COVID-19, Library Instruction, and Me

Posted on
April 10, 2020

By Yitazba Largo-Anderson - Mosaic Fellow

Our library staff members are chronicling their experiences living through a pandemic. If you keep a daily journal of your experience, consider donating it to Swem’s Special Collections when the crisis has passed.


One of the experiences some Mosaic Fellows acquire during their studies in the program is teaching and library instruction. In early spring, I got to co-teach with several esteemed librarians and learn interactive learning methods. The Amazing Library Race was one of my favorites, where students completed a scavenger hunt in groups, working together and with library staff in order to win the race. Students became familiar with how to find material, resources, and help from staff members and librarians, and apply their research skills to the building itself and our online webpage. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way teaching and instruction is now being taught to students at William & Mary.

Natasha McFarland, Reference and Instruction Librarian, and I devised objectives in our lesson plan for an upper level class whose goal was to know how to navigate the library website, mine for databases, scholarly works, and academic materials via Primo. Natasha guided me through the process in establishing a lesson plan and leading a class. We completed a trial run with Paul Showalter, Coordinator of Instruction and Assessment, who gave us helpful insights on how to apply interactive learning with online learning. A goal librarians and staff at Swem strive for is ease in accessing materials and finding help for faculty and students. I reflected that upon my lesson plan and designed a course which was clear in where to find tools the library offers and how to use them. Not only was my goal to make the lesson plan easy to understand, but also I wanted students to have fun with it as well. 

I decided to compare our library's search engine, Primo to Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Students can peruse through Primo and scoop out our databases, or ice cream flavors, using keywords to narrow down on the type of material they're looking for. We used Google Slides as a method for instruction with a Google doc that contained key points in the lesson students could refer to after. Students presented two ice cream databases with the class, Black Studies Center and Academic Search Complete. The ice cream profiles contained questions on how easy the database is to navigate, what kind of materials and subject matters it contains, etc. The students seemed to really enjoy the interactive Google slides! One group even added stickers to their ice cream profile and named their database "Pecan Resist" (a real Ben & Jerry's ice cream). Through sharing my screen, I showed how to save materials to RefWorks and ended our session on Libguides on self-care, learning from home, and where to find additional help. 

What I've taken from this experience is an ability to be flexible and willing to take risks. Thinking outside of the box (or the classroom, in this case) requires imagination and an ability try new methods of learning. Instruction is no easy task. I co-taught with several of my coworkers, but it was my first time leading a class. I am very thankful for Natasha's patience and willingness to tackle online teaching methods and giving me the space to be creative. The mentors and leadership at Swem have taught me tenacity and an ability to strive towards accessibility and learning, especially through hard times such as these. I look forward to the many more library adventures to come these following months!