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The Library Pedagogical Milieu: Learning from Cross-Institutional Comparisons   Tags: adult learning, assessment, information literacy, library instruction, staff development, staff training, teaching  

Libraries are engaged in teaching on many levels and in many environments. This guide seeks to brings together pedagogical methods, techniques, and theory from different settings for comparison and improvement across institutional boundaries.
Last Updated: Nov 21, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Scope Note

This LibGuide will be of use to graduate students in library science who intend to practice their profession in a setting where teaching will be a component of the job. This includes librarian positions providing public services in academic and public libraries, and it also includes positions that will provide training for staff members and others. Teaching is a core requirement for many aspects of library work, and there is a pressing need for education and training in pedagogical techniques and theory. 

The resources discussed here will also be helpful to library professionals who are currently engaged in teaching and training. Those familiar with one kind of teaching may be able to learn new techniques, methods, and theoretical background that will assist them in improving their own pedagogical skills. 

The resources collected here document teaching in three environments: the academic library, the public library, and staff training and development in all libraries. The intention is to present those resources that are foundational, representative, or innovative in a number of subject areas, and to avoid listing resources that are imitative or repetitive. The key subject areas covered, for each of the three library teaching environments, are history, practice (method and technique), and theory. Resources related to practice will cover various aspects of planning and needs assessment, implementation, presentation, and assessment. 


Table of Contents

Home Page

  • Scope Note
  • Teaching in the Library: An Introduction
  • Author Profile
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Quick LInks for Library Pedagogy

Information Literacy

  • History: From Library Instruction to Information Literacy
  • Theory: Concepts and Models for Library Learning and Teaching
  • Practice: Planning, Implementing, and Assessing IL Programs

Adult Learning

  • History:  Discovering Andragogy
  • Theory: Conceptualizing Adult Learning Models
  • Practice: Creating Effective Programs and Practices

Staff Training and Development

  • Theory: Applying Learning Principles to Training
  • Practice: Best Practices for Effective Training Programs

Additional Material

  • Master List of Sources
  • Bibliographic Essay

Teaching in the Library: An Introduction

Staff training circa 1940. Photo credit: Authenticated News / Archive Photos / Getty Images / Universal Images Group. Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

It has been said that the foundational skill of librarians has shifted from the reference interview to teaching. In almost any type of library serving any community, teaching skills are imperative, whether they are employed in classes, one-on-one instruction, informal sessions, or in staff training and development programs. Evidence has accumulated that librarians in general are underprepared for this role. Professional library education programs, even today, rarely offer courses in pedagogical theory or methods. All too often, new librarians find themselves thrust into a teaching role, and scramble to gain needed skills and understanding on the job.  

Librarians in teaching roles are always searching for improved pedagogical techniques and theory that will provide the best learning outcomes. Successful programs build on previous efforts in an iterative process. But particular institutional traditions and methods are often insulated, and fail to benefit from advancements taking place elsewhere. Academic librarians are often unaware of how their fellow librarians in public libraries are using different teaching methods for classes and programs, and vice versa. Librarians in each sector often fail to consider methods used in staff training programs that may benefit programs that teach information literacy to undergraduates, computer skills to adult learners, or eBook downloading procedures to elderly library patrons.      

This study guide will compare and investigate points of commonality and divergence in three library instructional settings: students (academic library), adult learners (public library), and staff training and development. Each of these three settings comes with its own history, theoretical grounding, and array of applications. Library instruction in the academic library is by far the most discussed, theorized, written about, and argued about mode of library teaching, at least in recent decades. The Association of College and Research Libraries has been diligent in promoting standards and guidelines for information literacy instruction, and numerous types of instruction programs and methods have been developed. But the history of library instruction extends far back to the mission that public libraries adopted of educating and "improving" the citizenry. Public library instruction saw a resurgence with the growth of the adult education movement in the 1980s, a movement that took hold in community colleges and workplaces and spilled over into the library setting. Library staff training and professional development, of course, has been a constant mode of teaching, originally in the form of apprenticeships, and more recently codified in an ever increasing array of tutorials, mentorship programs, and workshops. 

The benefit of looking at these types of teaching together will be to reveal those areas where theory and practice from one environment may inform another. This sort of cross-disciplinary thinking can already be found, and it's not unheard of, for instance, to see designers of staff training calling upon andragogical principles in their instruction design, or to find librarians who are teaching computer skills to the public calling upon exercises and games used in the academic setting. Generating more of this kind of borrowing from one setting to another can only enrich teaching in all respects. We are far removed from the time when "one size fits all" teaching was seen as acceptable practice, and we should be equally removed from thinking that one style of teaching is useful only for one particular library setting. 


Author Profile


List of Abbreviations

LISA - Library and Information Science Abstracts

LISTA - Library, Information Science, and Technology Abstracts

SHP - Shepard Library at North Carolina Central University

SLIS - School of Library and Information Science Library at North Carolina Central University

PQC = ProQuest Central


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