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Core Information Fluency Program Plan

Developed at the 2015 ACRL Immersion Program Track

Evolution of Library Instruction and Greenlease


To better understand the current state of library instruction, both at Rockhurst and within the field of academic librarianship as a whole, a high‐level overview of the history of library instruction in higher education is helpful. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 19th century that librarianship solidified into a distinct profession with its own academic degree. Librarians within late 19th and early 20th century U.S. universities primarily served the role of gatekeepers. Bookstacks were generally closed to students.  Besides providing access to collections, librarians offered readers advisory services where they told students what they should be reading. Library instruction in this era may have included orientation tours for new students.

During the mid‐20th century as library collections rapidly grew in size, they increasingly required specialized skills to navigate.   Dramatic growth in research and publishing resulted in the creation of many discipline‐specific library tools such as indices, abstracts, bibliographies and union catalogs.  Library instruction became more tailored to the research tools and needs of specific disciplines. Still, instructional duties were a small component of most academic librarian’s jobs when compared to “traditional” duties like cataloging, collection development and reference services. 

In the last 30 years, higher education as a whole has focused more on the essential concepts and processes that are critical to learning. Library instruction has followed suit with an increased focus on “big picture” learning goals in addition to teaching basic research tools and skills. This marked the beginning of a transition from focusing on academic libraries as more than just passive repositories of information to the concept of “Teaching Libraries.” A teaching library “is characterized by its commitment to instruction as a core library service and by robust instructional service program that reflects not only the teaching and learning that goes on in the classroom, but also that which goes on in the co‐curriculum, the extra‐curriculum, and the surrounding community.”16 The history of library instruction at Rockhurst has generally mirrored these national trends.

This institutional history is detailed in two documents: “The History of Library Instruction at Illinois Wesleyan University” and a 2006 white paper entitled: “Information Literacy at The Ames Library: Past, Present and Future.”

Another great article on the history of library instruction: Susan Ariew's, How We Got HereCommunications in Information Literacy 8(2), 2014.

Instruction Timeline

  • Collection custodians
  • Individual reference assistance
  • Bibliographic Instruction (BI), orientations
  • One-shot class instructions (print bound)


  • Information literacy (course integrated; technology based)
  • Information fluency (problem solving, critical thinking, evaluation and management of information)


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 Rockhurst University Library · 1100 Rockhurst Road · Kansas City, MO 64110 · 816-501-4116