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Instruction Services: Words & Numbers

Library Skills for First-Year Students

We encourage Words and Numbers faculty to take one or more small actions to introduce all students in a systematic fashion to the practicalities of using a college library. The following skills and habits, often taken for granted, provide a strong foundation for more advanced research:

  1. Using course reserves
  2. Using Primo, the library catalog, to discover and locate resources
  3. Accessing the full text of an electronic resource (article or ebook)
  4. Locating a print book by reading its call number
  5. Requesting items from other libraries (through Summit and interlibrary loan)
  6. Seeking help
  7. Recognizing scholarly writing, and being able to describe some of its characteristics
  8. Developing an awareness of specialized search tools

Reinforcing these skills in the first year helps to ensure that when students face research assignments—whether in the major, in a class satisfying the BRW requirement, or any other place in the curriculum—they are able to approach them with confidence and dexterity.

Sample Syllabus Paragraphs

One easy way to underscore the importance of library resources is to include a paragraph about them in your syllabus. The following examples are offered as starting places, and should be adapted to fit the particular course.

As part of a section on campus resources

I encourage you to begin familiarizing yourself with Watzek Library as early as possible; it is as an essential resource for your liberal arts education. The library has a variety of spaces to use for studying, including silent areas. Beyond using the library as a space or to borrow books, you can also receive one-on-one help with research, request items from other institutions, access streaming media, and gain access to a wealth of electronic tools and resources. Many of your textbooks are available to borrow for short periods; these are called "course reserves." Begin at the library website,, or ask for help at the Check-Out or Research Help desk.

To introduce the librarian for your class

X is the librarian for our class, and can assist you in getting your bearings in the library and finding materials that support your work in this course. X is available to meet with you one-on-one by appointment, which can be arranged through their calendar [including a link to the calendar] or by email. You can reach X at [email].

Data Visualization Contest (Numbers only)

Watzek Library sponsors an annual contest to celebrate thoughtfully constructed data visualizations—because data have stories to tell. Learn more here: