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Wright State University's Dunbar Library has successfully combined its outstanding traditional reference service with the College of Liberal Arts completely modernized electronic classrooms to provide in-class, at-the-elbow reference consultations to 60%, or 1200, of the University's composition students.

The Solution:

Two years ago the Reference and Instruction Department initiated a service called "in-class reference assistance". It serves the University's composition program in which all incoming students enroll. At the request of a composition teacher two Reference staff members work one-on-one with students right in their electronic classrooms. They help students to generate good search terms, choose places to look, and select and access suitable materials.

The Problem:

This service arose from an opportunity and a challenge that the Library and the University's composition program faced together. The opportunity was the ability to provide valuable resources to students in new electronic classrooms. The challenge for Reference was how to work effectively with students when fewer of them were coming into the library building. And the struggle for the composition teachers was how to provide good research instruction. The new electronic classrooms provided the setting for collaborative research instruction sessions.

The Lessons Learned:

The lessons have been several. One is that the human touch is much sought after and much appreciated. Composition teachers welcomed the reference staff into their classrooms, made the service a regular part of their course, and recommend it to their colleagues. Another lesson has been that traditional reference service can be easily adapted to a high-tech environment. No additional staff was required for implementing this approach. And the guidance that students receive is much like what they would receive on the Reference floor of the Library. The last and most important lesson is that this approach contributes to real learning by the students. Students are very engaged during their individual consultations. Their teachers note that students are ready to draft their papers much earlier than in the past and that students are writing better papers.

Relevance to Attendees:

This poster session is highly relevant to attendees of the ACRL Conference because it offers a way of advancing information literacy that could be adopted wholesale or adapted to varying circumstances. Every college and university has a composition program, and getting those new students off to a good start is a critical part of any academic library's reference and instructional efforts.


A review of the recent literature concerning electronic classrooms reveals much interest in their design and use in library instruction, but there is no discussion of their use as an ordinary part of reference service, especially on a large scale and outside of a library building.

Engaging the Audience:

The poster presentation will include: (1) a display of photos of in-class reference assistance, the brief script used for the service, and testimonials from composition teachers (2) An explanation of the problem and the solution (3) An opportunity for audience members to pose questions and to contribute suggestions


This poster was presented at the Association of College and Research Libraries Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 9, 2005.