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Library Instruction

Library Instruction

Library instruction develops students' critical inquiry in the context of library research. Specifically its goal is to teach students how to successfully find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. Successful library instruction nurtures curiosity and exploration of the Library and its resources while building research skills and awareness of the intellectual and social issues surrounding information.

Over the past few years demand for formal instruction in library research has more than doubled. The Library has been working with academic departments to better understand faculty expectations for students' ability to conduct library research at different points in their Swarthmore career and to collaborate on ways to meet those expectations. We currently offer a range of options for instruction:

    First Year Seminar Class Visits

    Freshman orientation provides only the most basic of introductions to library services. We try and build upon students' initial exposure by visiting all First Year Seminars, regardless of whether or not they have a library assignment. Professors of FYSs are encouraged to contact Pamela Harris, Head of Reference, to arrange a class visit. Librarians try to help students transition to the academic library by introducing the fundamentals of research, such as an understanding of call numbers, locations, and basic Tripod search methods. 

    One-time Instruction

    Usually connected with a specific research assignment, these sessions can provide a useful introduction to core disciplinary resources, specific strategies for searching particular databases, and other higher level research skills. These sessions are tailored to specific course content and typically consist of a combination of lecture, group brainstorming, practice questions, role playing and worksheets. Instruction sessions may be held either in the classroom or in the Library's Computer Classroom (306), which has 30 seats. The Library prefers to have a faculty member present at these sessions.

    Multiple Instruction Sessions

    For some courses, it may be desirable to have the librarian instruct more than once. These sessions can provide the student with a deeper understanding of disciplinary research strategies, as well as more detailed instruction on complex searching techniques.

    Individual Consultations

    Faculty may encourage or require students to meet individually with a librarian during the process of completing an assignment. This method successfully meets the specific needs of students with varying degrees of information fluency. The Library also offers individual instruction on resources and services such as EndNote Web, specialized databases, and special collections.

    Thesis and Capstone Support

    For students beginning their senior research project, the Library suggests a combination of a class visit followed by individual appointments with the librarian.

    Course Guides and Research Guides

    Instructional staff can request a guide, either to a broad subject area or for a specific course, be prepared at any time. These guides are available in our Research Guides, and can be linked to from Moodle. Guides for courses currently not being taught are remain accessible so that students can easily return to resources they have used before. When librarians are invited to teach a class they will usually prepare a course guide as well.


    The Library also offers occasional workshops on popular topics in information literacy. These events are usually held in the McCabe at a time convenient for students, such as late afternoon or evening. Bibliographic managers, streaming media, and Mango Languages have been recent topics. Workshops will be posted on the Campus Calendar.

    Exhibit Curation

    The Library gives priority to classes or individual students interested in curating an exhibit, either in the main exhibition area or one of the auxiliary exhibition spaces. Past examples of exhibits include Wildly Human: Beyond the Bestiary, Crafting Nature: The Art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, and Sex, Action, and Social Commentary: Pulp Magazines in America. The curation process provides students with an opportunity to further develop their information and visual literacies, as well as their knowledge of the subject content.

    For more information or to schedule a library instructions session, please contact your Subject Specialist. Or, you may complete this instruction request form and a librarian will contact you.