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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 10, 2006

Library assignments that get results

by Samantha Beres

Creating a well-designed library assignment can have great results. Students can meet learning objectives. They can better their research skills, and maybe churn out a great paper.

What makes a library assignment effective? Librarians Jan Fryer and Jeff Kushkowski created a tips list for faculty (published in the Library's Dec. 8 newsletter). Inside talked to Fryer to get an abridged version.

  1. Plan ahead. Save time and give a quick call to the subject librarian. Subject librarians have in-depth knowledge of their areas and know what resources are available. This also gives librarians an opportunity to obtain materials an instructor may need for the assignment.
  2. Reserve early. Arrange for materials to be placed on Reserve as early as possible. Students get frustrated if they expect to find assigned readings on Reserve and they're not there.
  3. Do the assignment yourself. "I would recommend that professors do the assignment to familiarize themselves with the strengths and weaknesses of the library's collections," Fryer said. "Even if it's an assignment you've been giving for years, you want to make sure the resources are still available and up-to-date."
  4. Don't forbid use of online resources. "Instructors try to steer students away from using less credible web sites," Fryer said, "but sometimes the best resources are in electronic format." And the library is subscribing to more and more academic journals online due to user convenience and space limitations. Librarians will give presentations to classes that teach students how to recognize good resources.
  5. Avoid "scavenger hunts." If the assignment is to find an obscure fact that exists only in one book and there are 100 students chasing after it, the book often will be unavailable.


A longer version of this list is online (click on "Newsletter").