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Faculty Tool Kit: Creating Library Assignments

Creating Effective Library Assignments

Librarians are eager to collaborate with faculty to design assignments that emphasize critical thinking and to discuss other ways of integrating information literacy into courses.

Well-designed, subject-related research assignments that align with course learning outcomes discourage plagiarism utilize Westchester Community College Library resources and services to facilitate a positive student learning experience.

Ideas for Library Assignments

Best Practices for Library Assignments - DO's

1. DO work with a librarian to develop an assignment meaningful to your students and derives from your stated learning goals. Librarians can make sure a project will work and help get rid of the bugs in an assignment.

2. Make sure the library resources can support the assignment.

3. Recognize that students need to learn to engage with materials deeper than they did in high school. For beginning students, taking a "less is more" approach will help them understand this practice. For example, instead of requiring five resources, why not ask them to use the best two?

4. Teach students how to determine if a topic is manageable. Students may choose a topic before doing the necessary reading and spend considerable time on an unwieldy topic. They realize the need to step back and determine whether the issue is appropriate.

5. Use library guides whenever possible, since the goal of most assignments should be integrally related to the overall course goals and *not* "library skills/information literacy" per se. Librarians can create guides geared specifically for your class and its assignments.

Best Practices for Library Assignments - DONT's

1. DON'T assign an old assignment without making sure it's updated.

  • Students are often frustrated when assignments are several years old, and no attempt has been made to ensure that the same resources are still available. Websites, URLs, and digital resources all change. The library continues to acquire and modify its holdings. Books go missing and cannot be replaced.

2. Don't assume students all have the same skill level or think they know what they're doing.

  • Knowing "how to use the internet" to them might mean they know how to use Facebook and Youtube. However, they may not know how to use the advanced search in Google or be aware of discipline-specific and other scholarly resources that colleges offer. 

3. Don't use scavenger hunts unless they are integral to your teaching research methodology.

  • Scavenger hunts are an unpleasant way (for students and librarians) to teach them about "the library."
  • Sometimes key reference sources are left out of assignment instructions to make the work more challenging for students, creating scavenger hunt-like conditions. We question the usefulness of this strategy, and we believe that it sends the wrong message to students. The library should be a place where ideas come together, not a place of struggle and hardship.

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