Book Reviews

Heidi E. Buchanan and Beth A. McDonough. The One-Shot Library Instruction Survival Guide, 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2021. 176p. Paper, $54.99 (ISBN: 978-0-8389-4997-9).

Book cover for One-Shot

With the third edition of The One-Shot Library Instruction Survival Guide, Heidi Buchanan and Beth McDonough, both research and instruction librarians at Western Carolina University, have provided LIS students and early-career librarians with a concise and useful handbook for the creation of successful information literacy instruction sessions. Acknowledging but not engaging in the debate over the value of the “one-shot” instruction section versus credit courses or content embedded in the curriculum, the authors note that the one-shot “remains the reality for most libraries” (2) and recognize that new instruction librarians need guidance in designing what is likely to make up a large percentage of their instructional responsibilities. Originally growing out of an ACRL preconference session on instruction and an online course, the third edition of this text brings together elements of the earlier editions by focusing on active learning strategies and the concepts of the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. The authors also address the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic caused rapid changes in the delivery of information literacy instruction that may remain with us postpandemic.

Unlike many books on information literacy instruction and the Framework, this volume does not provide a collection of ready-made lesson plans for library instruction, but instead guides new instructors through the steps of creating their own successful one-shot sessions. The book starts by explaining what a one-shot session is. The second chapter describes the process of planning a session, beginning with communication and collaboration with subject faculty. Particularly useful is the concept of an “instruction interview.” Modeled on the reference interview, this approach can help librarians determine the needs of the instructor and students for whom their one-shot is being designed.

In addition to an index, a bibliography, and a glossary at the end of the book, each chapter provides references, suggestions for additional reading, and thought exercises alongside highlighted text featuring tips, “lessons learned,” and charts mapping out processes and concepts. In addition, “vignettes” told by experienced instruction librarians illustrate the takeaway points of each chapter and suggest activities that instructors might try in their own sessions. The font in the highlighted text, vignettes, charts, and other ancillary materials is significantly smaller than the font used in the main text; when combined with the darker background, some readers may find it difficult to read.

The third chapter of the book addresses the Framework directly and makes an excellent case for using it intentionally in the design of one-shot sessions. Each frame is discussed and followed by an example vignette demonstrating how the concept could be taught in a one-shot session. This chapter is followed organically by a chapter about engaging students through active or experiential learning exercises. Some of the activities will be very familiar to instruction librarians, such as the one-minute paper and mind maps, but the explanations will likely be helpful to LIS students and new librarians. The authors also describe more complicated activities such as the jigsaw and case studies. These could be trickier to implement in a one-shot session but have great potential for student engagement.

The fifth chapter discusses special or difficult teaching situations, and here the authors address the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Buchanan and McDonough assert that online instruction is likely here to stay and sketch out the ways that the engagement techniques presented in the fourth chapter could be adapted for online instruction. The authors make broad suggestions for some options, such as online games, that readers would have to research on their own, and unfortunately this is one area where they do not provide as many suggestions for further reading.

The authors recognize the importance of assessment in gauging student learning and helping new instructors grow and improve, and the sixth chapter is devoted to this topic. The section begins with the techniques used most commonly to assess comprehension in one-shot sessions, from informal observation to more advanced polling techniques. Buchanan and McDonough then move on to talk about performance assessment, which is seen more often outside of one-shot sessions in the evaluated written assignments. The authors acknowledge this fact, but they also suggest that instructors might consider conducting performance assessments of processes. Quizzes and surveys are also discussed as ways to assess comprehension and gather feedback from students to improve teaching. Readers are reminded that assessment data is most useful if it is used to continue conversations with subject faculty and to make revisions on content, delivery, or other aspects of instruction.

The final chapter suggests that instructors reflect on their teaching experiences over a period of time, such as a semester or a year, and think about how those experiences connect to larger personal or institutional teaching and learning goals. The authors discuss what instructors can do when a one-shot is not possible due to time constraints or when it is not well-suited to the subject faculty’s goals. The authors finish the book with a few words about going beyond the one-shot session with embedded librarian models and other ways of integrating information literacy instruction throughout the curriculum. The references for this chapter include several useful resources on those topics.

Overall, this slim volume is probably not sufficient by itself to teach a brand-new instruction librarian everything they need to know to lead successful one-shot sessions. Nevertheless, with its practical approach and accessible style, helpful suggestions for further reading, and many examples drawn from the real-world experiences of experienced teaching librarians, it is a very good place to start. This title would be a useful addition to the professional resources collection of an academic library with an instruction program that includes one-shot sessions, and it may also be useful as a textbook in library school courses on instruction.—Melissa Anderson, Southern Oregon University

Copyright Melissa Anderson

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