Designing Effective Library Assignments


The necessity of developing at least the basic skills for finding, evaluating, and using information should be part of each student's education. Libraries provide an ideal setting for acquiring and improving these skills. Your course assignments are excellent tools for acquainting students with the Library, its resources, and its services. Many students arrive at WTAMU with limited knowledge of libraries and the array of information resources available to them. Often they do not utilize the library unless required to do so for their coursework. The following are tips to help you design effective library assignments. Well-designed assignments help to create positive experiences and foster enthusiasm for future research. They can also encourage students to continue using libraries long after they leave the University.

Call the Library's Reference Desk at 651-2215 or check our web site for information on library resources and services.

Our collection changes with the growing availability of information through electronic media. These changes often seem to happen overnight, so it can be difficult for you to keep up with them.

Create assignments that are clear and in writing.

Librarians are often asked to explain assignments because students do not fully understand what they are required to do. Avoid terminology that may be confusing or unfamiliar to students. If topics are assigned, include those along with instructions for completing the assignment. Students often forget oral instructions or take incomplete or confusing notes that result in frustration and anxiety.

Check to make sure that the sources needed for completing the assignment are in Cornette Library.

If you assign a specific topic requiring incorporation of journal, magazine, or newspaper articles, do a search in the appropriate online resource for material on the topic. Search the online catalog to determine if we own the journal, magazines, or newspapers you suggest to your students. If they are not in the Library's collection, students must request articles through Interlibrary Loan, which takes approximately 7 to 10 days. Please inform them of this limitation in advance.

Be sure that assignments match your students' level of comprehension.

Many freshmen are not able to understand articles in scholarly journals, especially those published in the sciences. Some students find that they can not even understand the titles of scientific articles, and searches in online journal resources become a frustrating experience. Try placing copies of articles appropriate for their comprehension level on Course Reserves at the Circulation Desk.

Assign a variety of topics for larger classes.

Books in our loan collection are limited. If many students are working on the same topic, the sources may not be available to them all. Placing these items on Course Reserves at the Circulation Desk insures that they will not be checked out for longer than the reserve loan period.

Avoid scavenger hunt questions.

Most students are not acquainted with the range of resources available in the Library and have little if any idea where to begin searching for answers to this type of question. They often focus on finding the answer rather than on examining the sources they are using.

Send a copy of the assignment to the Library's Reference Desk.

This allows us to prepare ahead of time to help students and to notify you of any problems we might foresee. Also let us know if you wish the students to be directed to specific sources or if some sources are not to be used.

Request Library Instruction.

We can demonstrate use of the online catalog, online resources, and online journals. We also prepare course guides listing relevant sources when these are appropriate for an assignment.