Innovations in Information Literacy Instruction

by Natalie Browning, Senior Assistant, INALJ DC

Innovations in Information Literacy Instruction


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI graduated with my MLS in August 2014, and have been filling out job applications (mostly academic librarian positions) ever since. Most of the positions I have applied to have an instruction aspect. A recent application I submitted required that I write a statement about innovations in information literacy instruction. As a Library Assistant, I have taught some classes in which I explain how to use the library’s website and databases, but I am by no means an expert on instruction, let alone innovations in instruction. But I put on my librarian hat (a knit cap with a huge bow on it, by the way- it’s been cold here), and I did some research. Some of the innovations I discovered are as follows:


QR Codes:

A quick response (QR) code is a square code made up of smaller black and white shapes. This code is similar to a barcode, and it can be linked to any digital information. These codes usually appear on business cards and flyers and can be scanned by a mobile device with a QR code reader app.  You can create QR codes for your library that link to the library catalog or other relevant library resources and place them on flyers around campus.  Take a look at Lafayette College’s Where in the Library is Carmen Sandiego?: An Interactive Library Mystery Game, a QR code scavenger hunt used during orientation for first year students. Also, check out Meredith Farkas’s presentation: How to Enhance Library Instruction with Mobile Devices which includes Lafayette College’s scavenger hunt as well as other information on QR codes.


These 140 character statements, or “tweets,” can be used in instruction in many ways. Chats on Twitter (like #inaljchat) can be used before or during instruction sessions in order to start a conversation with students. Start your own hashtag or create an account specifically for chat purposes. Twitter can also be used to explain specific concepts. For example, see how Alexander J Carroll and Robin Dasler used Twitter to address citations and plagiarism. They demonstrated how to find authors (usernames) and publication dates (timestamps) using tweets as examples. They also showcased some sneaky Twitter users who copied sentiments from others’ tweets.


Instagram is a mobile social media site for pictures. Like Twitter, Instagram uses hashtags to show subjects of photos. Create a library instruction related hashtag and have your students use it for pictures taken in the library. Like QR codes, Instagram can be used for library scavenger hunts. Have the students take photos in the stacks and with library staff and post the phots to their own Instagram accounts and/or on your library’s account. This is proof that the students know how to find the resources, and it provides great promotional material for the library. See how Lauren Wallis from the University of Montevallo encouraged “selfies in the stacks” in her presentation here.

Library Website

Many library resources are online now, and students find these resources through the library’s website. However, many students access the web through mobile devices, so it is important that your library’s website is mobile compatible. Make sure the most important resources are accessible through the library’s mobile website, especially the resources that you include in your instruction sessions. Maybe even include a section of the website or a research guide for the instruction topics. Check out Kenya Arrants’s presentation on this: Using Your School Library Website in Instruction.

Many of you have more experience with instruction, so what technologies have you used in your sessions? What ideas do you have for innovation? And does talking about innovation bring to mind Tim Gunn trying to evoke innovation from the contestants on “Project Runway” to anyone else?  Just me? Oh, Okay.


Natalie Browning is a Library Assistant at a local community college in rural Virginia. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA, and she received her MLS in August 2014 from the University of North Texas as part of the Virginia’s cohort program. She has worked in both a public and an academic library, and loves answering reference questions (even the challenging ones.) Outside of the library, she loves reading mystery novels and YA literature, quoting How I Met Your Mother and Gilmore Girls episodes, running (ha! maybe walking) colorful 5ks, and hanging out with her family.