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Faculty Tool Kit: Effective Library Assignments

Learn how to access the resources and services available at the Harold L. Drimmer Library

Creating Effective Library Assignments

Librarians are eager to collaborate with faculty to design assignments that emphasize critical thinking and to discuss other ways of integrating information literacy into courses.

Well-designed, subject-related research assignments that  align with course learning outcomes, discourage plagiarism, utilize Westchester Community College Library resources and services facilitate a positive student learning experience.

Best Practices for Library Assignments - DO's

1. DO work with a librarian to develop an assignment that is meaningful to your students and derives from your stated learning goals. Librarians can make sure an assignment will work and can help get rid of the bugs in an assignment.

2. Make sure the library resources can support the assignment.

3. Recognize that students need to learn to engage with materials on a deeper level than they have been taught in high school.  So, at least for beginning students, taking a "less is more" approach will help them learn this practice.  For example, instead of requiring the use of five resources, why not ask them to use the best two?

4. Teach students how to determine what a manageable topic looks like.  Students tend to come up with a topic before having done the necessary reading, and it's only after they have spent considerable time on an unweildy topic that they realize the need to step back and determine whether the topic is really appropriate.

5. Use library guides whenever possible, since the goal of most assignments should be integrally related to the overall course goals and *not* "library skills/information literacy" per se.  Librarians can create guides geared specifically for your class and its assignments.

 

 

Best Practices for Library Assignments - DONT's

1. DON'T assign an old assignment without making sure it's updated.

  • Students are often frustrated when assignments are several years old and no attempt has been made to ensure that the same resources are still available. Websites, urls, digital resources all change.  The library continues to acquire and modify its holdings.  Books go missing and cannot be replaced.

2. Don't assume students all have the same skill level or assume they all know what they're doing.

  • Knowing "how to use the internet" to them might mean they know how to use Facebook and Youtube.  However, they probably don't even know how to use the advanced search in google and certainly they are unaware of discipline-specific and other scholarly resources that colleges offer.  Most of them took the admissions tour, so they know the library is beautiful and it has a lot of books.  They might even remember that they're cataloged by subject :-)

3. Don't use a scavenger hunts unless it is integral to a research methodology you are teaching.

  • Scavenger hunts are an unpleasant way (for students and librarians) to teach them about "the library".
  • Sometimes key reference sources are left out of assignment instructions to make the work more challenging for students, thereby creating scavenger hunt-like conditions.  We question the usefulness of this strategy, and we believe that it sends the wrong message to students.  The library (any library!) should be a place where ideas come together, not a place of struggle and hardship

Sample Library Assignment Ideas