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Lamson Library

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Resources For Faculty

Find your department's liaison and discover what services Lamson can offer you

We offer sessions (see the menu below) where librarians visit your class to work with students on a variety of topics related to research skills and their information environment more generally. The length of these visits is flexible; a visit may last for all or part of a class period or even extend into a second class period. Look over the menu of sessions below to see what kind of topics we are ready to tackle. This list is not exhaustive, if you’d like to work with a librarian on a session on a topic you don’t see on the menu, please do reach out to us, (but allow that new session development will require more lead time.)

If the syllabus is too tight to accommodate a librarian visit, consult with a librarian (book here). Together we can brainstorm ideas for how to integrate any of the topics from the menu below into your class.

Instruction Sessions Menu

Click on the session titles below for learning objectives, session descriptions and who to contact.

Tackling a Wicked Problem (TWP) instructors are assigned a librarian and encouraged to have at least one session with that librarian, although you may choose to have two sessions (or more if you can sweet talk your librarian into it). If you have only one, we suggest the What is a Library session as it provides a broad overview of the space, resources, and services provided in the library.

Not all composition sections meet with a librarian but when they do, the most frequently chosen topics are Exploring Databases, the Impact of Search Terms, and Evaluating Web Sources, but we welcome comp instructors to select whatever session best fits your approach to the course.

For all other instructors, peruse the options below and see what might support the work students do in your class. It can be interesting to open the options up to the students and see what it is that they feel they need.

Contact: any librarian

Learning Objectives:

  • Students understand the values that guide librarians and what they can expect from all libraries: reference services, access to physical and/or digital collections, and (usually) physical space.
  • Students gain awareness of the specific services, range of physical and digital content, and study and creator spaces that they can access from Lamson as students at PSU.

We will talk about the limitations of Google and the open internet as well as the ways that libraries fill in those gaps and how academic libraries may be different from other libraries students are familiar with. Students will explore and build familiarity with the physical space of the library, the services provided here, and the access points for content they can’t find via Google.

Recommendations: This session is recommended for TWP sections, especially when time only allows for one library session. Instructors of other classes are welcome to select this session but be aware that some students will have already encountered it.

Contact: any librarian

Learning Objectives:

  • Students understand the importance and power of word choice in searching.
  • Students are introduced to the role of algorithms in search processes and how they relate to search terms.
  • Students gain experience translating questions into search terms.

Students will learn how even small changes to the words they type into any search box can have big effects on what results they see. Learning to use a variety of search terms is key not only to basic information gathering but also encountering a variety of perspectives.

Recommendations: A good choice for either TWP or composition sections. Pairs well with Exploring Databases or Database Advanced Techniques.

Contact: any librarian

Learning Objectives:

  • Students understand the main differences between Google and subscription library databases.
  • Students gain experience selecting among and searching a variety of library databases.

We will discuss the idea of a database and how much variation there is across different databases.  Through hands-on activities students will learn how to use databases to complement open web searching and will discover the strengths and weaknesses of the databases commonly used to conduct preliminary research. 

Recommendations: A good choice for either TWP or composition sections. Pairs well with The Impact of Search Terms.

Contact: any librarian

Learning Objectives:

  • Students can select appropriate places to look (such as library catalog, subscription databases, or Google) for different types of sources.
  • Students can effectively search these various information databases to obtain research support materials.

Work with a librarian to determine whether the session should focus should be on selection of appropriate databases and advanced strategies that are broadly applicable across platforms or on the unique features of and strategies that are effective in one or two particular, disciplinarily important databases.

Contact: any librarian

Learning Objectives:

  • Given a source, students can gauge its reliability and trustworthiness.
  • Given a claim, students can gauge its accuracy .
  • Students can find a better source on a topic when appropriate and be able to explain why it is better.

Through discussion and practice of lateral reading students will develop their ability to quickly assess a source or claim and recognize situations where they could benefit by seeking an alternate source.

Recommendations: A good choice for either TWP or composition sections. There is enough to unpack here that this topic can be spread over two sessions.

Contact: any librarian

Learning Objectives:

  • Students can differentiate between scholarly journals and popular magazines.
  • Students can describe the process of peer-review used by scholarly journals.

Peer review is the linchpin of scholarly publishing, but can be somewhat invisible to students. This session will demystify peer-review and the scholarly journal publishing system generally. In the course of unpacking what makes a source scholarly, students will learn how to recognize a scholarly source when they see one.

Recommendations: Most appropriate for upper level classes.

Contact: any librarian

Learning Objectives:

  • Students can explain the importance of citing sources and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Students can attribute sources in a context-appropriate manner.

In this session we ask students to think about why citation is important and explore why the importance attached to citation and the methods of citation vary across different contexts. If time allows, the session can also include practice constructing in text and bibliographic citations.

More Instruction Options

Primary Sources 

Contact: Mike Davidson or Alissa Helms

Learning Objectives:

  • Students can distinguish between primary and secondary sources. 
  • Students can explain the unique aspects of primary source research and the purpose of using primary sources in research projects.
  • Students gain experience in locating primary sources effectively. 

We will define primary and secondary sources and discuss the role they play in historical and other types of research. Through hands-on activities students will learn to locate primary sources and become more confident about incorporating primary sources into their research projects. This session can include guidance in locating specific resources for a class assignment or topic.

Archives & Special Collections 

Contact: Alissa Helms
Learning Objectives:

  • Students can distinguish archives from libraries and understand their purpose.
  • Students understand how archival and special collections materials can be used and accessed.
  • Students gain experience in analyzing primary sources to determine characteristics and evidentiary uses.

This session is designed to introduce students to the Spinelli Archives and the basics of archival research. Through hands-on activities students will engage with our archival collections, learn how to analyze primary source documents, and practice thinking critically about information, its creation, and its historical legacy.
Recommendations: Pairs well with the Primary Sources session.

Copyright & Creative Commons

Contact: Christin Wixson or Alissa Helms
Learning Objectives:

  • Students can explain the basic principles of copyright, including how copyright is acquired and what rights are involved. 
  • Students can find and identify openly licensed works and use them according to the terms of those licenses. 

It’s easy to reuse the content we find on the internet, but harder to know when it’s ok to do so. Students will learn some copyright basics and be introduced to the suite of Creative Commons licenses. Students entering a variety of fields can benefit from developing their skills in finding openly licensed content appropriate for reuse. 
Recommendations: Pairs well with the Citation session.

Metacognitive Awareness in Research 

Contact: Mike Davidson or Christin Wixson
Learning Objectives: 

  • Students will understand the concept of cognitive biases. 
  • Students will reflect on their own existing assumptions and how they influence their search behaviors and source selection.

We often think about where to search or what assignment we’re trying to complete, but rarely do we think about the mental processes that lead to these decisions. In this session we will discuss how cognitive biases can affect our research in ways that may be invisible to us. We will practice increasing our metacognitive awareness through intentional consideration of these processes so that we can make better decisions, get better information, and improve our learning. 

Instruction Mission

Prepare students to confidently navigate their information environment, both in school and after graduation by improving both their skills in research and evaluation and their understanding of information systems.


We ask that Tackling a Wicked Problem (TWP) instructors please stick with the librarian partner who reaches out to you as this helps us keep the workload evenly distributed.

For all others, many of the sessions can be run by any librarian. In these cases you may either work with the librarian who is the liaison for your discipline as we have usually done in the past, or mix it up and work with someone new. Please know that in an effort to maintain an equitable distribution of work, we may sometimes suggest a different librarian from the one you originally reached out to.

Some specialized sessions are not offered by all librarians. In these cases please look at the names associated with the session and reach out to one of those folks.

Look at the menu and decide what session you’re interested in and then send an email to your librarian. If you’re having trouble deciding which session to choose or need more information, you may also reach out and discuss that with your librarian.

Either in person or via email you will discuss the goals of the session, any assignments they might relate to in your course, and the scheduling of the session. For skills-based sessions (examples) we suggest timing the session for after the students already have the assignment that requires those skills. We find that students are more invested in the sessions if they can apply what they learn immediately to work that is required for the course. (This is less important for conceptual sessions, for example Peer Reviewed Sources or Metacognitive Awareness.)

We are always happy to host your class of 30 or fewer students in Lamson 102 or to visit your class of any size in their regular room. Lamson 102 is a very pleasant space with two projection screens, whiteboards, and movable furniture to facilitate group work. Our busiest instruction months are September, October, February and March (roughly in that order) so it’s best to book your sessions for these months well in advance. In any case, librarians appreciate having at least a week of lead time to prepare sessions and tailor any content to the specific topic of your class.

Yes. We can and we have. BUT when we cover many topics superficially, little sticks. Leaving time for addressing a topic through a combination of lecture, discussion and hands on practice increases the likelihood students will retain the information and have a meaningful learning experience. Some topics do pair well together and it may be possible to create a hybrid of two of these sessions. If you would like your students to be exposed to several of the topics in the menu but don’t have space in your syllabus schedule for multiple librarian sessions, let’s set up a meeting to discuss how you could incorporate these topics into your existing course work and schedule. We can even provide you with materials that we ourselves use and that you can adapt to your particular context.

Program Standardization

No part of the menu is prescriptive. Even for Tackling a Wicked Problem (TWP), where we encourage librarian sessions in each section, the content of those sessions may vary across sections. This means there is no guarantee that any student at any particular time has been exposed to any of this content. If you are interested in working with a librarian on a more standardized approach to your program, please reach out to us, we’d be happy to discuss it.