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Teaching Basic Library Skills

written by: Kena Sosa • edited by: Jonathan Wylie • updated: 9/11/2012

Library Science requires mastery of numerous skills which, even once learned, must be actively updated and maintained. Here are some ways to teach library skills to your students.

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    Collection Development

    Collection development entails the art of ensuring that all pieces of the library's information collection are up-to-date, accurate, and sufficient for the audience of the library. Collection development involves a continual analysis and evaluation of what the library already has (this is usually done by checking to see how much of each subject matter and genre you already have), what is needed, and what is out-of-date and needs to be weeded out, or gotten rid of. This is a complicated and ever changing task which does not ever really end. A librarian should always be perusing their shelves and data stores to check for wear and tear of items, books or other materials that are visibly old, and keeping an open ear to what visitors are looking for that you cannot currently offer. Doing this will help you ensure that when you order new materials, they are what you really need, and make sure you have an efficient, not just large, media and book collection.

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    Collection Development Project

    A good way to teach library skills for collection development would be to show the breakdown of materials maintained by an up-to-date facility and compare it to a library that needs collection revision. Have the students write a plan to spend $5,000 on new materials for the latter library to help make its collection more balanced. Make sure students know to read reviews of items they may purchase and where they can locate these reviews: professional journals, magazines, and websites which post reviews. They should know about bindings of books as well and purchase items that will last longest. Most of the time, cost, if the material is needed, should not be the focus of how library purchasing monies are spent.

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    Cataloging

    Cataloging is the least favorite job of many librarians, but must be understood in order to do the job efficiently. A person learning about cataloging should be shown MARC records (machine readable) and their subheadings, or be able to find this information in the front of a book. These records are very detailed and will effect how books will appear and what books will appear when a patron searches the library's online catalog. The Dewey Decimal System must be learned in its entirety, but the Library of Congress' methods of cataloging books need to learned as well. As all cataloging systems are detailed, this is an area that requires intense and dedicated study for all librarians.

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    Information Science

    Information Science refers to the learning journey of being able to find information through technology and media. Being able to locate the information you need is a life skill that not all learn in school. Librarians must keep up with the latest technology, know how to use it and teach it to others, as well as use it to market their library's resources and services. If you are teaching about information science you would make sure your learner knows about online databases, how to find trustworthy websites, how to do Boolean keyword searches, and how to use an online library catalog. They might also find it helpful to use the library to learn how to create websites, do podcasting, or create presentations. All manners of using and finding information should be practiced by librarians and learners.

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    Conclusion

    Librarians should be trained and have the opportunity to practice promoting the library through an official library website or blog and invite in guest speakers and authors as often as possible to visit the patrons and encourage new patrons to visit. The librarian should have the chance to visit libraries that are well decorated and inviting, versus those that need improvement so that they can see through the patron's eyes which library they would most likely visit. The mission of the library is to have access for all, so this should be your overriding message when you teach library skills.