Students at work in Data Services.

Instruction and Information Literacy Program

The Instruction and Information Literacy Program was developed to facilitate the expansion of information literacy instruction, using various modalities, throughout the University Libraries across the Washington University Danforth Campus.

The Instruction and Information Literacy Program’s mission is to facilitate a holistic approach to information literacy instruction by engaging the Washington University in St. Louis community through intentionally designed class sessions, assignments, workshops, and consultations where learners are introduced to the scholarly sphere, critical thinking, issues of access and privilege, and strive to achieve greater cultural awareness.

Why Information Literacy Matters

Higher educational institutions recognize that, in an age where information is created, disseminated, curated, and consumed on a 24/7 basis, it is important to understand how to responsibly use the information for professional and personal purposes. Academic librarians provide students and faculty with the knowledge, tools, skills, and behaviors needed to obtain materials in various media and formats to effectively find, evaluate, and apply relevant information to their studies, teaching, and research.

Washington University Libraries defines information literacy as the ability to think critically about the production, communication, dissemination, and ethics of information in professional and personal settings. An information literate person at Washington University will:

  • Believe in one’s ability to complete research
  • Understand how to make inferences and use information as evidence to make an argument
  • Use information ethically
  • Understand how information is produced, disseminated, and how those factors affect the authority of the source
  • Investigate whose voices are missing or excluded from a conversation in a rethinking of what authority means

Working with Subject Librarians, Special Collections Curators/Archivists, and Data Services Staff

Washington University Libraries’ subject librarians, special collections curators/archivists, data services staff, and the Instruction and Information Literacy Coordinator are available to work with both students and faculty to support their information literacy needs.

Subject librarians are available for every discipline at Washington University and can work with:

  • Faculty to integrate research skills and information literacy concepts into their courses.
  • Students (both undergraduate and graduate) to assist with developing research and information literacy skills during their academic careers.

Contact the Subject Librarian that aligns with your subject area directly to schedule a class session, one-on-one research consultations, or other instructional-related questions.

Special Collections Curators or Archivists in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections can work with:

  • Faculty to support their students as they engage with and work with primary source materials in special collections.
  • Students (both undergraduate and graduate) to assist in working with primary source materials that they may want to utilize for their research.

More details about Special Collections Research & Access.

Contact curators or archivists directly to schedule a class session, one-on-one research visits, or other assistance with using Special Collections materials.

Data Services Staff can assist students, faculty, and staff with research data management, data curation, data literacy, data wrangling, data visualization, and geographic information systems. Data Services offers one-on-one consultations, research guides, and workshops. Contact Data Services staff directly for any assistance with working with data.

If you are unsure of who to contact, please feel free to reach out to Instruction and Information Literacy Coordinator Theresa Mastrodonato ( to assist in directing you to the correct area for instructional support.

Including Library Instruction in a Course

Library instruction can take many forms, such as a quick 5-minute introduction to the subject librarian for your course, a recorded video showing how to use a specific resource, a 50-minute in-person session, or an individual meeting with a subject librarian. Those that teach library instruction strive to make their sessions learner-centered and focused on developing lifelong information literacy skills.

Library instruction promotes student learning best when tied to an assignment with a research component. The most successful instruction occurs when faculty and librarians work together to plan research assignments, lessons, and learning outcomes.

While the types of instruction listed below are the most common, please feel free to discuss your ideas with the librarian, curator, or data specialist. Further, working with your librarian you can utilize a mixture of different instructional forms for your classes. For example, you might have an in-person session but supplement the session with several videos or a course research guide.

In-person instruction is traditionally how students are introduced to the University Libraries. An in-person session can take place in one of the three instruction classrooms in Olin Library, one of the spaces in the distributed libraries, the special collections classroom, or in the faculty member’s classroom. If you would like your students to come to one of the libraries for an in-person session, please get in touch with the librarian you are working with to schedule one of these spaces.

During an in-person session, the librarian can (but is not limited to):

  • Demonstrate use of online resources
  • Discuss source evaluation
  • Have students complete in-class active learning activities
  • Provide homework for students to complete
  • Utilize technology (examples: Poll Everywhere, Kahoot) to increase student learning

Instructional Spaces Within University Libraries

The University Libraries offer several instructional spaces within the University Libraries. If you have questions about these spaces, or which ones might be best for in-person instruction for your class, please work with your librarian.

Olin Library Instructional Space

Instruction Room 1 | Capacity: 16, furniture: movable – individual desks & chairs; equipment: 2 large monitors, laptop, sound system.

Instruction Room 2 | Capacity: 26; the room can be divided into 2 (capacity side 1: 14, capacity side 2: 12); furniture: stadium seating – not movable; equipment: 2 overhead projectors, laptop, sound system, 26 desktop computers.

Instruction Room 3 | Capacity: 38; furniture: movable – tables, chairs, individual workstations; equipment: 1 large monitor, laptop, sound system.

Special Collections Classroom | To utilize this classroom, you must be working with one of the special collections curators and will need to work with them to schedule time for your students in the special collections classroom.

Usage Policies for Olin Library Instruction Rooms 1, 2, and 3

  • Instruction Rooms are reservable only by library staff for library programmatic and sponsored activities and are kept locked at all times.
  • Instruction rooms are not intended to accommodate university faculty, staff, and student uses that have no course-related or programmatic involvement of librarians or library staff.
  • Instruction Rooms 1 and 2 are accessible to University Libraries staff only.
  • Instruction Room 3 is accessible to anyone with a valid WashU ID and is available on a first-come, first-served basis for drop-in use and studying during library open hours when not reserved by the University Libraries. As a study space, Instruction Room 3 is conducive to group study and can also be used by individuals. The University Libraries reserve the right to ask others to leave when the room is scheduled/reserved.

Distributed Libraries

The Danforth Campus distributed library locations include the East Asian Library, Gaylord Music Library, Kopolow Business Library, and the Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library. See the Study Rooms page to learn more about the distributed libraries’ study spaces.

Please contact the librarian you are working with at the distributed library location to discuss with them the space(s) that can be used for instruction.

Asynchronous instruction can take many forms including but not limited to: creating an asynchronous instruction module, embedding a librarian into a Canvas course, having the librarian create a video, or having the librarian create a Course Guide.

Asynchronous Instruction Module
  • Faculty can work with librarians to create an asynchronous module to embed into Canvas courses. The module could provide an introduction to the University Libraries and their services; provide a lesson on just one concept (for example: how to evaluate sources).
  • The best way to use an asynchronous module is as a flipped classroom – where students complete the module before class and then come to class prepared to discuss it.

Embedded Librarian

  • Faculty can embed a librarian into their Canvas course.
    • Note: To incorporate a librarian into a Canvas course, please contact the School Registrar and tell them to add the librarian(s) with the role “support, no grade book.”
  • Once added to a Canvas course, the librarian could:
    • Create and monitor asynchronous discussion threads
    • Post customized instruction videos in the course
    • Post general instruction videos in the course
    • Create an online quiz or another assignment to assess student learning of the asynchronous instruction component
    • Encourage students to use our Ask Us! chat service

Video Tutorials

  • Faculty can work with librarians to utilize videos for asynchronous instruction.
  • Videos are a great way to show how to do a particular task.
  • Working with a librarian, faculty can determine if a new video should be produced or if a preexisting video will provide the needed instruction.

Course Research Guide

  • A course research guide can be developed as another form of asynchronous instruction.
  • The course research guide can cover academic content areas, practical topics such as citing sources, and information specific to the course.

Synchronous instruction is similar to an in-person session as it is a live session but it will usually take place through Zoom. During COVID-19 when the University Libraries were closed, most library instruction took place synchronously through Zoom. Those that teach library instruction are still available to schedule synchronous sessions.

Just like during an in-person session, in a synchronous session, the librarian can (but is not limited to):

  • Demonstrate use of online resources
  • Discuss source evaluation
  • Have students complete in-class active learning activities
  • Provide homework for students to complete
  • Utilize technology (examples: Poll Everywhere, Kahoot) to increase student learning

Formal library instruction usually takes place in a classroom setting or online (synchronously/asynchronously). However, library instruction can take place during a one-on-one session when a student meets with a librarian. Individual instruction can be arranged by:

  • Scheduling individual or small group research in-person or Zoom appointments with one of the subject librarians.
  • Scheduling an individual session with the Data Services staff by completing the Appointment Form or through Zoom with the Data Services staff during Help Desk hours.

Beyond formal library instruction and setting up individual sessions with a librarian, the University Libraries hosts many Research and Technology Workshops each semester. You’ll find past sessions, descriptions, and recordings here. The Events Calendar will also list the workshops along with other educational programs such as faculty book talks and special collections curator talks.

College Writing Partnership with Information Literacy

The University Libraries partner with College Writing, which most students will take either in the fall or spring semester of their first year at Washington University. This course serves as their introduction to research and library services. Each College Writing section works with an individual or a small group of librarians to provide more intimate and custom guidance into college-level research.

The University Libraries also maintains an online toolkit of resources for College Writing faculty.