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Book Review – Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples by Andrew Walsh and Padma Inala

I recently read this book for work, as Neil (my manager) and I are going to be working together on his information literacy sessions with Natural Sciences students. I found it really useful and am looking forward to trying out some of the ideas given.

NLPN is all about practical CPD, so the idea of sitting down to read a book doesn’t necessarily seem to sit within that ethos, but as the title of the book suggests, it is very practice-led. There is theory within the book, and some useful suggestions for further reading, but the majority of the book contains suggestions for effective, active library teaching. Teaching is something I’m new to, and the part of my job that I’m least confident with, but with Andrew and Padma‘s clear instructions and ideas I feel that my confidence will increase as I try out different things with groups of students.

One particular idea that I am going to try is ‘Good search, bad search’: students are shown a good search and a bad search and are asked to identify the elements that make the search effective or ineffective. I have decided to leave out the ‘good search’ part of this task as I hope that students will engage more with a bad search and be able to consequently learn how NOT to search. Students often feel confident in their searching skills, so I hope that they will feel able to identify search problems.

Book cover

The suggestions and tips given are quite general, so I think you could find ones to work for you, whatever setting you are in. The converse of that is that I felt some of the tips really would not work for me, and with undergraduate students. However, the sheer amount of ideas suggested mean that every reader should be able to find a few ideas to work in their setting. I might also change my mind about trying new ideas as I teach more and get to know the students better.

Active learning is something that I think is key to successful library instruction and this book shows that active learning can easily be incorporated into different types of library teaching. I felt that the book focused on delivering to small groups and as such did not provide much specific advice for particularly large groups; I recently delivered an induction to 300 students and some of the suggestions would not have been applicable to that group, but that is my only criticism. However, this may also be due to my lack of experience in delivering teaching; the larger groups scare me the most because I think it will be harder to engage them but this may be a misconception on my part. As my experience increases I’m sure I will be able to try different techniques with various group sizes.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is new to teaching or who is looking to introduce more active learning into their sessions. No matter what library sector you are working in, you will find it informative and useful.


Search WorldCat to find a copy here or read the ebook here (institutional login required).

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This entry was posted on September 8, 2014 by in Resources and tagged , , , .

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