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Guides & Help

Here is a list of helpful guides, handouts and other Web-based material related to library services.


The Harold Washington College Library extends a warm welcome to new and returning faculty.

In this guide you will learn about the resources and services offered to faculty in the library. 

The Importance of Information Literacy

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. 
American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report.(Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.)

Information literacy is a critical skill that enables a person to locate, retrieve, critically evaluate, and ethically use information. It allows a person to know the difference between fact-based news and "fake news" or "alternative facts." Information literacy will allow students to excel as students, in the workplace, and in everyday life. 

Why Library Instruction Matters

During a three-year assessment of library instruction at 200 colleges and universities entitled Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success (AiA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) found powerful evidence of the contributions academic libraries make to student learning in four key areas:

1. Students benefit from library instruction in their initial coursework. Information literacy instruction provided to students during their initial coursework helps them acquire a common set of competencies for their undergraduate studies. The assessment findings from numerous AiA projects that focused on information literacy initiatives for freshmen and new students underscore that students receiving this instruction perform better in their courses than students who do not.

2. Library use increases student success. Several AiA studies point to increased academic success when students use the library. The analysis of multiple data points (e.g., circulation, library instruction session attendance, online databases access, study room use, interlibrary loan) shows that students who use the library in some way achieve higher levels of academic success (e.g., GPA, course grades, retention) than students who did not use the library. 

3. Collaborative academic programs and services involving the library enhance student learning. Academic library partnerships with other campus units, such as the writing center, academic enrichment, and speech lab, yield positive benefits for students (e.g., higher grades, academic confidence, retention).

4. Information literacy instruction strengthens general education outcomes. Several AiA projects document that libraries improve their institution’s general education outcomes and demonstrate that information literacy contributes to inquiry-based and problem-solving learning, including critical thinking, ethical reasoning, global understanding, and civic engagement.

The full April 2016 report, Documented Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success, is available here.

Getting the Most Out of Your Library Instruction Session

Request a library instruction session for your class

To request a library instruction session for your class, please fill out this request form. We recommend that you place requests early in the semester, as our schedule fills up quickly. Our librarians design instruction sessions based on the information you give us in the request, so please be as specific as possible on the form. A librarian may email you prior to your session for further information regarding your request.

What to expect from your library session

On the date of your session, a librarian will meet you and your class at the front of the library, and we will walk to the library classroom together. Library sessions may include lab time for students to work on their research assignments. If appropriate for your class, the librarian may ask your students to fill out an assessment during the last ten minutes of the session.

Getting the most out of your library session

Use the following tips to ensure that your students get the most benefit out of the session.

  • Give your students a research assignment before your library session

Although we do offer general sessions, library instruction is most relevant to students when they have a research assignment that they are working on.

  • Let us know in advance if there are examples you don't want us to use

​​During our demonstrations, we sometimes give examples using keywords. From past experience, we know that sometimes faculty members prefer us to limit our examples to certain topics for personal or other reasons. If that is an issue for you and your class, please let us know in advance of your session!

  • Share the assignment with us in advance of your session

Please do share your assignments with us in advance so that we may prepare a session that is tailored specifically to the needs of your class. You can share the assignment by copying it into the notes section of the instruction request form, or you can email it directly to our instruction coordinator/department chair John Kieraldo

  • Consider the issue of breadth vs. depth

Wanting to get the most out of their library session, faculty often request the maximum content possible for one session. The more content in the session, the less depth we can go into on each individual topic. More content does not necessarily mean more learning is taking place; in fact, the opposite is often true. Ask yourself what your students would benefit from the most during the session, and fill out your request accordingly. Another thing to consider is that we do offer follow up sessions for new material.

  • Limit last-minute changes to your request

We request that you do not show up for your session and ask your librarian to change the session from your request, as librarians prepare for each class in advance. Please let us know ahead of time if you would like to change your request, and limit last-minute changes to your request. Last-minute changes to requests will be handled on a case by case basis by the librarian conducting your session. If you would like to revise your request, please contact our instruction coordinator/deparment chair John Kieraldo with the modified request at least 24 hours ahead of your session. 

  • Optional: request specific databases for your session

Use the notes section of the request form to let us know if there are specific databases or topics that you want covered. Also let us know in your request if there are specific databases or subjects that you do not want covered. Otherwise, we will use our expertise to select the most relevant databases for the assignment. Things to keep in mind: as of February 2017, our only peer-review databases are our EBSCO databases and JSTOR. Opposing viewpoints, CQ Researcher, and ProQuest Newspapers are examples of databases that do not contain peer-reviewed articles.

Incorporating Information Literacy into Your Classes

From the ACRL Introduction to Information Literacy for Faculty and Administrators, consider the following ways of incorporating information literacy into your classes:

  • Positioning information literacy as a central student learning outcome
  • Working with librarians to help teach students information literacy skills in various ways including collaborating on assignments, incorporating research requirements, creating websites or tutorials, providing research “labs” with librarians available for help, etc.
  • Incorporating information literacy components into research assignments and related course requirements, especially in orientation, English, and communication courses
  • Helping to create an information literacy course for credit and encourage the campus community to promote it to students

Designing Effective Research Assignments

Thesis statements vs. research questions

Research is a form of inquiry, and students who succeed at research approach it with an open mind. Every semester, a handful of students come to the library reference desk asking for help finding sources to plug in to papers that they have already written. It may be helpful for you as faculty to join librarians in reminding students that research should start with a research question, and cherry-picking facts does not constitute effective or academically rigorous research. 

eBooks are no less valid than print books

Due to the small size of our print collection, we recommend that professors don't limit students to using print books in their assignments. We have an excellent collection of eBooks designed to support the research needs of our students in their assignments. The eBooks in our collection are from reputable academic publishers, and most if not all are available from the publisher in print editions with the exact same content. Due to our budget limitations, in many cases we may not be able to buy print copies of a title if we already own the eBook. With these considerations in mind, we hope that you will consider allowing the use of either eBooks or print books in research assignments where the use of books is a requirement.

Defining primary sources

In assignments requiring primary sources, it is helpful to be specific about what defines a primary source in the context of the assignment. Because the primary or secondary nature of a source is defined in relation to the event in question, a source may be considered primary in one context and secondary in another. (For an excellent overview of this topic, see "What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source?" by Stephen Wesson at Teaching with the Library of Congress.) Due to these ambiguities, students are more likely to succeed in the assignment if you are as specific as possible in defining what type of source students are required to use for an assignments. In the sciences for example, rather than assigning students to use a primary source, consider using more specific terminology such as "empirical research" if that is what's required. That will also help us as librarians to assist your students in finding the resources required for the assignment. 

For for more on the nature of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources, see this guide by the Libraries at Virginia Tech.


Resources for faculty

Course Reserves for Your Students

Each semester, the library expects to receive two copies of newly adopted current textbooks from the CCC bookstore. While we have many currentphotograph of textbooks textbooks in the library, there are occasions on which we may not have a textbook. Some of the most common reasons why the library may not have copies of a current textbook include:

  • The book is marked by the instructor as "recommended" or "suggested reading" and not as required.

  • The book is listed on a syllabus as required but was not entered in the bookstore database or was entered late.

  • The book is an older edition or is out of print.

  • Also excluded are access codes to ebooks and other online material.