Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Article Note: On using a menu for library instruction

Citation for the article:

Benjes-Small, Candice and Blair Brainard. "And Today We'll Be Serving. . . An Instruction a la Carte Menu." C&RL News 67.2 (February 2006): 80-82, 96.

This short piece features one of the most interesting ideas I have seen in a while: using a menu to describe services an instruction unit will provide for professors and their classes. It is as simple as it sounds. There is a menu of services with prices. For example, search strategies may take 20 minutes to cover in a session, so that is the price, 20 minutes. The idea is for professors to pick and choose the topics they want covered. They do have to "stay within budget" (i.e. make sure they stay within the time frame of their class, usually 50 minutes). If they go "over the budget," they have to either cut back on topics or "buy" (schedule) another library session.

The idea has caught on, and it now works as a nice way to have better conversations with faculty when it comes to library instruction and teaching research skills to the students. It sounds like something I could have tried at one point or another. The only thing I would be skeptical about is the homogenizing nature of the menu. In other words, a concern that all the library sessions may end up sounding the same. I was never one to give much credit to fixed library scripts that every single librarian had to use. However, the authors do point out their menu is a work in progress, and that there is some room for customizing. If nothing else, if one needs an element to get faculty to be better prepared when it comes to library sessions, to be a bit more thoughtful about what they want covered and what they request, and to provide some structure to an instruction program, it may be an idea to consider.

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