Chapter Six: Teaching in Libraries

High impact teaching in libraries and its' benefits are made clear with real-life scenarios describing teaching in various library types, videos addressing pedagogical choices for high impact teaching and learning, and research-based methods for instruction. A list of example information and technology skills will inspire conversations about what and how to teach.
People examine something at a lectern
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Instructional librarians have specialized expertise to teach library users information literacy skills. Library instruction takes place in all library types including academic, public, preK-12 schools, special, and government libraries. Teaching in libraries, which occurs with individuals and groups and implicates a variety of procedures and situations, involves user-focused teaching methods for interacting with library users. User-focused teaching methods are approaches to teaching that consider library users’ abilities and desire to learn information literacy skills and the nature of the subject, or content, of library users’ interests or wants to address a specific problem-based need. 

Librarians should not presume that everyone desires to learn, or needs to learn, from them. Many people in society are capable of exercising critical thinking skills to some degree. However, with widespread access to the Internet, almost everyone can benefit from the specialized information and technology expertise of librarians and other information professionals. Those who do not have personal internet access need and benefit from access to public computers and internet made available through publicly funded libraries.

The ultimate goal of teaching in libraries is to enable individuals in the library’s community to be more effective, efficient, and ethical with information than can typically be done alone. This goal is accomplished by significantly reducing or eliminating barriers that preclude access to quality information. Outreach to the community is essential to quality teaching as serving only regular library users is not acceptable.

Where there is teaching, it follows that there is likely learning. This begs the epic question, “Learning what?” This question has been addressed throughout the ages and recently by Neumann and Campbell (2016) as they attempt to describe modern-day college student learning by responsibly moving away from regularly used behavioral theories of learning that prioritize generalized competencies as outcomes and ridged scaffolding in a learning process, to statements about learning that emphasize knowledge and subject matter.

While library users who learn from instructional librarians are not all college students, it is fair to assert that library users are people for whom these descriptions below of learning from a cognitive perspective also apply. These descriptions enlighten and inform useful understandings of what is taught by instructional librarians and learned by library users about information literacy skills in all types of libraries.

“To learn is to learn something and to engage with that something” (Neumann & Campbell, 2016, p. 407).

“To learn is to surface and examine one’s prior knowledge bearing on a disciplinary idea posed for learning” (Neumann & Campbell, 2016, p. 415).

“Learning occurs when. . . [one] acknowledges and works through differences between [their] prior knowledge and new subject-matter ideas” (Neumann and Campbell, 2016, p. 415).

Another scholar attempting to explain learning is Illeris (2002), who similarly asserted that learning involves an internal process in which new information from the environment is acquired and added to existing knowledge, to the cognitive processes of knowledge acquisition, to the psychological dimensions of emotion and motivation, and to the societal dimension of communication and cooperation. These descriptions of learning, and many more, point to the importance of acquiring new information and knowledge, which is the instructional librarian’s ultimate obligation to library users through high impact teaching.

In this chapter, we address high impact teaching in libraries by first sharing scenarios describing teaching in various library types. Then, we identify some pedagogical views of teaching and learning and discuss teaching methods focused on information search processes and activities.  Also in this chapter, teaching in libraries is addressed by pointing out some widely used descriptions of what it means to become information literate and we suggest some specific information literacy lessons for further exploration.

Here are four essential questions (Wiggins & McTighe, 2013) to consider while reading this chapter:

Essential Questions

EQ1. What does it mean to learn in libraries?

EQ2. What does it mean to teach in libraries?

EQ3. What are the benefits of high impact library instruction?

EQ4. How do information search process stages and activities transform teaching methods and facilitate information learning?

6.1 Teaching Procedures and Situations in Various Library Types

 It is important to recognize that best teaching procedures cross over library types in terms of effectiveness in delivery of high impact library instruction. However, teaching situations can vary across library types based on needs of library users. This is way it is important to focus on libraries by type when considering what it means to teach and learn in academic, public, school (PreK-12), special, and government libraries.

6.1.1 Teaching in Academic Libraries

Teaching is a growing area of expertise in academic librarianship. It is challenging in many disciplinary areas to teach information literacy skills where there are dynamic topics and unique resources such as gray literature (usually self-published), government data, policy documents, social media, and more, including conventional scholarly publications. As society has evolved, so has academic librarians’ ongoing awareness of where to exert their expertise and efforts in library collections and teaching information literacy skills within academic areas likely to positively impact student success.

Unlike the accountability for student learning and achievement responsibilities of librarians when teaching in preK-12 schools, teaching in academic libraries is focused on students’ successful completion of courses and degree programs and enabling colleges and universities to achieve goals as they are indicated in the institution’s mission statement and strategic plan, as well as to meet, and exceed, requirements outlined by accreditation agencies such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA, 2023), a United States organization of degree-granting colleges and universities, and other regional institutional accreditors. Academic librarians deliver instruction in scheduled short sessions (one-shot), workshops, webinars, and in for-credit courses typically designed to explain higher education requirements for critical thinking and utilization of information literacy skills. They also serve as teaching partners in on-campus courses or as embedded librarians in virtual teaching platforms.

Academic librarians ideally help to bridge the transition that students experience from high school to college coursework and learning expectations. Graduate degree holding academic librarians with expertise in subject areas usually have some education, training, and/or preparation in the area of pedagogy including skills for collaboration and partnering with faculty and others involved in program delivery and teaching subject area content. Based on the view that on campus the library is the central hub for learning, librarians teach students individually at the reference desk and/or in groups during scheduled sessions. They provide instruction about how to use the libraries spaces, resources, and services.

Teaching college students wherever they are located, on campus or online, requires that academic librarians have advanced information and technology skills and a high level of comfort for facilitating student engagement. They must be well-informed about their college or university’s proficiencies for all students, including expectations for information literacy and overall critical thinking skills. Academic librarians also instruct students and faculty about foundational topics such as intellectual freedom, intellectual property, copyright, plagiarism, censorship and other information-related topics. They teach and assist researchers who are conducting quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, historical research and other types of research that involves secondary data analysis.

6.1.2 Teaching in Public Libraries

Access to computers and books; free programs for children, teens, and adults; free databases; job, employment, and career resources; and helpful librarians have for some time been reported by members of the public as high priorities in local communities (Pew Research Center, 2013). Public library users do not typically think of librarians as teachers in a formal sense, nor do they typically think of themselves as students or learners. Nevertheless, public librarians use their knowledge of teaching methods and practices, including the aims of education and ways goals may be achieved, as they interact with current library users and in outreach to members of the community who are interested in using the library. Public librarians have many opportunities to teach as they assist library patrons at the reference and/or circulation desk and when planning, implementing, and evaluating programming to library users of all ages.

6.1.3 Teaching in PreK-12 School Libraries

In elementary school, frequently referred to as primary school, it is common for children in all classrooms to visit the school’s library as a weekly special learning activity. As is the case for school librarians at every grade level in addition to teaching, the librarian manages the school library’s personnel, budget, and space. A recent study by Kammer et al. (2021) revealed some frequent situations in schools including that elementary school librarians typically operate within a fixed schedule, have no shared planning time with teachers, and that school librarians’ collaboration with classroom teachers established informal relationships and served to facilitate some alignment of information literacy skills instruction with content-standards and student learning outcomes.

Elementary schools are frequently organized as lower and upper elementary grades. In the lower elementary grades (usually kindergarten through second grade), the school librarian mainly teaches classroom groups about the library space; the organization of books by categories in the physical library and ebooks online; book titles, authors, and illustrators; and about the routine and rules for checking out books from the school’s library. Librarians teach the love of reading and support students in developing and gaining reading skills. The librarian reads books to the group while pointing out and discussing the plot, characters, and other special literacy features of the story. Through contact with students and some quick, on-the-spot informal assessments, the librarian gets to know students’ abilities and interests, recommends books, and follows up checking for learning and reading enjoyment. In lower elementary schools, students learn to use computers and/or other electronic devices, which presents many excellent opportunities for joint librarian and classroom teacher instruction. Librarians share instructional materials with other educators by creating electronic choice boards, themed playlists and pointing out digital resources available, for example from The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and many other museums and national park systems.

In upper elementary grades (approximately grades 3-5), in addition to teaching about the library’s space and collection and reinforcing earlier learning of language and reading skills taught in lower grades and continuing to share instructional materials with other educators, the librarian teaches students about basic information ethics; avoidance of plagiarism; evaluating sources; the steps in guided inquiry; use of the library’s website; and using and citing sources in writing and/or presenting. These information literacy skills, while taught at basic concepts levels, are very important to the long-term goals for becoming information literate. The librarian also teaches and encourages students to continue to read and to develop a love for leisure reading for pleasure.

In middle school (approximately grades 6-8), as indicated in the Kammer et al. (2021) study, librarian and teacher collaboration typically occurs through informal communication for the purpose of a shared vision of student engagement. In addition to the school library’s collection, public library resources are frequently used in assignments and projects. Teacher librarians are challenged to teach information literacy skills in the context of students’ interests that frequently include use of cell phones and other digital devices. Rather than discouraging technology use, librarians teach students skills for searching and recognizing accurate, incomplete, and incorrect information.

In high school, librarians encourage students to use the library as they have learned to do in lower grades and to advance their information literacy skills with the goal of being “information literate” (Zurkowski, 2005, p. 6). Librarians facilitate opportunities for learning across subject areas as they are moving beyond standardized measures of student and school performance. One such science teacher-librarian created model for teaching upper-level students is the Topic Selection and Problem Statement (TSPS) Model by Thompson and Dow (2017). In the TSPS model, high school librarians’ make themselves available for opportunities to collaborate with classroom teachers around content and assignments. As Kammer et al. (2021) found in high schools, there is typically frequent, formal communication between the school’s librarian and classroom teachers. Collaboration is frequently initiated by the school librarian and involves joint identification of problems and solutions. Also, high school librarians conduct personal research to learn about content areas in their school’s curriculum.

6.1.4 Teaching in Special and Government Libraries

Special libraries are located in a variety of types of organizations, for example in corporate offices; law offices; hospitals and other medical and healthcare facilities; in libraries or museums and wherever special collections are housed; and in federal libraries such as libraries for U. S. Courts and the Department of Defense or Commerce to name only a few.  Instruction in special libraries requires that the librarian as teacher has specialized knowledge of the special library’s subject area. To engage with users of special libraries, instructional librarians need information and technology expertise focused on pedagogy and it is useful to understand management practices within organizations. Special librarians teach and assist individuals who have access to special library space and resources in searching, evaluating, selecting, retrieving, storing, and using sources, often in the form of research-based evidence.

In summary, with a snapshot in mind such as the views provided above of teaching procedures and situations in various library types, it is important to consider some pedagogical components that may influence how high impact teaching is conceptualized and practiced. Keeping in mind that thorough learning and proficiency in accurate applications of teaching is typically well-accomplished over a significant period of time, it is important to identify and consider how pedagogical choices impact high impact library instruction.  The way instructional librarians thoughtfully, intentionally, and systematically design their library instruction is essential if they are to teach information literacy skills effectively and efficiently.

6.2 Pedagogical Choices 

Enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all is central to the mission and priorities of the American Library Association (ALA, 2008). To fulfill this charge, innovations in library instruction that respond to new technology and delivery of information to all members of the library’s community are critical. Instructional librarianship that is innovative and transformative in promoting equality, solidarity, community, and social justice can be accomplished when teaching practices reflect and further the goals and values of librarianship. Teaching in libraries can directly serve to improve quality of life through improved access and use of quality information sources and library services when they employ pedagogical choices such as critical community-engaged practice, learner-centered teaching, a guided inquiry design framework, and/or trauma informed pedagogy. The discussion that follows is an overview and introduction to each of these four views of teaching.

6.2.1. Critical Community-Engaged Practice

What it means to practice critically in community settings has been addressed and explained by professionals including educators, counselors, psychologists, social workers, community development workers and other human service practitioners.  According to Evans et al. (2014), “[c]ommunity-based organizations that practice critically, are social change organizations intimately tied to social movements that are addressing systematic and structural cause of social and economic inequalities in order to transform society for greater justice” (p. 5). Coles-Ritchie et al. (2022) emphasized that unlike service learning, which has been a popular outside-the-classroom approach to active learning designed to fix problems implying a unidirectional relationship where one group serves another, “community-engaged learning involves individuals participating in activities of personal and/or public concern that benefits both their individuals lives and the community” (p. 2). While service learning has been identified (Kuh, 2008) as one high impact learning practice, service learning practices can be improved through critical community-engagement practices.

Teaching librarians who are influenced by the purpose of critical community-engagement are perfectly situated as social change agents. When providing information literacy lessons, sessions, or programs, instructional librarians can encourage library users to develop critical consciousness by teaching them search skills necessary to read and discover historical accounts of events and leadership relevant to today’s socio-political power dynamics. Library users can be enabled to locate and read primary documents and all forms of recorded knowledge with direct assistance, advice, and instruction from an instructional librarian. Through instruction, librarians can teach about information issues of credibility and trustworthiness and how information is widely and quickly disseminated on the Internet, often spreading misinformation (incomplete) and disinformation (deliberately false, with ill intent) from individuals or groups (Cooke, 2017). They can also teach about biases in information, known as malinformation, that according to Cooke (2021) misleads, deceives and facilitates discrimination of all types.

Teaching librarians who choose critical community engagement as their instructional priority can create opportunities for library users to share their personal experiences as a process of thought, action, and reflection. Through information literacy skills instruction, the teaching librarian can assist in creating a community of consciousness and a dialogue by library stakeholders that fosters an environment where library users’ lived experiences, thoughts, and ideas are heard, giving voice to the experiences and concerns of individuals from marginalized groups. Through critical community-engaged practice, teaching librarians can teach information literacy skills necessary for positive social change.

University of Pittsburgh, Community Engaged Scholarship Forum(CESF): National Perspectives on Critical and Liberatory Community Engagement with Tania D. Mitchell

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6.2.2 Learner-Centered Teaching

According to Weimer (2002, 2013), learner-centered teaching focuses on learning and students rather than a single focus only on learning or only on students as has been practiced in the past. Weimer puts the student at the center of the learning process and guides educators to create educational environments that produce high quality learning outcomes. Weimer called for five changes away from teacher-centered instructional practices including that 1) power become shared between students and teachers rather than teachers making educational decisions; 2) content not be covered from the front to the back of the textbook but instead the teacher should teach only what learners need to know at the time; 3) faculty lectures should give way to the faculty roles of guide and facilitator; 4) students must take responsibility for their learning by creating and maintaining learning environments that are conducive to learning; and 5) faculty must evaluate students work but evaluation activities that include students should be in the overall evaluation process. Weimer agreed with Flachmann (1994) who asserted that “[g]ood teaching is a journey rather than a destination” (p. 1).

While learner-centered teaching is widely accepted, these views of learner-centered teaching continue to be resisted by some faculty and students. Faculty who resist are concerned that if they practice learner-centered teaching, they may be accused of not teaching. Some students resist moving away from the comfort of assignments built on memorizing and reciting course content. Some say that learner-centered instruction requires more time for the teacher and the student. Blumberg (2015), who encourages and supports acceptance of learning-centered teaching, suggests that when transitioning to learner-centered teaching methods, reflection and feedback in social media is a venue beyond teachers’ local institutions wherein teachers can garner interconnections toward making real and lasting change. 

Learner-centered teaching is practiced in librarianship. For example, Megwalu (2014) reemphasizes Weimer’s (2002) position that learner-centered teaching is an approach that is associated with radical and critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, constructivism, and transformative learning. Megwalu recommends practicing learner-centered teaching at the college/university library reference desk, including teaching students search strategies applicable to students’ daily lives. Also, when reading nonacademic sources, Megwalu recommends that instructional librarians remind students to notice words and terms used in reference sections that can inform key word searching and states that librarians should teach students not to avoid certain information sources but to “derive value and create transferable knowledge through the use of a multitude of digital platforms and information sources” (p. 255).

The Power of Potential: Student Centered Learning by Ayla Postelneck, TEDx Yeshival University with campusus in New York City.

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6.2.3 Guided Inquiry Design

The Guided Inquiry Design (GID) process, originated by Kuhlthau et al. (2015), was based on the earlier information search process (ISP) published by Kuhlthau (2004). As a library and information science researcher interested in school-aged children and youth and the effectiveness of school librarians’ instruction, Kuhlthau’s observations of students in the school library enabled her to describe six phases that students experience in the inquiry process: 1) initiation: initiating a research project; 2) selection: selecting a topic; 3) exploration: exploring for focus; 4) formulation: formulating a focus; 5) collection: collecting information on focus; and 6) presentation: preparing to present. Then, an additional stage: assessment: assessing the process (1985). These are described in further detail in section 6.3.1.

The ISP model describes the user’s information seeking experience as an evolving process with a range of thoughts, feelings, and actions that impact success or failure in the search process. Kuhlthau asserts that the affective experience of an information user in the search process includes uncertainty, optimism, confusion, clarity, sense of direction/confidence, and satisfaction or disappointment as a search progresses.

Knowing the information users’ experience enables the librarian, or other mediator, to intervene with assistance. The ISP model has also been found in studies of adult information seeking in complex work with seminal stages (Bystrom & Hansen, 2005; Bystrom & Jarvelin, 1995; Kuhlthau 1999). In addition, studies of the ISP when using automated information retrieval systems show that timing of librarians’ intervention is challenging as not all information users proceed at the same pace through the ISP (Cole, 2001).

Kuhlthau et al. (2015) extended the ISP by adding parallel phases of guided inquiry: 1) open; 2) immerse; 3) explore; 4) identify; 5) gather; 6) create and share, and an additional stage: evaluate. There are detailed descriptions of terms, models, and charts illustrating the ISP and the GID (2019) available at Guided Inquiry Design | Carol Kuhlthau ( Together these two models create an illustration of how librarians can best instruct information seekers in the search process. The GID steps moved the ISP model beyond thinking about information seeking behavior to taking actionable steps in an information search that make sense to students, classroom teachers, and librarians.

ISP and GID Comparison

Kuhlthau Stages of Information Search Process (ISP)Guided Inquiry Design (GID)
PresentationCreate and Share
Note: Adapted from Kulhthau et al. (2012)

 Addressing recent change in school library that emphasizes enabling information users to interact with, learn from, and engage with information in critical ways, Green and Chassereau (2023) investigated the process and challenges inherent in guided inquiry units in schools. They found that instructional partnerships help librarians and other educators to overcome instructional challenges in the research process and have a positive impact on academic achievement. They found that as more educators use the GID model, “the more students shift their efforts from an expedient completion of an assignment or project to the process and journey of inquiry itself” (p. 186).

Inquiry-Based Learning: Developing Student-Driven Questions, Edutopia

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6.2.4 Trauma Informed Pedagogy

Trauma-informed pedagogy, which is focused on human-centered design principles such as those foundational to Universal Design for Learning (CAST: About Universal Design for Learning), is described by Carr-Chellman (2022) as “[e]ngaging the instructional moment with the trauma experienced by learners at the forefront of our mind” (p. 566). Carr-Chellman (2022) outlined strategies for trauma-informed learning environments including: 

context and objective setting, describing content rather than using potentially triggering media without appropriate warnings, discussing issues with a safe and inclusive setting, frequent checks on students to ensure they are handling the content well, creating a sense of belonging and community in classrooms, providing multiple engagement methods, remaining flexible in terms of grading, absences, deadlines, and other similar requirements, and putting high value on student input” (p. 566).

Originating in the medical professions, trauma-informed care may appear differently in various professions. There is, however, a shared definition of trauma, which is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a common human response to harmful situations—or those perceived as harmful—that can be either physical and/or emotional, and that leaves lasting effects on a person’s ability to function, as well as on their social emotional, physical, and/or spiritual well-being. In addition to a definition of trauma, SAMHSA provides informational and educational concepts, principles, and key assumptions to guide those involved in trauma informed practices. The six SAMHSA principles of trauma-informed care are: safety; trustworthiness and transparency; peer support; collaboration and mutuality; empowerment, voice, and choice; and recognizing cultural, historical, and gender issues. ( These six principles are based on four key assumptions by the SAMHSA: realization, recognition, response, and resisting re-traumatization.

Dudak (2023), while referencing Karina Hagelin, describes trauma informed librarianship as “applying the principles of trauma-informed care to our everyday work as librarians and library workers” (p. 37). To accomplish a trauma-informed approach to librarianship, instructional librarians adapt the SAMHSA principles and assumptions to teaching practices. Please listen to this presentation by Karina Hagelin as she speaks about building communities of care. 

Instructional librarians, as in all librarian roles, are encouraged to teach from a trauma informed lens and to become intentional and deliberate in creating and delivering frequent, useful lessons, recognizing that in their presence are people - community members and library workers - with whom the impact of trauma is broad, deep and life shaping. With this awareness and application of the principles of trauma-informed care, instructional librarians can enable members of the community to benefit from a safe environment for access and use of excellent sources of information.

For example, through the Network of the National Library of Medicine, funded by the National Library of Medicine, the general public has access to high-quality wellness information. However, many people in communities need a computer, internet access, and someone who they can trust to assist them to access and use health information. As Vardell and Wang (2022) point out in their research investigating creative approaches used by librarians in public libraries that received funding for Affordable Care Act outreach through the Connecting You to Coverage funding offered by the Public Library Association, public libraries and “librarians are well poised to be community leaders in providing information about health insurance enrollment and effective use of health insurance coverage” (p. 182).

As librarians come to accept the high number of personnel for whom trauma is a reality, using the trauma-informed approach outlined by Tolley (2020) and Zettervall and Nienow (2019), librarians can ensure that libraries are empathetic community centers where people in the library’s community feel welcome, respected, and safe.

The Self-Love Rainbow is an illustration of examples of trauma that highlights things that can trigger trauma or are/can be traumatic. It is a good source for raising awareness about what trauma looks like.

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6.3 Methods of Teaching in All Library Types

Most constructivist views (Dewey, 1938; Bruner, 1977; Bandura, 1986; Gardner 2011) of methods for teaching focus on how individuals’ personalities affect the way individuals interact with others and how they respond to each other within the learning environment. Constructivist educators believe that learning is an active process and that learners construct new understandings and knowledge through experiences and social discourse. They also believe that there is value in understanding mental processes so that instruction can be designed to support what occurs in individuals’ minds during teaching and learning.

According to early proponents of constructivist views of teaching, the teacher is viewed as an expert largely responsible for the learning process. In recent years, there has been a shift in thinking and practices away from teacher-centered learning, wherein the teacher is the main authority, to a learner-centered approach (discussed in section 6.2.2) to learning, wherein teachers and students together play an active role in the learning process. Today’s classrooms typically include activities such as class discussions, experimentation, research projects, field trips, videos, and use of online platforms for organizing and sharing helpful learning resources. Librarians are involved in actionable ways, building communities of care to better support members of the library’s community including individuals who experience trauma.

To fully understand teaching in libraries, it is not enough to only rely on constructivist views about knowledge construction and active learning that primarily focus on individuals’ intelligences and personality and how individuals respond to others. While constructivist views of teaching are beneficial to teacher librarians and other educators, in today’s information-rich learning environments, it is necessary to also know and apply views from library and information science about human information-seeking behavior and activities within the information-seeking process.

According to Case and Given (2016), information-seeking behavior refers to how humans perceive their need for, pursuit of, and use of information. As a social behavior, according to Agarwal (2018), information seeking behavior occurs when an individual realizes the need to acquire contextual information and deliberately takes action to resolve the need. Addressing affective dimensions of high school students’ information search process experiences in a school library as thoughts, feelings, and actions, Kuhlthau’s (1991) research identified six stages of the information search process: initiation; selection; exploration; formulation; collection; and presentation. (Note: above affective dimension of stages of the ISP are aligned to actions in the inquiry design process.)

6.3.1 Kuhlthau’s Six Stages of the Information Search Process

🖱 Click on each magnifying glass below to explore Kuhlthau's six stages of the ISP.

🔎Stage 1: Initiation                                                                                                                                                                                    

There is recognition of an unfocused need for better understanding of a topic. The search approach is undecided and unclear. Uncertainty and apprehension ensues.

As more about the topic is determined, there is some optimism and readiness to begin a search.🔎

When information seems insufficient or unclear, confidence is lost to confusion and doubt.

With focused efforts to locate information on the topic, confidence increases.

Once pertinent information is gathered, interest and involvement intensifies.

Multiple sources of information contribute to new learning and is explained to others or otherwise put to use.

Note: Adapted from Kuhlthau, C. C. (1991). Inside the search process: Information seeking from the user’s perspective. Journal of the American Society of Information Science , 42, 361-371.


In addition, Ellis (1993) found through studies investigating information seeking by social scientists and chemists that activities within the information-seeking process include starting; chaining; browsing; differentiating; monitoring; extracting; verifying; and ending.  Taken together, the model is a set of related categories that can be used to describe, or explain, the components of the pattern in search process activities.

6.3.2 Ellis’ Eight Activities of the Information-Seeking Process 

🖱 Click on each magnifying glass below to explore Ellis' eight activities of the ISP.

Activities in the initial search for information.

Following chains of citations or other forms of referential connections between materials.

Semi-directed searching in an area of potential interest.🔎🔎

Using differences between sources as a filter on the nature and quality of the material examined.

Maintaining awareness of developments in a field through the monitoring of particular sources.

Systematically working through a particular source to locate material of interest.

Checking that information is correct.

Ending the project.

Note: Adapted from Ellis, D. (1993). Modeling the information-seeking patterns of academic researchers: A grounded theory approach. Library Quarterly, 63, 469–486.

6.4. Descriptions of Teaching Methods

The chart below, highlighting descriptions of teaching methods useful to teacher librarians, was constructed to increase awareness of the intersection between constructivist and library and information science views of teaching. The information search process (ISP) stages and activities are not perfectly aligned to each teaching method. However, this chart expresses how teaching methods can guide and facilitate information learning addressing topic-specific problems in academic and personal information seeking.

Teaching Methods Useful to Teacher Librarians

Teaching Method

Teaching Method Descriptions

Kuhlthau (1991) 

ISP Stages

Ellis (1993)

ISP Activities



Lecturing is to address a group conveying information that the teacher believes to be most important according to a lesson or program plan. The teacher uses effective communication skills and seminal information sources to arouse interest and raise important questions to be addressed by the audience.





Demonstrating is to show an individual or group examples of formats and types of information, how information is organized in a particular series or collection; and how to read, evaluate, and use information. Demonstration involves scaffolding instruction in segments providing less and less support as learners attain information-related concepts.  Demonstration enables people to personally relate to information.




Browsing Differentiating


To allow equitable opportunities for people to interact sharing multiple views, building knowledge, confidence and support in learning communities. Disinformation, misinformation and malinformation can be identified and mistreatment and offensiveness addressed.




Occurs when individuals participate in the learning process by communicating (giving and receiving information) with each other establishing connections between the information users and the topic. Collaboration enables individuals to think in less personally biased ways.




Happens when individuals with the same or different interests and expertise in a topic have equal and equitable shared responsibilities as partners in using information for basic and/or advanced problem solving. Partnerships are necessary for achievement of high impact learning.





Sharing, examining, synthesizing,

and applying information following a specific learning event or exercise. Conversing about quality of information can be discussed. 



The instructional librarian must determine what teaching method is most likely to work best for every audience in all situations.  Discovering in advance of a lesson, or library program, the library users’ characteristics, information needs, priorities, and concerns is very challenging, if not impossible, at times given the unpredictable nature of participant turnout for instructional sessions. Consequently, becoming skilled in use of teaching methods, understanding models that address the information search process, and knowing well what to teach results in high impact library instruction is essential.

6.5 Examples of High Impact Library Instruction

As established in Chapter One, instructional librarians engage in high impact library instruction with people of all ages, abilities, and needs in many academic and personal problem-specific areas. High impact library instruction occurs when librarians participate in teaching information literacy skills that enables others to engage in information-related activities that benefit individuals and society. High impact educational practices were initially identified by Kuh (2008) in his study of college student learning. Kuh found high impact educational practices in various types of courses and projects with various information literacy outcomes, which were determined to be beneficial to students with many backgrounds.

Kuh’s (2008) outline of high impact courses and projects has informed exploration into high impact learning and the role of information literacy. Using Kuh’s outline of high impact projects and practices, information science researchers (Snavely, 2008; Brownell & Swaner, 2010; Riehle & Weiner, 2013) found that information literacy instruction was integrated with first-year seminars and experiences; learning communities; writing-intensive courses; service learning; community-based learning, and capstone projects. These researchers assert that high impact practices provide excellent opportunities for teaching information literacy skills because the practices are active, contextualized pedagogies, span college experiences, and engage learning processes. Most recently, Schaub and McClure (2020) addressed engaging students through campus libraries where there was cross-campus collaboration and identified high impact learning models that emphasize cocreation of knowledge.

Based on these research findings, it follows that teaching information literacy skills is a high impact practice in instructional librarianship when library users engage with librarians in meaningful, active information seeking practices and processes that benefits library users’ information needs including fulfilling academic and personal challenges and opportunities. Addressed below are two relevant and crucial questions:

  1. What information literacy skills should instructional librarians be prepared to teach?
  2. What are observable information literacy learning outcomes?

When functioning in their role as instructional librarian, librarians are directly involved in teaching others to do for themselves some specific information literacy skills. This direct teaching is in contrast to presenting, which is when a speaker only tells listeners what they should know about a topic.  Instructional librarians, as teaching librarians in all library types, assume career-long information and technology practices and advancements toward enabling others to use information effectively, efficiently, and responsibly. Instructional librarians must know and use information literacy skills in order to teach them to others.  They must have an accurate and clear image of what it means to be information literate. In Chapter Two, Information Literacy Learning, there are published definitions of information literacy from a variety of organizations. Making time to review chapter two and committing definitions of information literacy to memory will be useful in teaching.

Below are some examples of information literacy skills lessons, or sessions, likely to currently be beneficial to library users. This is only a sampling of many possibilities. The examples provided do, however, include skills that can be taught across age ranges. These examples also arguably include skills that go beyond purely information literacy skills to other forms of information literacy mentioned above.

As you read and consider these examples, please keep in mind the teaching procedures and situations in various library types discussed above in this chapter. Based on details shared in this chapter about academic, public, preK-12 schools, and special and government libraries, consider how you might teach these skills enabling library users to do more because of your instruction than they can do on their own. How much can realistically be learned in one lesson/session? How can a series of instructional sessions be organized for maximum cumulative positive impact?

Examples of Information Literacy Instruction

Information Literacy SkillYes/NoInformation Literacy SkillYes/NoInformation Literacy SkillYes/No
credibility of authors
database selection
database features and uses
topic selection
digital citizenship
database index, thesaurus
ethical decision-making
search language
use of e-citation tool
website evaluation
major e-reference sources
copyright-intellectual property
big data
social media risks
e-writing tools
question formulation
signs in the library
using library's website
categories of book
guided inquiry steps
essay/info format
saving/storing your work
in-text citations
end-of-text citations
research question writing
citation tracking tools
reading the web
Credo and other reference tools
collaborate toward common goals
curating resources
discover and innovate in a growth mindset
ethical, safe, legal sharing of information
respect for diversity

Instructional librarians must develop deep understandings of what is realistic for users of libraries to become independently able to achieve, and when library users should be encouraged to call on the assistance of a librarian as an expert searcher. Typically, instructional librarians should teach information literacy skills at a functional level, not at a professional level. Professionals in all academic areas and types of practices (teachers, engineers, physicians, lawyers, clergy, etc.) may become information literate at a high level but should be expected at times to need to ask an instructional librarian for assistance.

In Chapter 7, information literacy instruction will be further addressed including writing lesson/session plans and determining lesson/session learning outcomes.

6.6 Featured Exercises in Instructional Librarianship

Featured items are opportunities for pre- and in-service instructional librarians to engage in intellectual exercises extending chapter content that may challenge thinking and encourage additional practices in instructional librarianship. 

6.6.1 Featured Exercise – Essential Questions

Please review differences in the essential questions and non-essential questions in the table below. Also, we recommend reading "The Second Principle,” The work of Leslie Owen Wilson, Ed.D.

Then, based on chapter six content, please respond to each essential question in the left column below. Reflect on details and patterns in the chapter content. Fit pieces of the puzzle together as you dig deep into instructional librarianship. When writing, provide support, rationale, and/or justification for your responses.

Essential Questions Exercise

Essential QuestionsNOT Essential Questions

What does it mean to learn in libraries?

How are libraries used?

What does it mean to teach in libraries?

What services do librarians provide?

What are the benefits of high impact library instruction?

What are some information skills?
How do information search process stages and activities transform teaching methods and facilitate information learning?What are some teaching methods?

6.6.2 Featured Exercise – Method of Teaching in All Library Types 

After reading this chapter, please pause and reflect on the scenarios describing teaching in various library types presented in this chapter. Write a brief informal essay answering these questions:

In what library type do I prefer to teach? Why?

different types of libraries visualized as flowers in a garden

Once finished with a thoughtful and decisive essay, please collaborate (give and receive information) with a classmate or practicing instructional librarian person who is knowledgeable of this topic and will enable you to be open-minded as you collect and extract additional information. Listen for feedback and continue to collaborate as you collect, extract, and verify information. (Review 6.1 Teaching Procedure and Situations in Various Library Types). 

6.6.3 Featured Exercise – High Impact Library Instruction

Review the examples of information literacy skills lessons/sessions in the table in section 6.5 of this chapter. Indicate writing yes or no in the appropriate column whether you can now teach each skill. How many of the examples are information literacy skills you know right now well enough to teach?  In light of your response, consider how you will increase your skills to the level necessary for teaching others and continue to increase your information literacy learning overtime. What are additional information literacy skills you can/will add to this list?

6.7 References & Further Recommended Reading

Agarwal, N. K. (2018). Exploring context in information behavior: Seeker, situation, surroundings, and shared identities. Morgan & Claypool.

American Library Association. (2008). Mission & Priorities. Retrieved from

American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. (2023). Framework for information literacy. Retrieved from

Association of College & Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. American Library Association. Retrieved from


Association of College and Research Libraries, 2022. Companion document to the ACRL Framework or Information Literacy for Higher Education: Visual Literacy. Retrieved from Microsoft Word - visualliteracy (

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Blumberg, P. (2015). How critical reflection benefits faculty as they implement learner-centered teaching. New Directions for Teaching & Learning144, 87–97.

Bystrom, K., & Hanson, P. (2005). Conceptual framework for tasks in information studies. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 56(10), 1050-1061.

Bystrom, K., & Jarvelin, K. (1995). Task complexity affects information seeking and use. Information Processing and Management, 31(2), 191-213.

Bruner, J. S. (1973). The relevance of education. W.W. Norton & Company.

Carr-Chellman, A. A. (2022). Negentropy, profundity & trauma-informed pedagogy: Three ideas to expand instructional design. TechTrends, 66(4), 564–567.

Case, D. O., & Givens, L. M. (2016). Looking for information: A survey of research on information seeking, needs, and behavior (4th ed.). Emerald Publishing Limited.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. (2018). CILIP definition of information literacy 2018. Retrieved from

Cole, C. (2001). Intelligent information retrieval: Part IV. Testing the timing of two information retrieval devices in a naturalistic setting. Information Processing and Management, 37(1), 163-182.

Coles-Ritchie, M., Power, C. A., Farrell, C., Valerio, M. (2022). Pedagogy matters: A framework for critical community-engaged courses in higher education. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 15(1), 1-16.

Cooke, N. A. (2017). Posttruth, truthiness, and alternative facts: Information behavior and critical information consumption for a new age. Library Quarterly, 87(3), 211–221.

Cooke, N. A. (2021). Tell me sweet little lies: Racism as a form of persistent malinformation, Project Information Literacy: Provocation Series, 1(4). Project Information Literacy Research Institute.

Coonan, E.M., Secker, J. & Wrathall, K. (2012, April). ANCIL in action: progress updates on a new curriculum for information literacy. SCONUL Focus, 55, 4-8. Retrieved from

Council for Higher Education Accreditation. (n.d.). [Homepage]. Retrieved from

Craig E. (2009). Better informed for better health and better care: an information literacy framework to support health care in Scotland. Health Info Library, 26(1):77-80.

Dewey, J. (1938).  Experience and Education. Collier Books.

Dobler, Elizabeth. (2024). What are the Science of Reading, Structured Literacy, and Dyslexia?  (Video) Retrieved from 

Dudak, L. (2023). Working toward wellness. Library Journal, 148(2), 36–39.

Ellis, D. (1993). Modeling the information seeking patterns of academic researchers: A grounded theory approach. The Library Quarterly, 63(4), 469-86.

Ellis, D., & Haugan, M. (1997). Modelling the information seeking patterns of engineers and research scientists in an information industrial environment. Journal of Documentation, 53(4), 384-403.

Evans, S. D., Kivell, N., Haarlammert, M., Malhotra, K. & Rosen A. (2014). Critical community practice: An introduction to the special section. Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, 6(1), 1-15.

Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Basic Books.

Green, L. S., & Chassereau, K. (2023). Modeling guided inquiry and school librarian instructional partnerships to pre-service teachers through digital video production. Journal of Education for Library & Information Science, 64(2), 185–205. DOI:10.3138/jelis-2022-0015

Illeris, K. (2006). The three dimensions of learning: Contemporary theory in the tension field between the cognitive, emotional, and social. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 7(1).  DOI:10.19173/irrodl.v7i1.305

JISC (2014). Developing digital literacies.

Julien, H. (2005). Education for information literacy instruction: A global perspective. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 46(3), 210–216.

Kammer, J., King, M., Donahv, A., Koeberl, H. (2021). Strategies for successful school librarian and teacher collaboration. School Library Research, 24. 1-24.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1991). Inside the search process: Information seeking from the user’s perspective. Journal of the American Society of Information Science, 361-371.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1999). The role of a zone of intervention for identifying the role of intermediaries in the information search process, Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science Annual Meeting, 33, 367-376.

Kuhlthau. C. C. (2019). Guided inquiry design. Rutgers School of Communication and Information. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C. C. Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2015). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (2nd ed.). Libraries Unlimited.

Megwalu, A. (2014). Practicing learner-centered teaching. Reference Librarian55(3), 252–255.

Neumann, A., & Campbell, C. M. (2016). Homing in on learning and teaching. In American higher education in the 21st century: Social, political and economic challenges (M.N. Bastedo, P. G. Altbach, & P. J. Gumport, Eds) (4th ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). SAMHSA’s national center for trauma-informed care. Retrieved from

Thompson K. W., & Dow, M. J. (2017). Co-teaching to improve control variable experiment instruction in physical sciences. Electronic Journal of Science Education, 21(5), 36-52.

Tolley, R. (2020). A trauma-informed approach to library services, ALA Editions.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2005). The Alexandria proclamation on information literacy and lifelong learning. Retrieved from

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2023). Information literacy. Retrieved from


Vardell, E., & Wang, T. (2022). Public librarians connecting communities to health insurance information. Public Library Quarterly, 41(2), 161–188.

Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching. Jossey-Bass.

Weimer M. (2013). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Zettervall, S., & Nienow. M. (2019). Whole person librarianship: A social work approach to patron services. Libraries Unlimited.

Zurkowski, P. G. (1974). The information service environment relationships and priorities, related paper no. 5. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science.

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