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Library Instruction Information and Tips


Instruction, Demos, Tours and Orientations

            The Chemistry Library is always happy to provide specialized instruction for your class and the assignment you have planned for your students.  Alternatively, the Library can host brief tours and demonstrations or we can come to you wherever you are on campus. Please contact Jeremy Garritano, Acting Head of the Chemistry Library, to request a session.


Creating Effective Library or Information Literacy Assignments

            The Purdue Chemistry Library welcomes and encourages faculty and student use of its facilities and resources. A library assignment can be useful and appropriate in any class and the Chemistry Librarian is happy to help you plan and coordinate the learning experience. Before giving a library assignment, please consider and review the following assignment tips. Please contact Jeremy Garritano, Acting Head of the Chemistry Library, for assistance in the creation or review of a library or information literacy assignment.

Purpose of Library Assignments

            An effective library assignment has a specific and understood purpose which is directly related to the course subject matter and addresses learning objectives. The assignment should lead to increased understanding of the subject matter through the process of locating the required information. Well designed assignments can also help students build life-long learning skills and make them aware of information sources and formats.

Implementation of Library Assignments

            The most effective library assignments are typically developed through collaboration and coordination between a librarian and the teaching faculty. Library assignments, like any student assignments, need to be implemented in an appropriate manner. Students should be prepared for the assignment, told why they are doing it and what purpose it serves. For assignments which will use specific sources, students should be given a list of those resources, not expected to guess if they found the ‘right’ one. If the assignment includes complex sources or unfamiliar search strategies, students should be oriented to these by the faculty member or a librarian to make sure they have the necessary skills. Be sure to test the assignment, try putting yourself in the students’ shoes with their experience and perspective.

Tips for Effective Library Assignments

  • Clarity – If students are unclear about what they are to do, they will have a difficult time completing the assignment. Give assignments in writing (not orally) to reduce confusion.
    • For example: statements of “No Internet Resources” are not helpful and need to be more clearly defined. Most of the library resources are now delivered via the Internet and students are unclear if an instructor means they can’t use online journals, or if just random Internet sites are banned.
  • Use of correct terminology – Students interpret assignments very literally and are easily confused by terms they, and the librarian, cannot interpret definitively. Define any questionable words. For example, some instructors differentiate between magazines and journals, while others use the terms interchangeably. Does “library computer” mean the library, catalog, a particular subject database, the Internet, etc.?
  • Currency – Library resources are constantly changing. New sources and new ways of accessing materials replace old ones daily. Check your assignments regularly so your students are not asked to use outdated or non-existent methods and sources.
    • If you are no longer familiar with the library and it’s current offerings, contact Jeremy Garritano for a refresher.
  • Time Frame- Do the assignment yourself to see how long it takes before deciding how long students need to do it. Remember to allow for their inexperience.

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Assuming most students already know the basics – Don’t assume your students have had prior experience with the library. Transfer students or new graduate students may have no experience with this library system. General introductions, in English or Communications classes, may not have exposed students to relevant subject resources for your assignment.
  • Giving all the students the same assignment – When all the students in a single class have the same assignment, resources will be difficult to find at best and may be hidden or vandalized at worst. If a whole class of students needs to use a specific print resource, put it on reserve prior to giving the assignment. Be aware of limitations to our online resources as well. For example, we prefer that 1200 students in a general chemistry course not attempt a SciFinder Scholar assignment because we are only allowed 6 users at a time.
  • Requiring Resources that are not available – Don’t assume the library does or doesn’t have a particular resource. Resources may change dramatically from one semester to the next and our library may not have something you’ve used at another library or we may have updated the edition of the particular text.
  • The Scavenger Hunt- Asking students to locate random facts is an ineffective library assignment. It lacks clear purpose and teaches little about research skills. Frustrated librarians, not students, often end up locating the information.

Role of the Chemistry Librarian

            When it comes to creating library assignments, the Libraries faculty are an excellent resource and can be consulted for creating new assignments or modifying existing library research exercises. Librarians are also willing to provide individualized classes tailored to the needs of your class.
            Since your students will probably be asking for assistance at the Chemistry Library, it is helpful for the Chemistry Librarian to receive a copy of the assignment, and any recommended resources, in advance. After the assignment, the Chemistry Librarian would be willing to provide feedback on the interactions, letting you know if students seemed confused or were having trouble with the assignment.


This page is modeled after several similar pages at found at the following schools, South Dakota State Univ., Montana State Univ., Univ. of North Florida and Jacksonville State Univ.