Instruction, Consultations, and Reference


Students at Carleton do not participate in mandated library orientation of any kind, unlike at some other institutions. Rather, librarians partner closely with faculty to customize information literacy instruction for individual classes, departments, and students.

Information literacy is a stated learning outcome of first-year Argument & Inquiry seminars, but is also infused throughout the college’s learning goals, for instance in the ability to analyze evidence, synthesize information, and communicate effectively. Because library instruction is highly customized to curriculum, librarians work together with faculty to ensure that what is being taught advances the learning goals of the class.

Individual consultation, whether by appointment with a liaison librarian or at the Research/IT desk is a powerful contextually relevant, point-of-need method for developing information literacy skills and habits of mind. Librarians and students work collaboratively to develop strategies, locate specific information, and discuss appropriate uses of specific sources relevant to the student’s assignment.

Formal classroom instruction is also extremely valuable, and is always tailored for the specific context of that course. The value of a formal library session at Carleton lies not only in the skills and concepts covered in class, but also in the resulting interactions between students and librarians outside of class. Students who have been introduced to librarians through classroom instruction often seek them out when they wish to learn more about library resources and research techniques. A combination of approaches over the course of a student’s time at Carleton helps to foster a deep understanding of disciplinary research practices as well as the ability to transfer key skills and habits of mind between disciplines and beyond, into life after Carleton.


Library instruction can take many forms depending on the needs of your classes, but often consists of one or more of the following:

  • One-time Instruction -- A librarian leads one class session in the library computer lab or your regular classroom. Typically, the students have an assignment that requires certain resources and research skills. The librarian introduces relevant resources and teaches students how to choose search tools, construct search strategies, evaluate results and obtain materials.
  • Multiple Instruction Sessions -- Because many research skills cannot be taught in one session, some faculty members request multiple sessions. Resources and skills are covered in depth, and students usually are given some time to begin their research with librarian assistance as needed.
  • Individual Consultations -- Faculty members may suggest or require student consultations with a librarian. Librarians give individualized instruction to students, teaching them how to approach their research questions and use specific resources.
  • Course Research Guides -- A librarian will provide a customized guide that highlights the library's resources and/or research strategies in a course or subject area. (examples of past guides available here)


You do not need to have an exact plan in mind in order to contact your library liaison for instruction assistance. We love to collaborate during the planning stages to consider various ways library instruction might advance your learning goals. If you contact us earlier rather than later, we are better able to align schedules and develop effective lesson plans. However, if you realize at the last minute that library instruction would be helpful, please still reach out to us--we are flexible and can usually figure out a way to support your class.

Other information literacy initiatives

Check out the other information literacy intiatives our librarians are involved in at Carleton.