Library Skills Instruction for Courses

This page has been prepared for Trent Course Instructors.

An important role of the Learning & Liaison Unit is to help students learn to use the Library's resources effectively. We do this by offering help with using the Library (online and in-person), providing instructional guides and webpages, giving classes, and working with course instructors.

  • Our most valuable work is done in conjunction with course instructors.

The students we see at the Library are NOT usually "information literate". It's difficult to imagine how they would be, since these skills are not generally a part of the Secondary School curriculum. They don't know how to find what they need, and sometimes they don't even know what it is they need. In only a few hours, we can teach them skills that will change the way they think about and perform research. But they won't invest those hours without incentive from a course instructor.

  • Consider making research skills a part of your course.
  • Talk with us about what you are doing and how we can help.

Outlined here are some of the services we can offer you, but we'd also like to come up with something creative just for you. 

Library Skills online course (Blackboard)

Originally created for first year courses, this online mini-course provides students with the background and experience they need to use an academic library. They read tutorials on our webpages, then write a test (or series of tests) in Blackboard.

  • The tutorials explain general principles on how information is organized and how to go about finding what you need.
  • They include text, graphics, and videos.
  • They are always on our webpages, for students to refer to later.
  • There are 3 sections of general material: how to use our online catalogue; effective keyword search skills; and how to find articles using indexes.
  • We can also incorporate subject-specific information.

Students can also request individual assistance with the course material at the Library Service Desk, over the telephone, via email, or through Blackboard.

The test(s) cover relevant subject matter and use appropriate databases.

  • The tests themselves are teaching tools; they walk students through the process of using online indexes to find articles and thinking about keyword search terms that get results.
  • Tests can be repeated numerous times, until the due date. The questions rotate, so that each attempt is different.
  • After completion, immediate feedback shows why each answer was right or wrong. The correct answer is not supplied, because the test can be repeated.
  • The tests are updated each year, so they stay as current and relevant as possible.

To participate in this program, you need to make it mandatory (by assigning grades) and set a due date.

  • If there are no grades involved, not enough students will complete the test.
  • Any help you can provide on subject matter is appreciated, but not required.
  • After the due date, we'll send you the marks in an Excel sheet.

Since there is a great deal of work involved in creating the tests, we need to know you plan to participate by mid-summer for Fall courses. We work on them in late summer.

Tutorial Classes

For upper-year courses, we can provide group instruction in a Library classroom during your scheduled tutorial classes. We customize this instruction to what's required for your course and we incorporate hands-on activities.

Our ability to provide this service depends upon the availability of space and staff. Large classes and evening classes are more difficult to arrange. Attendance by the instructor is optional, although we find it makes more of an impression on students if you're there and actively participating.

We can also present at lectures, but we like to keep it short because students can't see what we're doing very well and they lose interest quite quickly without a hands-on component.


We prepare webpages and guides specific to your course needs. These pages can include links to valuable resources, tips on searching, and instruction. They can also include links to specific articles available online - your suggested reading list!  Send us the citations and we'll create and maintain the page of links.

We'll work with you to ensure we understand what your students need for the course.

To see examples of pages we've created for courses, look at our Subject Guides page for specific courses.  Examples are Social Work 1001, Sociology 4040H, and Ancient History & Classics 1401.


We can come to your lecture for a talk, but this is the least effective method of teaching and we don't often recommend it. We can have problems getting internet connections in lecture halls; students get bored watching us click on the screen; and there's no interaction involved with a large group. In fact, we often see half the class leave before we even begin to speak.

If you're interested in having us attend a lecture, it must be for a short, specific purpose, and we'll need you to ensure that there's a computer with an internet connection available.

Talk to Us

Nothing is more important than this. The more we know about what your students are coming to the Library to do, the better we can help them. If you are assigning something that requires use of the Library, please let us know. We appreciate phone calls, email, and copies of course assignments. They help us know what to expect.  Your Liaison Librarian is your best contact person.

  • If we know that an entire class needs to use one specific book, we can make sure it's available and accessible, and we can refresh our own skills in using it.
  • If we know 100 students need to find articles on a particular topic, we can check it out ahead of time and be aware of which strategies are most effective for finding them.
  • If you want an assignment that requires use of Library resources, we'd be pleased to help you design it. We can often bring a different perspective to the work, seeing it from both the Library's and the students' point of view. We're aware of many of the problems that can result from Library assignments and we may be able to help you avoid them.

Please don't assume that if you spoke with us last year we'll remember it and prepare for it again this year. We need to hear from you each time. Send us a reminder email or phone call and we'll follow up with you.


Do you have any other ideas? We'd like to be involved. We want to help you and the students in an informative and useful way.


Each undergraduate academic department has been assigned a Liaison Librarian to assist with instructional needs. See the the list of contacts by department. For general questions, contact