Teaching in Libraries

Library instruction has evolved over the years from early bibliographic instruction programs to current models of supporting the development of information literacy skills through teaching focused on finding, evaluating, and using information of all types. On a college campus, librarians and other library staff might teach in a variety of different scenarios, including but not limited to:

  • one-shot instruction sessions embedding research skills into a semester-long course
  • assignment and course design consultations with a faculty member
  • semester-long, for-credit information literacy courses
  • drop-in workshops offered for faculty, students, and staff
  • online instruction, such as embedding instruction in learning management systems like Blackboard or Canvas
  • creating instructional content for the library’s website, such as how-to guides and tutorials

Teaching and Communities of Practice

Teaching can be a solitary practice. Depending on your environment, you may or may not have people with whom to discuss instructional strategies and teaching. Consider finding a community of practice, whether local or online, to allow for these valuable opportunities to strategize or reflect. A community of practice is a group of people who share a craft or profession. Many groups exist within the structure of the American Library Association to discuss research skills and information literacy in the disciplines, and teaching in general.

Texas Library Association (TLA) - Library Instruction Round Table
American Library Association (ALA) - Library Instruction Round Table
Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) - Instruction Section (IS)
Information Literacy Instruction Discussion List (ILI-L)
ACRL IS Information Literacy in the Disciplines Wiki - Subject-focused groups and standards supporting the teaching of information literacy and research skills in academic disciplines

Your Teaching Identity

All of the scenarios in which library staff teach require developing a teaching identity and basic skills in instructional design that this guide hopes to provide. You may have a background in teaching or an interest in instruction or you may find the idea of teaching in any of these scenarios challenging. It’s important to develop an identity as a teacher that recognizes the strengths and expertise you bring to any of the above scenarios and allows you to be your authentic self.


The following two readings will help you explore your own teaching identity and reflect upon your potential strengths as a teacher:

Donovan, Carrie. 2009. “Sense of Self: Embracing Your Teacher Identity.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe (August 19, 2009). http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2009/sense-of-self-embracing-....

Palmer, Parker. 1997. "The Heart of a Teacher." Change, November. 14. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed August 8, 2013).