Starting the Class

Let's face it. Most students don't come to a library instruction session full of enthusiasm. Perhaps they think it will be a boring waste of time or perhaps they are intimidated by libraries. Whatever the reason, you have an opportunity to change those perceptions and set your intentions for the rest of the session. How you begin can set the tone for the entire session. To set a positive tone, try the following:

Greet students who arrive early

As students enter the classroom, talk to them to break the ice. They will be more comfortable and willing to participate if they've already spoken to you before the session. Talk to them about topics in which they would be interested and impart to them that you understand and care about their education and school life. Make sure you don't get too personal or divulge your opinions. This may make them feel uncomfortable. Try one of the following icebreakers:

Are you going to the game this weekend?
How is your class going so far? Do you like it?
How is your semester going? You must be getting really busy now that it is mid-term time.
If you know what the assignment is, ask them how it is going, if they are having any difficulties, how many sources they need, etc.
Are you going to (choose a timely event: ACL, SXSW, Fun Fun Fun, any Halloween festivities)?

Greet the faculty member

When the faculty member arrives, greet him or her and reiterate your plans for the session. Make sure to give him or her a copy of the handouts or tell him you'll send links to online materials. You may also want to ask if the faculty member needs a few minutes to talk to the class at the beginning or end of the session. This conversation imparts to the faculty member that you have a structure for the session and may prevent him or her from taking up valuable time or interjecting too frequently. Introduce any class observers or co-teachers to the faculty member and explain their role in today’s class. Set expectations for the faculty member’s participation in the session as well and explain how they might contribute.

Get students' attention

Once you are ready to begin, you need to get students' attention. Turn off any music you're playing to signal the start of the session. If they are already sitting quietly, simply introduce yourself to start the session. If they are talking, state that you’re going to the start the session and introduce yourself more loudly. Remember to maintain a friendly tone when you raise the level of your voice. You do not want to be perceived as yelling. You may also try turning the lights or projector off and on to get their attention.

Introduce the session

After you introduce yourself, tell the students who you are, the learning outcomes for the day’s session, and how the session will support their coursework. In other words, let them know your goals for the session and why those goals are relevant to their academic success. There should be no surprises during the session. Writing your learning outcomes on the board or incorporating them into a project or course guide will help to reinforce the focus of the session. Be sure to tell students about activities they will be doing as well as what you will be discussing. Make sure they know the structure for their involvement. For example, you may want to encourage them to ask questions at any time.

Sample Introduction

You are teaching a upper-level undergraduates in the Science Fiction Department. They are writing an annotated bibliography about utopias.
"Hi. My name is John Doe and I am a librarian in the PCL. I am the subject specialist for Science Fiction, which means I buy all of the books and journals in that area and am available to help you with your research. Today we will be discussing how you can do research for your annotated bibliography about utopias. We will start out by discussing how you can find articles from magazines and journals, then discuss how you can find books and wrap up with a discussion of evaluating web sources. I will show you a number of online resources and you will also be asked to do two activities in which you locate a journal article and a book. By the end of this session, each of you should have one article and one book, which you can use for your annotated bibliography. If you have any questions at any time, please feel free to ask. Ready to get started?"


Plan an introduction and try it in your next session. After the session, think about what effect the introduction had, what you will do again and what you will change.