Creating Effective Library Assignments

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Developing and Using Effective Library Assignments

Faculty, please review this list of suggestions on ways to create effective library assignments. Library assignments, especially complex ones, work best when instructors and librarians work together.

Design your assignment so that students are asked to find information and use it in a meaningful way, applying information not just retrieving facts, constructing meaning not just regurgitating it.

Clearly define the task and identify any sources students should or should not use.

Work through the assignment yourself, even if you're just revising an old assignment, making sure that the assignment does what you want it to and that the library has the resources you're requiring students to use.

Put materials on reserve if students have to use the same resource. (This is not true for reference books since they do not circulate.)

Schedule a course-related instructional session or discuss the assignment with your department's liaison librarian if your assignment is particularly complex. Another option is to send a copy of your assignment to the reference department. We can help your students much more quickly and effectively if we know about the assignment ahead of time.

Give students enough time to complete the assignment successfully. Remind students that even under the best circumstances, research takes time.

Encourage students to stop by the Reference Desk or to schedule an individual consultation if they need assistance.

Contact the Reference Desk (330-941-3686) if, in the course of your students' assignment, you need to clarify something with the librarians or if your students are experiencing a problem that we can solve.

Common Questions in Library Assignments

Internet & World Wide Web Sources: At the reference desk, we often hear students say that they aren't allowed to use Internet or Web sources. Many users don't realize that many very reputable sources are available full-text on the Web. In fact, some very scholarly journals are available only on the Web and not in print. Maag Library subscribes not only to certain full-text databases like Academic Search Premier and LexisNexis Academic but also to scholarly ejournals available on databases like JSTOR. You may need to stress the difference between the resources the library subscribes to and "free" Web and Internet Sources.

Reminder for Faculty: Avoiding these typical problems in library assignments will make your students' library experience less frustrating and more enjoyable.

Don't give a large class the same exact assignment. Students may have trouble accessing the materials.

Don't use an incomplete or inaccurate name when referring to a source. For example, don't tell your students to use Standard & Poor's since S&P publishes many well-known reference books. Be more specific by asking them to use Standard and Poor's Industry Surveys.

Don't require a source that the library doesn't own.

Don't give students hard-to-answer trivia questions since librarians usually have to give students the answers.

Don't give students a generic assignment out of a handbook or textbook, unless you check to make sure it works ahead of time.