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                          Library Instruction

   For most librarians who work in college and university libraries, sometimes they wonder, " don't these students learn anything about using a library in high school? If they do, they seem to forget what they have learned." And librarians who work with high school students also wonder, " Don't these students learn anything about using a library in middle or elementary school ?  The questions show an increasing need for library instruction in school libraries.


   Library instruction is also called as user education or bibliographic instruction. Its goal is to teach users how to search, evaluate, and use information and how to use the library effectively and independently.

   According to German library literature records (Lorenzen, 2001), library instruction in academic institutions could be traced back to the 17th Century in Germany. Library instruction in the United States began being taught in classrooms and first appeared in print in the late 19th Century. Dewey (1876) purported that " The time is when a library is a school, and the librarian is in the highest sense a teacher."(p.5) It meant that libraries on academic campuses became significant at this time.

   Library instruction continued in the early 20th Century; however, it didn't become standard in academic libraries until the 1960s. In the late 1970s, users found that some reference sources began to appear in online formats.  Most of the reference sources were not  accessible to users and needed librarian help to use. Knapp (1979) wrote about methods that could be used to teach users about these resources. With the appearance of online catalogs, electronic reference sources, the World Wide Web, and online courses, librarians have to change the ways of teaching library skills.


   According to Dewald (1999), there are some characteristics of good library instruction 
1. Library instruction has to relate with students' courses. When students can see library            instructions benefit to their coursework immediately, it is more received by them.

2. Drueke (1992) has indicated that active learning is more helpful than only lecture. It can be performed with individual or cooperative exercises, or other forms of practice.

3. It is necessary to offer more than one medium to help students. Some students learn best through a listening channel and some learn well through a visual channel. If instructors put these media together, the effect of library instruction will be more effective than either medium alone.

4. Wright (1991) has pointed out that clear educational objectives are very important. They can help the librarian to develop the instruction and provide an outline for the students.

5. Good library instruction teaches concepts, not only mechanics. Even if students are in a  different library or use dissimilar databases and computer interfaces, they should know how to use the resources.

6. Good library instruction does not end with class. It includes asking the librarian for help in the future. White (1992) emphasizes this ongoing availability of the librarian would make students self-sufficient.


   Before, students would go to the campus library, use the card catalog to check out the books, browse periodical indexes, and photocopy some articles from journals. Today, they sit at computers, connect with the internet, and use the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) and databases to search for information. With a mouse click, they can download articles and pictures. It is easier and more convenient than before. However some students still have terrible experiences in an academic library because of the large number of collections and the appearance of new information technologies. With this situation, library instruction is getting a lot of attention now. It is an important means to help users to adapt to the quick changes in information skills and help them use the library efficiently.


Dewald N. H. (1999). Transporting good library instruction practices into the web environment: an analysis of online tutorials. The journal of academic librarianship. 25, (1), 26-31. 

Dewey, M. (1876). The profession. American library. American Library Journal. 1, p.5-6.

Drueke, J. (1992). Active learning in the university library instruction classroom. Research strategies. 10, p.77-83.

Lorenzen, M. (2001). A brief history of library information in the United States of America. Illinois Libraries, 83,(2), p.8-18.

White, H. S. (1992). Bibliographic instruction, information literacy, and information empowerment. Library journal. 117, p.76-78.

Wright, C. A. (1991). Application of the model statement to a basic information access skills program at Penn State University. In Dusenbury, C. et al. (Eds.) Read this first: An owners guide to the new model statement of objectives for academic bibliographic instruction. Chicago: American Library Association. P.22-33. 


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