Librarians working in data management: How to avoid a data management nightmare

I thought I would quickly share a video that I created in collaboration with two of my excellent colleagues — Karen Hanson and Alisa Surkis. We are developing short data management modules for a clinical department at our institution that will cover everything from selecting the right data collection tool to file naming conventions. This first video was developed to serve as a teaser for the more focused modules.

The first module has already been well received within the department we are working with, and we hope that this will catch on with other departments as we move forward. As always, I’m happy to hear feedback or answer questions about how we developed the module or what we’re using it for in more detail. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy:


Librarians: It’s time to stand up for ourselves!

I recently attended a library association meeting where I heard a familiar concern among my colleagues: “Our products and services are used widely by many within our institution, yet nobody knows that we(librarians) developed them.” Similarly, there seemed to be a lot of uncertainty amongst the group about how to transform our roles and provide services that will benefit our patron base. The remainder of the discussion involved the doom and gloom of libraries… I personally found this discussion incredibly frustrating because I have heard it time and time again. Librarians seem to love sitting around and talking about how we are suffering and losing patrons left, right and center; how does this help us improve? I know librarians are capable of doing amazing things with information and developing services that can benefit users, we just need to actively go out and do it. For this post I want to address a few things that I think librarians need to do on a regular basis to remain relevant and stand up for themselves.

Develop Relationships

Liaison and subject librarians already have a head start on this one, but I think developing and fostering relationships among our patron groups is essential. With the emergence of embedded librarianship, I believe that librarians need to take a more hands on approach to their work. In order to find out what will benefit a patron base, we need to go out and ask them directly. In an academic library, librarians need to ask faculty and students how they can better serve their needs. This approach accomplishes two things: first, it gives us an opportunity to explain and demonstrate our skills and expertise, and second it allows us to hear firsthand how our patrons function and evaluate how we can help them.

I think that fostering relationships is the first step towards changing the ways librarians do their work. The stronger the relationships, the better the opportunity to create information resources and services that will benefit our patrons. Furthermore, when it comes time for annual review, we will be able to provide actual evidence that can prove that our work has been beneficial. 

Expand our role

We have to continually explore new ways that we can help our users — simple as that. Many librarians are now seeking out new ways they can provide services that range from helping researchers with data management to becoming more embedded within an institution. Specific roles I have been really impressed with are as follows:

NIH Library’s Informationists

The NIH Library’s Informationists are really pushing the envelope in terms of services they provide to patrons. Being completely embedded within clinical teams, these librarians have specialized knowledge and clinical expertise that allows for them to be a contributing member of a clinical research team. These librarians take multiple continuing education (CE) courses in information technology and biomedical sciences in order to keep up with their patrons. I think librarians in general should follow this model in the sense that taking CE courses should be a regular part of our jobs. As a medical librarian I believe it is important to learn how my patrons work within their research environment. Moreover, I believe learning about new technology and information practices will help me discover new ways to help users.

Purdue University’s Digital Curation Profiles

Purdue’s Digital Curation Profiles (DCP) provide an opportunity for academic librarians to enter a new role by helping academic researchers manage and understand their data. A DCP is designed to be “essentially an outline of the “story” of a data set or collection, describing its origin and lifecycle within a research project.” These DCPs allow librarians to meet with and understand how their patrons perform their research and manage their data. From this evaluation, librarians can assist with researchers’ data management methodology so that it can be preserved or uploaded into an information repository. Moreover, this exercise gives the librarian an opportunity to learn about how their users actually perform their research. The DCPs and data management in general are areas where I believe librarians should get more involved as it 1) fosters a relationship with a specific patron base, 2) provides a new role for librarians, and 3) allows librarians to provide tangible evidence in the form of DCPs as to the services they provide. 

University of Massachusetts’ Journal of eScience Librarianship

UMass has received a grant from the National Library of Medicine to create a journal where eScience is the topic of discussion. The journal is designed to “advance the theory and practice of librarianship with a special focus on services related to data-driven research in the physical, biological, and medical sciences. The journal explores the many roles of librarians in supporting eScience and welcomes articles related to education, outreach, collaborations, and current practices, by contributors from all areas of the globe.” I think this is an excellent initiative as it fosters collaboration amongst librarians and provides a new way to educate librarians about a new topic. The collaborative nature of librarians is something I have discussed before, but we need to support the interpersonal nature of the field as we move into new areas. The Journal of eScience Librarianship is just one, but excellent example of this.

Assessment! Assessment! Assessment!

This one is a no brainer – librarians need to perform more evaluations and assessments of their services. If you’re an instructional librarian, it is vital that you survey your audience so that we can prove the students are learning something. These evaluative measures also provides insight into how we can improve our services. Similarly if you’re a subject librarian, allow your patrons to evaluate you and the services you provide: How can your services be improved? What do these patrons expect from their librarian? If they don’t know – explain to them how you can better serve their needs!

One initiative I am impressed with is the ACRL’s “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success.” This study sets out to build a professional development program to strengthen the competencies of librarians in campus leadership and data-informed advocacy. Individual libraries can follow this model to ensure that if they ever come under scrutiny (and surely they will), they can prove how their efforts have been successful within their institution. 

Final Thoughts

The basic point I am trying to get across is that librarians experienced and inexperienced cannot sit idly and hope that they will remain relevant within their institution. As information specialists we need to keep up with emerging technologies in order to provide services that our patrons need. After all, isn’t learning new things  one of the main reasons we all love this profession?

We also need to get out of our comfort zones and head into the environments where our patrons spend their time. How are our patrons going to know how we can help them if we don’t tell them?! It may seem daunting to some, but we need to prove to our institutions that we are essential and that the expertise we possess can improve the work our patrons do. The relationships we build will help us prove our worth, as well as make our jobs more dynamic and interesting.

Finally, evaluating our services is incredibly important. How so many librarians have gotten by without doing this until now is baffling to me. Just like any thing we do, it is important that we know if you we’re doing it well and if it has value. With every instructional session we give, every research guide we create, and every hands on information service we provide, we need to know that it is effective and meeting the needs of our users. 

Using these measures can help us improve as librarians and give us an opportunity to stand up for ourselves.. Maybe then we won’t have to attend any more library meetings where the topic of discussion is the doom and gloom of the librarians.

As a librarian, how do you stand up for yourself within your institution?

Part 4: Teaching Staples for Librarians

Last week I took the time to write about instructional design models (IDM) and discuss their usefulness for building library workshops. I then looked at two specific IDMs: ADDIE and Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. My goal for introducing these IDMs was to demonstrate how librarians can think critically about teaching strategies and use them as guides for creating effective library workshops. In the future, I would love to complete a formal survey of using IDMs in library sessions and compare their effectiveness with current library teaching strategies.

To conclude this series on IDMs and teaching strategies, I feel like it’s important to discuss my own values when it comes to teaching. Below I have listed the staples I abide by when it comes to teaching as a librarian. Please feel free to leave comments if you think there’s anything I’ve missed, or there’s something you would like to add.

Do your research

As with any important task I do as a librarian, I always want to make sure that I’ve done my homework before I go into a teaching session. I do this by looking at current library related research to see what others teacher librarians are doing (especially in medical libraries). A recent article published by MacEachern et al. (2012) provides a great list of topics covered throughout 4 years of Undergraduate Medical Education. This article also provides examples of handouts as well as an overview of how successful their strategies have been. Since I’m still pretty green when it comes to setting up and teaching medical workshops on my own, so doing background research can be extremely helpful.

If I have to work in an online or digital format, doing research on how the software works, and potential snags that may come up is crucial. I always say you can never be too prepared, so getting to know the mediums I’m working with is always important before I start teaching.

Finally, ensuring that I have developed search strategies that will be relevant for your users is an excellent step to take. Although this often takes time, I find that when I have developed a great search example that hits all the points I want to discuss, the audience is more receptive and the workshop runs more smoothly.


The next staple of teaching that I find to be incredibly important is collaboration with faculty as well as your audience. A blog post written yesterday titled I Don’t Have Time to Teach That: The Benefits of Faculty-Librarian Collaborations does an excellent job of explaining that librarians who are incorporated into teaching for research assignments and are paired with embedded librarians  facilitates both student learning and faculty grading of assignments. This is an area I will be discussing at length in future posts, as I think collaborating with our users and their supervisors is absolutely essential. By collaborating with your user groups, you have a better idea of what their needs are and can then tailor your instruction to fit those needs.

Even as a student instructor for undergraduate engineering students, I would always arrange to meet with a faculty member 30 minutes before the session so that I could test search strategies that would be relevant to the topics they were addressing in their course. This simple step makes a tremendous difference in instruction, as I would see the students perk up when I searched for topics they had just discussed the day before or that they were considering for their assignments.

Get feedback

Feedback is important on so many levels, the first being feedback from your peers and fellow librarians. After I’ve set up a strategy for my instructional session, I always run it by a number of people (mentors, friends, and colleagues) to get their opinion on how I could improve. What I also like about this approach is that it promotes a collaborative atmosphere. I find that when I do this more people are willing to come to me for help as well. Since there are many librarians often working in a single library environment I think it makes sense that we use each other’s skills to improve our practice. Keeping in communication with one another and asking for advice with teaching is one step we can take to strengthen bonds at work.

The next stage of feedback that is useful is from the learners you will teach. Using pre-assessment is an excellent way to find out what your audience is interested in learning. Sending along a simple pre-test that asks a few questions about what tools they want to learn, why they are taking the course and in what areas they would like to improve can be invaluable for designing a teaching strategy. Getselman et al. (2011) and Swoger (2011) provide excellent information on how developing pre-assessments can encourage dialogue between a librarian and their audience.

The same can be said for summative evaluations. Using an evaluation after the workshop is over provides me with an opportunity to find out what people liked about my session, what they didn’t like and how I can improve it in the future. 

Practice makes perfect (online too)

This staple goes without saying, but as librarians are faced with more and more teaching duties, practice can start to fall by the wayside. I think practicing live in-person sessions is an excellent way to feel prepared and to deliver information clearly and effectively. The same can be said with online teaching formats. If you are teaching an online curriculum and are using chat software, make sure it works, and that you can prompt learners with questions at the appropriate time throughout the session.

This is also a great time to test the searches you have developed to make sure they will retrieve relevant results. There’s nothing worse than trying a search you have prepped days before only to find it doesn’t work live — this is a nightmare of mine so I always make sure it works immediately before I start a session.

Keep up with trends

I always try to stay in the loop with new and useful tools that can enhance my teaching delivery. There is so much useful information out there that I want to make sure that I’m finding resources that will help me improve. I have found using Prismatic to be excellent for all things librarianship, health and everything else I’m interested in. It has usurped Google Reader as my go to news and information resource. 

In terms of trends in instruction I have found lately, the first concerns user engagement software. After Meebo has gone defunct I wanted to see what else was out there. This site gives an excellent overview of Meebo alternatives:

Another important component of teaching that I would like to use more regularly is mobile technology. Recently I just discovered this excellent blog post: The effects of iPads on Teaching and Learning: Annotated Bibliography . It provides a great list of articles I have bookmarked to read about the effectiveness of tablets in classroom instruction.

Always try to improve

This ties into keeping up with trends, but I think it is important not to become stagnant when teaching. The monotony of teaching can weigh on librarians as we often teach the exact same workshop for weeks at a time. Being conscious of this fact and attempting to enhance our teaching abilities through learning new tools, trying instructional design models, and integrating new exercises can serve to re-inspire our approach. 

My goal as a librarian is to never become sloppy with my teaching, and always try to improve a little bit each time. 

Act excited and passionate about the material!

If you ignore everything else I have written in this blog post please do not do the same for my final staple. Teaching is often the only opportunity we have as librarians to reach out to a lot of people at once. A teaching opportunity is often the only chance we have to make a good impression. While I usually don’t have issues with being excited or passionate about the material I’m teaching (because I love it) every so often I have a bad day and don’t feel excited about walking into an hour teaching session. Regardless of how I feel, showing enthusiasm for the material and demonstrating to your learners that you are approachable is so crucial I can’t say it enough. Whenever I walk into a teaching session and have taken a positive and enthusiastic approach, I have found that my audience is more receptive and feels comfortable asking me questions. Encouraging an open approach to teaching at the beginning of a session can do wonders for getting patrons to speak out more. I also notice when I am enthusiastic and a teaching session has gone really well, I am often approached by students or faculty later on during regular library hours.

Sometimes teaching is our only chance to meet with patrons, so making a good impression should be our number one priority! I think that if we do this, we will see positive results in the long run. 

This concludes the 4 part series on instructional design models and teaching. I will return to this topic much more in the future. Please feel free to share your own experiences as a teacher librarian. What staples do you abide by?


Carlson, J., & Kneale, R. (2011). Embedded librarianship in the research context: Navigating new waters. College and Research Libraries News, 72(3), 167-170.

Getselman, A., & White, M. S. (2011). Use of a pre-Assessment tool to start a meaningful dialogue: New paradigms in library instruction. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 30(3), 245-256. doi:10.1080/02763869.2011.590414

MacEachern, M., Townsend, W., Young, K., & Rana, G. (2012). Librarian integration in a four-year medical school curriculum: a timeline. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 31(1), 105-14. doi:10.1080/02763869.2012.641856

Swoger, B. (2011). Closing the assessment loop using pre- and post-assessment. Reference Services Review, 39(2), 244-259. 

Part 3: Instructional Design Models for ‪Teaching‬ ‪Library‬ Workshops — Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

In part 1 of this series I talked about instructional design models (IDM) and how they can be a useful pedagogical strategy for librarians designing teaching sessions. Then, in part 2 I gave an overview of one of ADDIE — a prescriptive IDM that is meant to be used in preparation for delivering a workshop. Today I will be talking about Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction; I happen to like this model quite a bit because it’s used to structure your actual teaching delivery as opposed to a rigorous systematic process leading up to it. In that sense it’s practical and can be modified to suit your needs. For this post I will again give a brief overview of Gagne’s Events, and then give my opinion on how useful I think it could be for librarians.

The Nine Events

Robert Gagne is a behaviorist and cognitivist theorist who believed strongly in the idea of a cumulative model of learning (Gagne, 1985). This cumulative model is characterized by the idea that learning new concepts and skills is built upon those already learned. For Gagne, using real-world learning experiences and examples when teaching is necessary for learners to engage with learning material. I strongly believe in this as well. What is the point of teaching a library session and giving examples that work for giving nice clean examples of how to search, but have absolutely no appeal to the audience? In the ideal teaching scenario, Gagne comments that instructional designers’ lessons would be geared towards enhancing prerequisite knowledge; providing content organization and cues for information retrieval; assuring student participation; and using informative and corrective feedback. For Gagne, providing learning guidance throughout each of the Nine Events is the most important step towards developing an effective teaching session. Take a look at the Nine Events below:

Just by looking at the Nine Events, Gagne’s idea of the cumulative learning model is evident in Event 3: build and trigger the learners’ prior knowledge to create a relevant learning session. You can also notice that the Nine Events are designed like stepping stones that lead towards building new knowledge and skills. I do think that Nine steps is a bit over the top for designing a teaching session, and many of these Events can be integrated into one another (the colour codes in the image do a great job of this. That being said, I would like to talk about a few of these events that I think are absolutely vital when teaching as a librarian.

Gaining Attention

As far as I’m concerned the most important step when teaching, gaining the attention of your audience is so important because if you don’t have their attention right off the bat, then you won’t have it for the rest of the session. I always like to start with something that will interest learners or a question that I know they can answer. For example, when I’ve taught undergraduate students I always ask them first where they go to find information — the answer is ALWAYS Google. Then I tell them that I will show them that using library resources can be just as easy as using Google, and will get them better grades on their assignments. Going through the process of showing them that searching for an assignment topic in Google retrieves 1,000,000’s of results while searching in a discipline-specific database retrieves a nice and tidy number of relevant results — this grabs their attention right away. For medical residents, I show them evidence of the fact that residents are poor searchers, and are not acquiring the best information through literature that proves this fact. I like to use this article: Can Emergency Medicine Residents Reliably Use the Internet to Answer Clinical Questions? This article shows that the Internet has given residents a false sense of security with searching. Once you show them an article like this they almost always perk up!

Of course, when I want to get everyone’s attention I always tell my audience that I’m here to help them, I want to help them, and that I LOVE helping them. Letting your students know that you are approachable and excited to help them is probably the best thing you can possibly do while teaching – because it lets them know you’re there!

Providing Guidance & Feedback

I strongly believe that when you’re teaching a lengthy library session you have to let the learners’ practice on their own. I really like an article that David Jonassen wrote in 1999 — in it he discussed the importance of the teacher playing the role of monitor and observer. It is always important to teach the content, but at some point I think you have to place the responsibility back on your learners. As an observer, you can survey the room and be there for anyone who needs help while at the same time giving them the space to try out things on their own. While working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, we used this approach often when teaching. The freedom the physicians’ felt throughout the session was much appreciated in the workshop evaluations.

After you’ve given them the freedom to discuss and practice searching and working through various search topics, you then have the ability to bring it back to the group. At this point you can have a good discussion about the challenges each person faced when using library resources, and provide the appropriate feedback. Guidance and feedback are so important, and Gagne’s Events really encourages this type of approach.

Enhancing Retention and Transfer

This is the stage that Gagne’s cumulative model really shows itself. As a librarian, it is important to do your research and make sure search examples will be useful for the students before you walk into a teaching session. Speaking with physicians, faculty, or even some of the students before hand can be a great way to get an idea what your learners will be interested in. I don’t think it is useful to go into a workshop setting for internal medicine residents and using climate change or global warming as an example of using Boolean. This is where a pre-evaluation can come in handy. Sending off a quick email survey to see what audience might be interested in learning about makes a world of difference. Regardless, making your examples applicable to your learners will help enhance their retention of the material and provide a better avenue for applying the new skills to real world situations (Gagne, 1985, Carder et al., 2001).

Another great way to enhance retention and transfer is to provide the students with something to take away; whether it’s a handout or a link to a handout (which, let’s be honest is probably more useful these days than a piece of paper they might recycle on their way out out of a session)

Retention and transfer should also reflect the retention and transfer of the librarian’s skills and expertise. While it is important for the audience to remember some of the skills we have taught, I would argue that it is more important that they remember we’re available to help them and that we want to help them if they get stuck.

I think that if anyone takes anything away from this post it should be that the steps discussed above are useful when we teach. It is crucial that we care about being effective teachers, and that we show that passion to our audience when we teach the content. This passion an excitement rubs off on our leaners, and can make them more excited to use the library and our services. Every time someone visits me from a class I taught and feel comfortable asking me for help I get a huge sense of satisfaction. Just knowing that they saw my enthusiasm, and felt like they could approach me with their issues is such an amazing feeling and proves that I must be doing something right. 

In part 4 (the final part) I will discuss what my goals are for teaching in a library setting.


Carder, L., Willingham, Bibb, D., (2001). Case-based, problem-based learning: Information literacy for the real world. Research Issues, 18(3), 181-190.

Gagne, RM.(1985). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction (4th edition). Orlando, FLA: Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc. (Original published in 1916).

Jonassen, D. (1999). Designing constructivist learning environments. In C.M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory (Vol. II) (pp. 215–239). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Krause, R., Moscati, R., Halpern, S., Schwartz, DG., et al. (2011). Can emergency medicine residents reliably use the internet to answer clinical questions? Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 12(4), 442-447.


Part 2: Instructional Design Models for Teaching Library Workshops — ADDIE

Yesterday I wrote a quick overview of Instructional Design Models (IDM) and discussed how they can be useful for librarians when teaching library workshops. I also talked about how I wasn’t able to find any evidence that librarians are using models at all when teaching. My directed study gave me the chance to delve deeply into two design models and today I want to talk about ADDIE — a model that helps instructors structure their content before teaching a workshop.


The ADDIE model was developed in 1975 by the Department of Defense (Colborn, 2011) as a way to analyze learners, create new learning opportunities, and assess learning outcomes systematically (Swanson, 2005). ADDIE can be thought of as a continual process used to develop quality teaching and learning experiences. Using this IDM, each instructional designer can interpret the steps in the way that best fits their users’ needs (Colborn, 2011). ADDIE stands for: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. I’ve provided an overview of each step below:


Identify the problem to be learned, the goals and objectives of the teaching session, the intended audience and their characteristics (skill level & existing knowledge)

Questions:  What will be the outcome of this workshop? Are there any learning constraints? What are the options for presentation? What is the timeline for project completion? (Dick & Carey, 1996)


Build a systematic process of learning objectives. Here the instructional, visual and technical design strategy should be documented (Leshin et al., 1992).

At this stage, building storyboards and prototypes is suggested – helps map ideas to learning objectives.


Creation of content finalized during the design phase

Opportunity for teaching content to be reviewed and revised according to acquired feedback (Colborn, 2011).


Development of how the facilitators will proceed with the training session, and how it will be organized for learners (Dick & Carey, 1996).

Training in this case should involve the course curriculum or outline, learning outcomes, method of delivery and testing procedures.

Should include a survey of the effectiveness of training procedures and course materials.


Encourages formative evaluation at each stage of the process.

Dick and Carey (1996) suggest that “rapid prototyping” or continual feedback can be used to improve the model at each stage because it provides an opportunity for the designer to reflect on the process as a whole.

Is it effective?

The ADDIE model provides a highly structured and useful way to approach the design of a library workshop. What I like most about this model is that it encourages the designer to review material at every step, and seek out revisions from peers.  A more collegial approach to teaching instructional sessions is important because it promotes collaboration, and ensures that everyone involved has the opportunity to provide input. The emphasis on evaluation also extends to the learners; this is crucial before a workshop in order to find out what it is your audience wants to learn, and after a workshop to find out if they learned anything. Summative evaluations are excellent because they provide the instructor with an opportunity to discover what the audience found useful about the workshop and how it can be improved in the future.

As a trial, I developed a prototype of the ADDIE model for a library instructional workshop introducing MEDLINE to medical internal residents. Completing this exercise helped me to discover some pros and cons of the model:

ADDIE Prototype


My first complaint is that ADDIE is almost TOO prescriptive. Because library workshops often have more than one goal and objective, I found that my ADDIE became overly complicated as I added more objectives and tasks. Ideally it would be better to create a separate ADDIE for each goal and objective but who has time to do that honestly? As you can see in my example above, even a simple introduction to MEDLINE can be a complicated endeavour. Imagine designing an ADDIE for a class on developing search strategies for systematic reviews?

My other issue with ADDIE is that it does not give the designer a chance to be creative. ADDIE is so linear that I found trying to incorporate dynamic learning content very difficult. As an instructor I like my lesson plans to be flexible, as often the material I have prepared may not work for my audience in a particular session. Having multiple strategies to fall back on is important and unfortunately ADDIE does not really provide the flexibility I need to change up content on the fly.

Wrap up

Despite some of its faults, ADDIE can be an effective way for librarians to organize their learning content before a workshop is delivered. I found it particularly useful for structuring the learning stages of a workshop and reviewing my material at every step of the process. Being mindful of each stage of instruction and seeking out feedback from peers are two elements that I think are often overlooked in library instruction due to time constraints. ADDIE almost forces you to slow down and make sure each step of your teaching design will be useful for your audience. And designing effective workshops for our user groups should always be our number one priority.

So what do you think? Is this the type of model you could see yourself using for the library workshops you teach?

In Part 3, I will move on to an instructional design model that is meant for the actual teaching process: Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction.


Colborn, N., (2011). Introduction to instructional design: A brief primer. Indiana Libraries, 30(1), 15-19.

Dick, W., & Carey, L. (1996). The systematic design of Instruction (4th Ed.). New York: Haper Collins College Publishers.

Leshin, C. B., Pollock, J., & Reigeluth, C. M. (1992). Instructional Design Strategies and Tactics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Education Technology Publications.

Swanson, TA., (2005). ADDIE in the library: building a model for the information age library. Community and Junior College Libraries, 13(2), 51-61.

Part 1: Using Instructional Design Models when Teaching Library Workshops — An overview

For my final project as a library student, I spent the month of June researching Instructional Design Models (IDM) reviewing whether or not they could be useful for librarians who teach on a regular basis. I thought I would use this blog to share what I learned with you. The amount of content I have is significant so I  have decided to break it up into a few parts. For this particular post, I will be introducing IDMs and explaining some of the trends that emerged from instructional library literature.  

I think teaching provides that one amazing opportunity for librarians to prove to a group of patrons why we’re useful to them. Because we often only get one shot to do this, I think it’s crucial that we look prepared, professional and most importantly capable of helping them with their information needs. This is where IDMs can be of use.

What are Instructional Design Models?

IDMs serve as prescriptive guidelines that help outline and structure content for teaching. Because so many librarians are thrust into teaching library workshops without experience, these models can be a great place to start. Instructional design is important for librarians because it provides an opportunity to perform an analysis of learning needs and the systematic development of learning materials.

Since there are so many different IDMs I decided to narrow my focus to two specifically: ADDIE and Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. I chose these models because they serve different purposes: ADDIE is designed to structure content before a workshop is taught, while Gagne’s Events is designed to be used during an instructional session. Both provide excellent food for thought for instructional librarians. I will be discussing each model in detail in the second and third post on this topic.

Are librarians currently using Instructional Design Models?

The second component of my directed study focused on reviewing medical library literature (because it’s my field of interest) that discussed library instruction. The Medical Library Association (MLA) states that medical librarians should work to “understand curricular design and instruction in order to teach ways to access, organize and use information”.  Knowing curricular design and instruction is a priority of the MLA, I approached the literature from this angle to see if any librarians mentioned using IDMs  in their methodology.  The predominant theme that emerged confirmed my hypothesis that IDMs are not regularly used in library workshop planning (Anderson & Wilson, 2009; Booth, 2007; Dickinson, 2005; Dunaway et al., 2011; Garg & Turtle, 2003; Getselmen et al., 2011; Klem et al, 2005; Lawson et al., 2005; Pearce-Smith et al., 2005-2006; Stevenson, 2012).  Because medical librarians play a significant role in teaching information retrieval skills in medicine this came as a surprise. It was interesting to read through this literature because the authors’ showed concern for improving instruction, engaging users, and using assessment to evaluate the success of their teaching, but all failed to consider that IDMs could help them. In the case of assessment, interactivity and developing new curricular content, instructional models can be useful for librarians as they often support strategies that assist the instructor navigate these issues.

How can IDMs help?

Librarians can benefit from familiarizing themselves with learning theories and selecting IDMs that will suit the needs of their users. As Dean Giustini (2010) writes in his article in the Journal of the Canadian Health Librarians Association, it is important that health librarians develop teaching strategies that are evidence-based in order to assess their relevance to the learning needs of users. I would argue that when librarians use IDMs to teach they should also  describe them in their methodology when publishing research of this kind. Hopefully, more literature in this area will emerge as it would help librarians find out which models work and which falter.  There is growing evidence that sound instructional design can result in greater retention of information for workshop participants (Giustini, 2009). Using IDMs can help new librarians develop and organize teaching content or provide new methods for experienced instructional librarians to modify their approach.

Does anyone currently use IDMs for their library teaching duties?

In Part 2, I will discuss the ADDIE instructional design model and how it can be applied to teaching library workshops…

Here’s a link to a list of IDMs:


Anderson, R. P., & Wilson, S. P. (2009). Quantifying the effectiveness of interactive tutorials in medical library instruction. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 28(1), 10-21. doi:10.1080/02763860802615815

Booth, A. (2007). Using evidence in practice: in search of the information literacy training “half-life”. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 24(2), 145-149. 

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