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Library User Education

1. Introduction: Library user education or library instruction or bibliographic instruction (BI) or library orientation, consists of instructional programs designed to teach the library users how to identify and locate the information they need quickly and effectively. It usually covers the library’s system of organizing materials; finding tools (library catalogue, indexes and abstracting services, bibliographic databases, etc.) and teaching of concepts like controlled vocabulary. Broadly defined, library user education teaches users how to make the most effective use of the library system.

2. Definition: Fleming (1990) defined user education “as various programs of instruction, education and exploration provided by libraries to users to enable them to make more effective, efficient and independent use of information sources and services to which these libraries provide access”.
According to Jacques Tacatlian, user education is to include any effort or programme which will guide and instruct existing and potential users in the recognition and formulation of their information needs, in the effective and efficient use of information services and their assessment.
Mews has defined user education as “instruction given to readers to help them to make best use of the library”.
Nancy Fjalibrant and Ian Malley said that “user education is concerned with the whole information and communication process and one part of this involves the total interaction of the user with the library. This should be continuous process starting with school and public libraries and with possibilities of extension into academic and specialised libraries”.

3. Needs of User Education: The majority of new learners entering into the libraries are seriously facing problems that stresses on the user education. They don't know how to deal with new environment; they need careful and special guides which help them to deal with various sources of information independently. The goal is always teaching so that users would transfer what they learned to new situations, reference tools, and environments new to them—that is, they would learn how to learn. Besides these, libraries have long been acknowledged as single resources supporting teaching, learning, and research. They are the chief contributor to the ‘repository of knowledge’ characteristic of a college or university which sets it aside from other institutions of higher learning. So it has a central role in assisting users to find relevant information in the most appropriate format in a timely fashion (and at an acceptable cost to the user or the funding institution or both). The major need arises for
a) Introducing to the Library: The new users are new to the facilities, services of the library and have no idea about its collection and how to deal with it. They need to be instructed about their routes to the information, duties and responsibilities as well as the services for which they can depend on the libraries.
b) Effective use of Information: Library user education prepares individuals to make immediate and lifelong use of information effectively by teaching the concepts and logic of information access and evaluation, and by fostering information independence and critical thinking.
c) Enhancing use of the Library: After admitting the learners / students in the college / university the freshmen should be introduced to the library or there should be a scope for orientation / education programme to enhance their library use.
d) Dealing with Information Explosion: The amount of information available in any field drastically increased during last few decades and they are now available in different formats and scattered widely. The user feels the need of training to deal with it.
e) Enhancing the Capabilities: Absence of proper library guidance at the lower level, i.e. at the school, college generally lead to ineffective literature search, and resultant waste of precious time.
f) Providing Assistance: The major difficulties with the E-Journal are that the users are not generally aware about the subscribed E-journal in their field of specialization. Sometimes they also forget the URL of the subscribed E-journal so at every point of time they need assistant or their movement should be controlled otherwise they will lose themselves in the vast amount of information that are available over internet.

4. Objectives of Library User Education: Objectives for library instruction were established as early as 1881 when Otis Hall Robinson called for clarification of instructional goals at the American Library Association conference. He wanted purposeful instruction. As relevant today as they were a hundred years ago, three important objectives were cited:
a) Students need to “develop the art of discrimination” to be able to judge the value of books to develop critical judgment;
b) Students need to become independent learners-to teach themselves;
c) Students need to continue to read and study-to becomes lifelong learners.
The basic objective of user education is to introduce the user to library techniques, resources and services and thus turn the potential user into an actual user. Further, it is often noted that in all libraries, the users are not really interested in libraries but are interested in them; only as a means to their end purpose of finding out what they are really interested in, i.e. their subject. This clearly indicates that the users should be taught about “how to get the information they want”.

5. Categories of User Education: User education includes all the activities involved in teaching users how to make the best possible use of library resources, services and facilities, including formal and informal instruction delivered by the library staff. The user education can be of the following types
a) Library Orientation: Library orientation is a user education programme where the new users are introduced to the layout of the library, its services, and facilities and so on.
b) Library Instruction: Library instruction educates users to enable them to use information resources-offline and online provided by the library. Library instruction includes an introduction to the subject literature, books, periodicals, handbooks, indexing and abstracting services, review of literature, information retrieval, use of specialized bibliographic tools, card catalogue, OPAC, current awareness service and so on.

6. Formats of User Education Programme: Library instruction occurs in various forms such as formal class settings, small group sessions, one-on-one encounters, written guides and brochures, audiovisual presentations, virtual tour and such others.
A model library instruction program utilizes complementary tools and resources to deliver memorable, interactive instruction. Generally, the student with same subject should be taught in the same class. The user education programme should be innovative one and student centered active learning methods should be used.
Students should firstly teach to the principal library services as well as major library collection as well as teach to access and use relevant library electronic resources. This should definitely include library home page, OPAC, basic internet resources. Student should also teach to evaluate relevant World Wide Web sites, distinguishing between popular and scholarly periodicals, citing electronic materials and so on. They should be introduced to the library subscribed electronic resources, database and how this could be used. Identifying the information in the online OPAC, card and controlled vocabulary list also proved to be useful.
            The following methodologies are adopted in user education programme.
a) Formal Class / Lecture Method: Lecture method is used for teaching large groups of students and it make use of both auditory and visual sensory inputs via the blackboard or overhead projectors, etc. In lecture method the students play a passive role. The speed of delivery of information cannot be controlled by the receiver and repletion is not possible unless printed hand-outs are provided. The students can only manage to write a synopsis of the topic.
b) Seminar, Tutorial and Demonstration: The seminar, tutorial and demonstration are given to smaller groups of students than the average lecture. Here the atmosphere tends to be less formal and there is greater opportunity for conversation between the staff and students and between the students themselves.
c) Guided Tour: In guided tour, the users are given a short tour to the library during their first week as a student. In the library premises there is a tendency to provide different written guides and brochures.
d) Audio-Visual Method: Audio-visual material like film that depicts moving pictures will be very suitable for library user education. This types of material posses the ability to convey both motion and colour. They can be used to create an atmosphere of reality which could be useful for students to learn the things from distance.
e) Virtual Tour: A virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, usually composed of a sequence of videos or still images. It may also use other multimedia elements such as sound effects, music, narration, and text. The library can think of providing the library user education programme through virtual tour of the library.

7. Evaluation and Feedback: It is necessary for user education programmes to be evaluated to see whether users find them adequate enough to enable them to identify information sources, facilities and tolls in the library. There are two purposes for evaluation-
a) Formative Evaluation: One is to measure the effectiveness of instruction for guidance in how to improve the program.
b) Summative Evaluation: The other is to measure the effect of library instruction on the students and their performance.
Most evaluation studies appear to fall into one of three methods:
a) Opinion Polls: Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence intervals.
b) Knowledge Testing: Knowledge testing assesses learned skills or knowledge through written or by other means. The question can be on the reference collection of the library, periodical sections; subject based online collections that are available in the library and so on.
c) Library Use Observation: Observation is the active acquisition of information from the user behaviour through senses by asking them to search in Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC), finding out a reference book out of the reference stack and so on. By studying the patterns of use of the library before and after the initiation of the programme the evaluation can be carried out.
Evaluation can also be carried out by means of pre-structured interviews with a random sample of participants and by performance measurements.
The assessment should also centered to overall instruction programme and should motivate the users to submit their feedback for future modification.
Breivik (1982) study indicated that library instruction correlated with higher course completion rates and term paper writing scores. She concluded that the study did not show how well instruction helps students with library use, but there is a demonstrated correlation between library instruction and overall student academic performance.
There are three methods which are normally used for evaluation purpose. They are; the psychometric, the sociological or management, and the illuminative or responsive.
a) Psychometric Evaluation: Psychometric evaluation is based on the assumption that it is possible to expose experimental and control groups to different treatments, while all other variables are controlled and to measure the changes by means of psychometric tests, achievement tests or attitude scales. Thus, the experimental group may be exposed to a new type of course where as the control group follows the traditional course, in every other respect the two groups are exactly comparable. Pre-tests and post-tests are: given to both groups and the analysis is concerned with establishing significant differences in performance of the two groups. This evaluation procedure is concerned with measuring output in terms of pre-specified goals and no attention is paid to unexpected effects.
b) Sociological or Management: The sociological evaluation method is used in the study of changes in the structure of an organisation. This type of evaluation makes use of interviews and questionnaires. Attention is focused on the organisation undergoing the change, rather than on comparison with any control group.
c) Illuminative or Responsive: The third type of evaluation has been called illuminative evaluation by Parlett and Hamilton. It is not limited by the initial formulation or aims, but allows the expression of unexpected results. The actual implementation of an innovation is regarded as the most important part of the study, Research is focused on what is actually happening in response to the innovation, This type of evaluation is not concerned so much with testing of an educational `programme, but with describing and understanding the conditions in which the programme works, and how the participants are affected by it: Observational studies and explorative interviews are used to obtain the information.

8. Role of Library Orientation Exchange (LOEX): LOEX ( is a non-profit, self-supporting educational clearinghouse which was established in 1971. The first conference was held at Eastern Michigan in 1973 and has been held annually around the United States ever since. The LOEX borrowing collection consists of print materials such as one page handouts, bibliographies, and subject guides; instructional videos and audio tapes; and CD-ROMS. By 2014, LOEX had over 685 members in the in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

9. Cephalonian Method: The cephalonian method is a method of active learning for library orientation first made popular in the United Kingdom at Cardiff University. The name is taken from a method used for orientation of tourists at a popular resort in Cefalonia. Introduced to a wider audience in 2004 by Linda Davies and Nigel Morgan, the method consists of giving the students at a library orientation class cards with prepared questions they are to ask during the session for the instructor to answer. Questions are grouped into categories and colour coded to provide some structure; the order of the questions in any section is based on the order the students choose to stand up which makes the sessions more random and reduces the repetitive nature of library induction / orientation.

10. Conclusion: Broadly defined, library user education also called library instruction teaches users how to make the most effective use of the library system. Many potential library patrons do not know how to use a library effectively. This can be due to the lack of early exposure, shyness, or anxiety and fear of displaying ignorance. These problems led to the emergence of the library instruction movement, which advocated library user education. Libraries inform the public of what materials are available in their collections and how to access that information. The reference staff may orient the user either in formal way or informally into the library system.

How to Cite this Article?
APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.
Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.
MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.

Badan BarmanDr. Badan Barman at present working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India. He is the creator of the LIS Links ( - India’s most popular social networking website for Library and Information Science professionals. He also created the Open Access Journals Search Engine (OAJSE) (, UGC NET Guide (, Assam Archive ( and LIS Study ( website.

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