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Designing Effective Library Assignments: Effective Library Assignments

Quick Tips

Consult your librarian before the assignment

Librarians will work with you to design an assignment that will achieve your goals.  Sending a copy of the assignment  to the reference librarian will ensure that the library staff is ready to help your students when needed.

Assume minimal library experience

Although many students will be familiar with using some library tools, few really understand the intricacies of college level research.   If you would like your students to use specific books and articles, provide complete citations.

Be sure the library has the needed information

There are few experiences more frustrating than looking for what is unavailable or has been checked out.   Run through the assignment yourself each semester, as library resources change all the time.   Put items on RESERVE for materials that many students will need to use.  Send an advance copy of the assignment and its due date to the REFERENCE LIBRARIAN, so that we may keep a copy at the Reference Desk.

Avoid the mob scene

Give students a variety of topics and sources in order to avoid competition for print resources, and break up assignments into sections to be completed in stages.

Plan scavenger hunts judiciously

Searching for obscure facts can be frustrating to students and and seldom teaches them useful research skills. If planning a library exercise, talk to a librarian about designing one that will allow students to explore the scope and range of library resources.

Teach research strategies

Request a LIBRARY INSTRUCTION workshop, where a librarian will review strategies with the class and provide hands-on experience using appropriate print and online tools.


Adapted from the California Clearinghouse on Library Instruction, Southern Section publication, "Guidelines for Effective Library Assignments."

From Project Information Literacy:

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