benjes-Small, Candice, and Blair, Brainard. “And today we’ll be serving…: An instruction a la carte menu.” College & Research Libraries News, 67, no. 2 (February 2006): 80-96, http://crln.acrl.org/content/67/2/80.short.
Kaylin N. Boehme
Brown Mackie College
Founder of the blog Berry Picked