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

  • Library instruction


    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

  • Library Instruction Design


    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

  • Library instruction


    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

  • Library Instruction Design


    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 ext...