Instructional Services FAQs

What do Instructional Services librarians really do?

by Jessica Critten

1. I’ve heard librarians use the term “Information Literacy” before. What does this term mean?

‘Information Literacy’ is a term used widely in library circles but can often be unfamiliar to our non-librarian collaborators. Put simply, it is the ability to “locate, evaluate, and use” information. It is the concept at the heart of most of our library instruction efforts. What this means for library instruction for your classes is that we like to think holistically about how students interact with information and structure our sessions around more than just the mechanics of searching in databases and sifting through library resources. We want all students to be information literate, which means knowing how to find things, but also how to decide whether something is appropriate to use, and also how to use the information they’ve found to construct evidence-based arguments.

2. What is a liaison librarian?

Each department has one or two librarians that are assigned to that department as its “liaison”. Among other things, this librarian is in charge of ordering materials and facilitating library instruction sessions for this department. The liaison librarian is assigned to specific departments because they know how to do research specific to that discipline. In fact, several liaison librarians have graduate degrees in the disciplines to which they liaise.

3. How do I request an instruction session with a librarian for my class?

This website has a link to a form that you can fill out to request an instruction session with your department’s liaison librarian:

We prefer to visit classes that have some kind of research project, and we’ve found that we are most effective when our sessions are purposefully aligned to a stage of a research process (topic formation, gathering background information, searching for resources, evaluating resources, etc) as opposed to giving a general orientation of the library and its resources. When possible, we like to meet with the instructor beforehand to brainstorm a lesson plan together that complements what is going on in the course.

So that we can plan an effective lesson for your class, please request instruction sessions two weeks in advance.

4. How often can a librarian visit my class?

When possible, meeting with classes more than once in a semester is generally good practice; it allows us to follow up with students, build relationships, and help address issues that arise at different points in the research process. Your liaison librarian is happy to work with you to come up with a schedule.

5. Can I bring my class into the library for an instruction session?

We try to schedule instruction sessions in the library, but we are limited in how many students we can accommodate in our instructional spaces. If your class is too large to meet in an available library classroom, we will try to work out some other solution – meet somewhere other than the library, split the class between two spaces (if two classrooms and two librarians are available at that time), or meet with half of the class at a time (half comes to the library Monday, the other half on Wednesday).

6. What kinds of things can a librarian teach in an instruction session?

Generally, the “menu” of options we offer is as follows:

  • Forming a research question and developing a topic
  • Evaluating sources (recognizing what makes a source credible)
  • Introduction to library databases
  • Finding sources (books, scholarly articles, etc.)
  • Documentation – Citing Sources (please indicate style in assignment description)
  • Library basics (navigating the website or GALILEO, becoming familiar with the library space, policies, etc.)

In a 50 or 75 minute session, we can only cover so much information well, so we ask that instructors only choose at most two (2) of these topics. That said, if there is a topic you’d like an instruction librarian to cover outside of these options, feel free to ask. Among other topics, we’ve done sessions in the past on integrating sources, citation management software, and critical thinking.

7. What does an instruction librarian do?

We actually get this question all the time, and are happy to answer it because our job descriptions are probably a little different than what most people expect of a “librarian.” We don’t shelve books or shush people, for one!

Our main job, really, is teaching. We teach several sections of our credit-bearing course LIBR 1101 (Academic Research and the Library) each year, and we work with our liaison departments to do library instruction sessions for specific classes. Librarians in the Instructional Services department are tenure-track faculty members, which means we do research, present, and publish like any other faculty member. Our research largely focuses on pedagogy and critical thinking, and we are active in the teaching and learning community in higher education.


2 thoughts on “Instructional Services FAQs

    • Sorry for the slow response. You would request a librarian visit your class the same way you would for a face to face class: go to and click on the form to request a session.

      How this will be handled depends on the format of your class. If you have synchronous meetings, a librarian can log in and do a session through collaborate. If your class is asynchronous, the librarian may provide a tutorial or assignment, and then log in to CourseDen to answer questions about. It will depend on what makes sense with your course design!

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