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Lansing Community College Library

Reference & Instruction Guide: Strategies and Resources

Policies, procedures, best practices and training guide, for reference and instruction services.

Best Practices -- As of Fall 2015

Getting Started: Provide your name and contact information, along with objectives / learning outcomes and expectations, if applicable.

Lighting: Experiment with the room lighting. Is there too much or too little? Ask the students for their preference and check from the back of the room. Remember when the lights are turned off at the front of the room anything written on the white board is virtually impossible to see unless the lights over the white board are on.

White Boards: Use markers that work and are dark enough to see from anywhere in the room. Proper lighting may help.

Teaching Aids: Use visuals, videos, handouts, or other resources that are relevant and assist students in their learning. Be sensitive to overload. Ask the question -- how is this teaching aid useful?

Handouts: What types of information do your handouts provide? Informational, explanative, exercises, etc. Is it something students can refer to at a later time as a resource for the assignment?

Activities: Get students engaged in an activity quickly with explicit directions. Provide directions orally and visually. Students remember more by doing than by listening. Also, it lessens the amount of lecturing the librarian provides. Use a mix of hands-on, lecture, exercises, group, and other activities to keep students engaged and reinforce learning outcomes. Find the right mix of activities for the session and do not overload the session. Allow time for students to absorb concepts / content and reflect on what they are learning.

Directives: Be clear in the directives you give students and make sure they understand that you want them to do something -- like "let's all follow along," etc. Use visuals too, like PowerPoint or a handout to provide directions for an activity. Do not rely on verbal directives only. Check to see if they need help or are on task.

Check for understanding throughout the session. How can you determine that the students are getting it? Have students discuss concepts among themselves and/or teach each other. Short exercises / tutorials may help.

Walk the Room: This gives the student variation! You can also check their work and make sure they are on the right page.

Breaks: Build at least a short break into the session. These are useful in transitioning from one concept / activity to another. Recap what you have done so far before or after the break.

Transitions: Provide smooth transitions between concepts. Use an assessment activity to wrap up a section before transitioning to another concept. Use activities or group work to chunk information. make comparisons between activities. Create a segway to the next idea.

Planning and Timing: Plan ahead on how much time to devote to each activity and keep on track. Adjust activities as needed. Be sensitive to students that are bored or off doing other activities -- perhaps too much time is allotted to the activity or have a back-up.

Wrap-Up: Allow time for recapping the session, addressing questions, providing next steps, quizzes, one minute papers, etc.


A lesson plan will provide a guide for your instruction session and will help you keep focused and oranized.

Well prepared lesson plans are also useful in case you are absent; another librarian should be able to read your lesson plan and understand what you intended to teach.

Lesson plans include:

  • goals
  • objectives
  • rationale
  • materials to be used
  • content
  • evaluation procedures

Here are some ideas on how to improve your instruction presentation:

  • Use language that the student will understand. Avoid the use of library jargon if possible.
  • Articulate clearly and correctly.
  • Make your presentation conversational.
  • Use active learning techniques that engage the students.
  • Ask questions -- be sure to pause for several seconds following a question.
  • Pace yourself -- do not speak too slowly or too rapidly.
  • Avoid "ums," "okays," and other fillers.
  • Maintain eye contact by panning the audience.
  • Be aware of your body language. Move around the room and keep movements open.
  • Be enthusiastic and smile!

While teaching with technology often makes the instruction easier than in the past, please be aware of the following:

  • Student have wide range of technological skills from novice to advanced. Make sure your instruction accommodates both, if possible.
  • Never assume prior knowledge.
  • Always explain what you are doing and then do it at a slower pace than normal. Provide clear directives.
  • Always leave time for questions.
  • Try to practice your presentation prior to the actual instruction session to ensure smooth use of the technology.
  • Anticipate potential problems and think about what you will do if a technical glitch occurs.

LCC librarians have created many handouts catered to individual courses for instruction.If you create a handout yourself, be sure to save it to the Instruction Sessions folder (path below) under a specific course number. When creating a handout, please keep the following in mind:

  • Keep varied learning styles in mind.
  • The materials should be useful after the session.
  • Don't overload the class with too many items or information.
  • Use lettering that is large enough and dark enough to be read from a distance.
  • Always include contact information in handouts.
  • Check equipment and supplies before a session.
  • Have a contingency plan ready.

Note: Previously created handouts can be found in the LCC files: N:/SS Division/Learning Assistance/Reference Instruction Services/Instruction/Instruction Sessions.

Reading, Resources and Activities

  • Schedule and observe a couple of different librarians' instruction sessions. Note the different teaching styles of each librarian.
  • Once you begin teaching, ask another instruction librarian to sit in on your session and provide feedback.