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Information Literacy at IU Southeast: Library Instruction FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is library instruction?

Library instruction refers to single or multiple class sessions taught by library faculty that introduce students to library research strategies and the basic information sources needed for effective use of the library. Library instruction sessions are designed to complement particular courses or fields of study. Instruction covers use of local resources, including the library’s website and online catalog (IUCAT) and electronic article databases. Sessions are meant to help students develop basic information literacy skills by focusing on how to articulate an information need, formulate a strategy to find information to fulfill that need, and evaluate the information that they find.  Special attention is paid to evaluating external internet resources for accuracy and reliability.  

What is information literacy?
Information literacy is a set of skills that refers to a student's ability to 1) use appropriate tools and technologies to identify, access, and evaluate, and use information effectively, and 2) use information responsibly, in accordance with legal and ethical principles.

In September of 2003, the Indiana University Southeast Faculty Senate endorsed a revised set of nine General Education Goals and Outcomes, with the expectation that these goals and accompanying outcomes would be integrated into courses and experiences throughout the curriculum.  Information Literacy is one of these General Education outcomes.   

Although helping students achieve these general education outcomes is a campus-wide responsibility, the Library, as the campus entity most obviously associated with information issues, and has developed the goals and objectives for Information Literacy.

In this General Education context, the IU Southeast Library Instruction program provides the following instructional services in a three-tiered approach:


  • Tier 1:  In the first year, students are introduced to information literacy concepts and skills in a First Year Seminar class.  This comprises the majority of our instruction every semester.   Until recently, the FYS session included a physical tour of the Library, but starting in Fall 2010, we began focusing only on in-classroom instruction for the FYS classes.  A self-guided audio tour is provided to all students to complete on their own time. 
  • Tier 2:  In an early class in the major, librarians consult with professors to offer an instruction experience to students, reinforcing basic skills and introducing discipline-specific tools and strategies.  Librarians also create a LibGuide for this entering-the-major course.
  • Tier 3:  At the capstone or senior seminar level, librarians and professors ensure that the seniors have a thorough understanding of the information context of their discipline.  Librarians provide an instruction session and work individually with students as requested. 


How does library instruction benefit my students?
Library instruction can help students with any or all of the following:

  1. Understanding how to use the library’s online catalog
  2. Understanding how to use the library’s electronic databases to find magazine and journal articles
  3. Identifying and critically evaluating information sources (both print and online)
  4. Focusing and narrowing a topic
  5. Locating materials on a specific subject
  6. Recognizing scholarly vs. popular materials
  7. Using current as well as older materials
  8. Finding statistics, government documents, and other resources, in both print and electronic format
  9. Overcoming library anxiety

Through instruction in the use of library resources, students will be better able to complete more thoughtful, interesting, and scholarly research projects.

How do I schedule a library instruction session?
To arrange a library instruction session, please contact Maria Accardi, the library instruction coordinator, at 812-941-2551 or

What can I do to help make a library instruction session relevant to my students?
Librarians make every effort to ensure the usefulness, relevance, and quality of an instruction session, but your cooperation and support are essential to the success of our instructional goals.  We do ask that you accompany your class to the library and remain for the duration of the session.  Your presence in the class models the kind of engagement we would like to see in the students.  

Library instruction is most useful when it is contextualized in a specific research assignment.  It is helpful if you communicate to the librarian prior to instruction session what kind of projects your students are working on and what their research needs might be.  

We understand, however, that in FYS and other courses, your students may not have to do research for your class.  In that case, we recommend creating a library assignment of some kind to provide students with the opportunity and incentive to apply these library skills.  Library science research indicates that the “scavenger hunt” library assignment does not support effective student learning, so for that reason, we discourage this kind of assignment.  We would be glad to work with you to design an assignment that meets your instructional goals while also supporting the library’s instructional goals.  The University of Washington library provides helpful tips for designing library assignments.

How are library instruction sessions assessed?
The library instruction program employs a number of methods to assess the effectiveness and quality of instruction sessions.  In FYS sessions, students take a pre- and post-test that assesses student knowledge of library resources and information literacy skills.  In intermediate-level sessions, we use a one-minute stop/start exercise, where the students are asked to describe one research technique that they will no longer use and one research technique they will begin using as a result of the library instruction session.  We also ask students to explain how searching for information through library resources differs from searching for information using search engine like Google.

While classroom assessment techniques are useful for assessing student knowledge and effectiveness of instruction, there are other dimensions we want to assess, such as quality and consistency of teaching, the affective domain of learning, and direct assessment of student performance. Thus, we are exploring ways to address these dimensions, such as instructor peer review, student focus groups, and collaborative models of authentic assessment.  

While the instrument and method of assessment may vary, the primary goal is to obtain useful information about student learning and teaching effectiveness, and we use this information to improve and strengthen our program.

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