Library & Resource Instruction Research Paper Starter

Library & Resource Instruction

(Research Starters)

Library and resource instruction in public schools is made up of two components: general library skills and procedures, and information literacy through topical or assignment-specific strategies. This article describes the two components of library and resource instruction in grades kindergarten through high school; describes the characteristics of formal and informal library skills instruction; and summarizes the issues surrounding special needs students. The article concludes with a description of Responsive Classroom(r) methodology and a glimpse at the results of its application to an elementary school library.

Keywords Blog; Cognitive Apprenticeship; Copyright; Distance Learning; Gifted Digital Students; Information Literacy; Interlibrary Loan (ILL); Metacognition; Responsive Classroom(r); Special Needs Students


Public school libraries - from the kindergarten grades through high school - are often called alternative names, such as media centers, library-media centers, or resource centers. The diversity of names reflects the changing nature of school libraries. Today, school libraries contain materials and resources in a variety of formats, including books and magazines in paper and electronic formats, recordings, videos, Web-based and Internet resources, and materials available through interlibrary loan (ILL). As a result, school librarians are providing more diverse and sophisticated instruction in library and resource instruction to an increasingly diverse and sophisticated population that includes students, teachers, and parents. In this article, the focus is on public school library and resource instruction for students.

Components of Library

Library and resource instruction in schools is made up of two components:

• General library skills and procedures.

• Information literacy through topical or assignment-specific strategies.

General Library Skills

General library skills and procedures cover the knowledge and facility needed to utilize the library's resources. Goals for this component of library instruction include the following six objectives:

• How to search the library's card or electronic catalogue.

• How to locate materials within the library.

• How to operate equipment such as photocopy machines and computers.

• How to follow procedures and regulations for checking out materials.

• How to follow procedures for using ILL.

• How to follow general library rules and regulations.

Information Literacy through Topical or Assignment-specific Strategies

Information literacy through topical or assignment-specific strategies covers the knowledge and facility needed to utilize the library's resources to research specific topics or complete a school assignment. These strategies build upon the knowledge gained from learning general library skills and advance to a state of "information literacy," or the ability to apply the general library skills known to specific information needs. Goals for this component of library instruction include the following five objectives:

• How to define the subject.

• How to determine information needs.

• How to collect the information needed.

• How to evaluate the information collected for currency, authority, reliability and relevance to topic.

• How to properly quote, attribute and cite the information used and avoid copyright infringement.

Usually, students will participate in an orientation program that teaches general library skills and procedures before they need to tackle topical or assignment-specific projects. Of course, the lower the grade level, the more scaled-back and basic the instruction and objectives will be.

The Concept of Metacognition

Jaeger (2007) describes his concept of developing information literacy through the concept of metacognition, which is defined literally as "thinking about thinking." Jaeger

expands the term "metacognition" as the linking of a student's current knowledge with new knowledge. This description is akin to applying the second component of library instruction, "information literacy through topical or assignment-specific strategies" described earlier in this article. The idea is to arrive at new knowledge by building upon current knowledge.

Who is the Instructor?

It seems to be obvious that the school librarian provides all the library and resource instruction to students. However, there is variability to this situation. The school librarian may teach all the instruction, or others may contribute. Here are some alternate "instructor" scenarios:

• The school librarian with teachers (the team-teaching approach).

• Teachers (usually for assignment-specific library instruction).

• Library aides or volunteers.

An interesting aspect of using alternate instructors such as teachers, library aides, or volunteers, is that the school librarian will usually need to instruct them in both library instruction components before they can instruct students.

Cognitive apprenticeship is another twist to teaching and learning library skills. Tilley (2007) examines the issue of mastering information literacy through cognitive apprenticeships that take advantage of current technology. He suggests that teachers and media specialists (school librarians) can learn much from peers and students who are well-versed in the use and value of computer technology. For example, Tilley promotes the benefits of peer mentoring - among both teachers and students - to learn information literacy skills through the use of structured problem-solving and information evaluation activities via blogs and other web-based tools. The idea is to utilize technology to uncover, teach, and internalize the knowledge of peers.


Library and resource instruction in schools consists of formal and informal instruction. Usually, both formal and informal instruction techniques are used in schools.

Formal Instruction

Formal library and resource instruction refers to instruction that is scheduled and provided in a large or small group setting, such as a session in the library or in a teacher's classroom. Formal instruction may be provided in person or via distance learning on closed circuit TV.

Informal Instruction

Informal library and resource instruction in schools is performed by school librarians, teachers, aides, volunteers, and students. Informal instruction is that which occurs on an as-needed basis and often on a one-on-one instructor-student basis. For example, a student may have already participated in a formal group session by either the school librarian or his teacher that provided instruction in finding sources for a particular assignment, but he still needs more help collecting information, so the librarian works with him on an individual basis for that assignment. The school librarian may also provide informal library and resource instruction through a library Web site or blog where students can find information, ask questions, or contribute their own instructional strategies and resources.

Digital Natives and Digital Citizenship

The continued growth of digital means of...

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