Designing Effective Library Assignments*Planning
- Assume your students have minimal library knowledge: The library faculty has a schedule of Open Workshops that cover basic library and research skills. It is a good idea to require that your students sign up for one-three of these workshops at times that are convenient for them. They will bring you a signed attendance form for every workshop they attend.
- Consult with a librarian before the assignment: The Hostos Library faculty care about making teaching and learning as painless and productive as possible. We will work with you to design an appropriate, useful assignment that will achieve your course goals/objectives. For more information, go to Arrange a Course-Related Workshop or contact Prof. Miriam Laskin, Instructional Services Librarian (ext. 4207 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Explain the assignment clearly, preferably in writing. Our students need clear, specific, written instructions for their library assignments. Your suggestions for types of resources to use, and complete, accurate citations for specific works are good to include in the assignment.
- Avoid very current topics, or local topics if you wish your students to use scholarly journals. For current issues, there may only be articles and essays available in the daily press or in popular magazines. However, the Library has excellent licensed databases such as Lexis-Nexis and Ethnic Newswatch which provide full text articles from newspapers and periodicals if you should wish to give a library assignment on a current events topic.
- Avoid topics that are too general or too specific unless part of your assignment is to have your students learn how to broaden or narrow their research topics.
- Avoid scavenger hunts" where you ask the class to find a series of particular books or reference materials or that asks students to search for obscure or trivial facts. This frustrates students, can cause chaos in the library stacks, and teaches students little about information literacy skills.
- Test your library assignment by doing it yourself. If you try out your assignment, you can find any problems students may encounter, before you give the assignment, and save yourself and your students from frustration and disappointment if something doesn’t work the way you visualized it.
- Always be sure the Library has the needed materials or sources you want your students to use. Save students from frustration and confusion. If there is a particular source that you know will be necessary for all the students to use in the course of doing the assignment, place it on Course Reserve for the duration of the assignment. (Telephone extension for the Reserve/Periodicals Desk is 4224)
- Avoid a "mob scene." Dozens of students using just one book, article, or index, or looking for the same information usually leads to misplacement, loss, or mutilation of materials. Allow students to choose from a variety of topics and sources, and don’t forget that you can place materials on Course Reserve when a particular source is required.
- Be clear in your use of the term "Internet." The Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same, and are not interchangeable terms, though we often forget that. If you tell your students not to use "the Internet" for their research, they will be unable to use the many licensed journal databases in the Hostos Library because the databases, though they are high-quality, expensive, restricted resources, "live" on servers on the Internet. These databases, however, are never accessible from the "free" Web because CUNY subscribes to them. If you want to allow your students to find authoritative Websites from the "free" Web, librarians can help. We also offer "Surf Smart I," an open workshop that teaches students how to critically evaluate websites.
- Refer students to library staff for help! Remind your students that librarians are available at the Reference desk and can provide individual help.
- Once again, please feel free to contact the Instructional Services
Librarian, Prof. Miriam Laskin (ext. 4207 or email@example.com) for
information, clarification, or help. Individual library faculty are subject
experts or are familiar with the courses in your Department through their work
as Department liaison. Prof. Laskin will put you in touch with the librarian
who can work most fruitfully with you on developing either course-related
library instruction, or to help you in developing your specific library
Instructional Services Coordinator
* (Adapted with permission from the University of Oregon Library System, Eugene, OR)