Catalyst Fund 2018: Bucknell University

Submitting Organization: Bucknell University

Idea Title: Why Are We Reinventing the Wheel… Again?

Idea Statement of Purpose: Form a group of academic librarians from various types of institutions to develop one or more open tutorials covering aspects of the research process to promote student success in academic-level research. The group should prepare documentation to facilitate customization and best practices for future development of open, accessible tutorials using principles of instructional design.

Describe the problem, need, issue or challenge that will be addressed and how addressing it will benefit the LYRASIS community. Include, if relevant, references to any studies or reports that can further elucidate the issue, models from other fields, or existing work in related areas.

Students come into our institutions at widely divergent levels of research preparedness. Some students have had limited or no exposure to the resources an academic library has to offer. Many are not prepared to conduct college-level research, or they lack an understanding of what is entailed in research at this level. Students are often reluctant to approach librarians for help, there may be no librarians available to help them at the time and point of need, or students working at a distance from the library may not realize that remote help is available to them. These are universal problems; ask librarians at any college or university and they will have experienced these issues.

As a result, academic librarians spend a great deal of time, money, and human resources creating support services, often in the form of online tutorials, to help students develop research skills. And we share what we’ve created! Yet, despite the availability of shared databases for accessing librarian-generated learning materials such as Project CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox, and the ACRL Instruction Section’s PRIMO (Peer-Reviewed Instructional Materials Online) Database, it is difficult to find high-quality, interactive online tutorials that are licensed as open educational resources, and that are easily customizable for use by any library. This inhibits our ability to truly use what we create, and we instead reinvent what is already available, over and over and over again.

Could a diverse group of librarians, representing a broad spectrum of institutions—community colleges, private liberal arts schools, public and state universities, and so on—come together to identify the areas of greatest need across learner populations? Could they build a set of truly open learning objects that would allow for easy customization to meet the needs of any academic library? Could they create documentation to help future adopters modify the learning objects without requiring special training or hard-to-find skills? Could the learning objects be mobile compatible and incorporate principles of universal design for learning and accessibility? Could this group stop the endless cycle of reinventions of the wheel?

The group would, ideally, engage in the following activities:

  • Identifying universal instructional needs—areas in the research process that are troublesome for all students—at all institutional types
  • Developing a set of learning objectives for tutorials that will address the research problems with which students need the most help
  • Creating a prototype tutorial that addresses the research problems
    • Incorporating opportunities for practice
    • Incorporating feedback to guide and assist student learning
    • Adhering to multimedia principles
  • Exploring software options for building the tutorial(s) that allows for
    • Open licensing
    • Customization
    • Responsive/mobile design
    • Accessibility
  • Developing documentation to aid future users in customizing tutorial(s)
  • Identifying best practices for the development of future cross-institutional tutorials

These efforts would enhance our culture of sharing by providing a valuable set of reusable resources to librarians and their students in the LYRASIS community, while also establishing a set of best practices that others could use when creating similar shareable tools in the future.

Are you interested in working with LYRASIS to further define the scope of work to test your idea?


If relevant, list other organizations, besides LYRASIS, that you recommend as potential partners in implementing the idea.

While I have not spoken with librarians from other institutions about this idea, I think it would be important to find representation from a variety of institution types, including (at a minimum) a community college and a large public university, among others. Bucknell University could serve as a representative of private, liberal arts institutions.

We encourage constructive comments that would help define solutions to the issues raised by the ideas and/or provide context for how these ideas impact your organization.


  1. Emily Reiher says:

    An interesting idea that sounds very realistic, scalable, and practical. I agree with Hannah’s comments on discoverability, so that it would be a truly national effort.

  2. Catherine Doyle says:

    This proposal has the potential to be useful for academic libraries across the country and the fact that’s it’s open access is a plus. We’d be interested in contributing if it’s funded.

  3. Joanne Riley says:

    Great idea! This would be fantastic if it were truly a fully and easily customizable set of templates! Should be plug-and-play customizable as to level, discipline, institution, and – why not – available in multiple languages. Also correlated to ACRL Framework.

  4. Hannah Rosen says:

    There are a lot of possibilities here – not only would it be helpful to create a set of national tutorials (one tutorial to rule them all), but really investing in the discoverabiity of these resources. We may not even need to create new tutorials, but rather create a distribution network for the existing tutorials in a way that is easy to discover, understand, locate and use. There is also a possibility of working with existing OA organizations, and seeing how they could contribute/host these item, to spread visibility.

  5. Celeste Feather says:

    Very interesting idea, and one that could shape the training of a new generation of researchers in a very positive way!