Practical Academic Library Instruction: Learner-Centered Techniques

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Busy academic librarians looking for reliable, research-supported techniques that they can put into practice immediately will find them in this hands-on guide for information literacy instruction. 

When you stand alone in front of the class, being in command of your content is only the first step. Knowing how to engage students’ participation in ways that foster “ownership” ensures that learning is both active and lasting. In this guide, Oehrli shares tried and tested techniques honed from 20 years of practice in both traditional and nontraditional settings. Drawing from educational research, she applies these techniques to the learner-centered teaching of information literacy topics. In this book, which is organized for quick access to techniques at your point of need, you will learn

  • how to use guiding principles to shape your personal philosophy of teaching;
  • ways to address the uneven power dynamics of a classroom;
  • 5 basic questions to guide your preparation for a class;
  • pointers for communicating with students in the language of the ACRL Framework;
  • simple and subtle ways to build rapport with students;
  • real-world applications of education research concepts such as Keller’s ARCS theory of motivation;
  • metacognitive techniques that foster student ownership of learning;
  • other tips for asking good discussion questions and how to use the think/pair/share method to encourage discussion;
  • techniques for defusing distraction in the classroom through proximity, pivoting, and pausing; and
  • interactive methods to uncover students’ prior knowledge in research.


Part I         The Basics
Chapter 1    Words Matter: Defining Learning, Library Instruction, and Motivation
Chapter 2    Guiding Principles

Part II     The Beginning: The Starting Point of Class
Chapter 3    Preparing for Class: Intentional Teaching and Lesson Planning
Chapter 4    Starting Class: Setting the Stage for Learning

Part III    The Middle of Class
Chapter 5    Prior Knowledge
Chapter 6    Thinking about Thinking: Metacognition, Guided Reflection, and Formative Assessment
Chapter 7    Talking and Listening in Class: Classroom Discussion and the Importance of Listening
Chapter 8    Active Learning: Applying Knowledge as Reinforcement
Chapter 9    Problem-Solving Instructional Dilemmas: Common Overall Challenges while Teaching

Part IV    The End: Looking Back and Forward on Your Library Instruction
Chapter 10    The End of Class
Chapter 11    Looking Back on Your Teaching: Reflective Practice


Jo Angela Oehrli

Jo Angela Oehrli is a learning librarian at the University of Michigan Libraries‒Ann Arbor, where she delivers instruction in one-on-one, small group, and large class environments. A former high school and middle school teacher, she has been an adjunct lecturer at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and for undergraduate courses in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. In 2017, she won ALA’s Library Instruction Round Table’s Librarian Recognition Award and the University of Michigan’s University Librarian Recognition Award. Oehrli is serving as president of the LOEX board from 2021 to 2023. She holds an MSI degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Information.

"The book was written by an individual who really enjoys what they do and values library instruction and the ability to connect and help students learn. The author writes from years of experience, but at the same time, promotes the importance of professional development and learning about new approaches and techniques, many of which are highlighted throughout the book. The index allows for the quick referencing of practices or approaches. The organization of the book and how it is presented is done in a very pragmatic way. It ties back to situations many of us have experienced and covers varying experience levels. From someone beginning in the profession, to someone who may have been teaching for decades, there are takeaways for us all."
— Journal of New Librarianship

"Oerhli has distilled much of her experience, practical advice, and wisdom into this easy-to-use and well-organized library instruction manual. Her passion and enthusiasm for teaching, information literacy, and student-centered learning come through loud and clear ... [This book] is an excellent manual that librarians will want to have in their personal library. It achieves the goal of being a go-to source for face-to-face instruction. With its clear and compelling organization and easy-to-use layout, listings of specific tools, and techniques, practical advice, and suggestions for further reading, this book will be used often."
— College & Research Libraries

"A must have for all those interested in academic library instruction. The activity examples alone are reason enough to purchase this book for your own practice or to share with colleagues in your institution. The information shared in this book is easy to understand and useful for all ranges of experience ... Oehrli's book gives readers the exact tools to create an engaging and empowered classroom experience."
— Technical Services Quarterly

"A valuable resource for structuring thoughtful, effective library research sessions ... [Oehrli] shares extensive resources from both the disciplines of Education and Library Science, adding to the value of this book for new and experienced teachers. This is a book that will be an excellent resource for academic librarians who deliver in-person instruction and a great addition to any library teaching collection."
— Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship

Praise for the book

"I can't express how helpful Practical Academic Library Instruction would have been when I started my work as an instruction librarian. Even now, though, Oehrli's deep expertise and varied experiences are prompting me to reconsider how I can be more authentic, student-centered, and inclusive in my own teaching and learning."
—Amanda Nichols Hess, Coordinator of Instruction and Research Help, Oakland University, MI