Featured Teaching Librarian: Elise Nacca

Several times a year, the ACRL Instruction Section Teaching Methods Committee selects and interviews a librarian who demonstrates a passion for teaching, innovation, and student learning.


Elise NaccaElise Nacca


The University of Texas at Austin

Job Title:

Head of Information Literacy Services

Number of Years Teaching: 


What are you reading right now?

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. The book was exhaustively researched over decades, but it’s her clever storytelling device of weaving interviews with Southern blacks who migrated over the course of six decades that makes this tome a compelling read.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?

I honestly like doing nothing. I enjoy wrestling with boredom. I like the moments upon waking when my brain is still adrift, and the moments before I fall asleep when my brain and body part ways for the night. I get my best thinking done in those moments. Thinking half formed thoughts on my own feels luxurious nowadays when we are expected to have pocket computers on our person at all times. I like to pretend it’s 1994 and no, I cannot just look it up right now.

Describe a favorite activity that you use with students (this could be for a face-to-face class, online, or hybrid class). 

The best interactions with students that I have had are the ones where I facilitate a source analysis activity in hands-on sessions with primary sources. Students don’t always lead with curiosity because school tends to be very goal-driven. Moments when we can prioritize inquiry-based learning and give students the permission to explore is one of my favorite teaching moments, even if I’m not really teaching anything. The worksheet I use prompts them to ask questions about the artifacts they are handling. Who produced it and for what purpose? Who is the audience? Where do you detect bias? Beyond that, I think this is also a space where we can teach curiosity by asking, What is surprising about this artifact? What do you want to know more about? Where are you going to look? Having students report out their questions and findings gives them the opportunity to showcase what they find valuable and exciting and to pass on new knowledge to their classmates.

How do you avoid teaching burnout?

I can’t imagine being burned out from teaching. I occupy a position of great privilege. In my role I engage with an array of disciplines and collaborate with faculty to teach freshmen research skills in a world class collection. Every year a new batch of students presents new perspectives on the shifting grounds where we teach information literacy skills. My job is to, in whatever small way I can, support undergraduates to become better citizens, to be curious, to be tenacious, and to contribute to research that will change the world.

So, my advice for those who are feeling burned out—remember what drew you to your work in the first place. Talk to a colleague about how you’re feeling. Or, explain your job to someone outside of our profession—I’ll bet they say, ‘Wow, that’s so cool.’

Name two things you would share with a librarian who is new to teaching.

1) Teaching is a bad place for a perfectionist. You will mess up, you will explain something horribly, you will muck up a demo, you will tell a lousy joke. Everyone else will always seem like a better teacher than you. Often they are. But that’s not the point. The point is to continually reflect upon and rethink your practice to become a better teacher. And remember that when you hold yourself up to impossible standards, you are holding others up to those standards as well. That does not breed a community of trust, curiosity, and risk-taking.

2) College is hard. Lead with compassion when you teach and share with your students the times you stumbled, the times you had no clue. And share with them the passions that kept you going when you almost gave up—so they can find theirs.

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Diversity & Inclusion Task Force Survey

The Diversity & Inclusion Task Force has produced a survey to identify needed diversity & inclusion resources related to information literacy and instruction, and gather recommendations for the future of the Instruction Section regarding supporting diversity and inclusion within instruction programs, as well as making the Instruction Section more inclusive and diverse. The results of this survey will be used by the Task Force to compile a report of recommendations for the ACRL IS Executive Board.

We would appreciate your anonymous participation in the survey – regardless of whether or not you are a member of ACRL and/or the Instruction Section. Respondents will have the opportunity to sign up for a follow-up interview and/or focus group to expand on their responses. Any identifying information will be removed from the full survey responses to ensure anonymity.

The survey will be available until December 20, 2019.

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December Site of the Month

The Peer-Reviewed Instructional Materials Online (PRIMO) Committee of the Instruction Section of ACRL is pleased to announce that a new Site of the Month interview has been posted to our committee website.

A description of the project has been provided by the creators:

This short, interactive tutorial teaches students how to evaluate the quality of sources in the context of a particular research topic. It combines visual instruction, narration with closed captions, and interactive quizzes to help students learn at their own pace. This tutorial can be used in a flipped classroom, or it can be used to review material learned in class to complete homework and research assignments.

A link to the full interview may be found here.

To see the archive of previous Site of the Month interviews, please see http://acrl.ala.org/IS/instruction-tools-resources-2/pedagogy/primo-peer-reviewed-instruction-materials-online/primo-site-of-the-month/.

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November 2019 Site of the Month

The Peer-Reviewed Instructional Materials Online (PRIMO) Committee of the Instruction Section of ACRL is pleased to announce that a new Site of the Month interview has been posted to our committee website.

A description of the project has been provided by the creators:

“This research tutorial, created in LibGuides CMS, is based on the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. The tutorial outlines the steps in the research process, from creating a research question to citing sources, and also includes information on academic writing. Each module stands alone and can be inserted into learning materials for point of need research help. The video contains text, infographics, screenshots, and video. There are quizzes throughout for self-assessment, and a final quiz at the end that can be emailed to an instructor, or to the student. Many courses use it as a learning resource, and it is also accessible to the public on the Library website.”

The full interview is available here.

See the archive for previous Site of the Month interviews.



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Featured Teaching Librarian: Brooke Duffy

Several times a year, the ACRL Instruction Section Teaching Methods Committee selects and interviews a librarian who demonstrates a passion for teaching, innovation, and student learning.


Brooke DuffyBrooke Duffy


Seton Hall University

Job Title:

Coordinator of Instruction Librarian

Number of Years Teaching: 


Are you a dogs or cats fan?

I love all animals, but my dog George is my soul mate!

What’s your favorite “thinking” beverage?

Coffee or tea! I just came back from Sweden, and they have this lovely tradition of fika, which basically means a coffee break with sweets. It’s a nice way to slow down and give your mind a break, which ultimately helps thinking!

Describe a favorite activity that you use with students (this could be for a face-to-face class, online, or hybrid class). *

This is a pretty simple activity, but in terms of teaching source evaluation, I like to have a conversation about sources at the end of class after students have had some time to do hands-on research. I find that students are better able to grasp source evaluation in a more nuanced way when they have sources in front of them that they themselves have selected. Students can “research their research” and think more critically with concrete examples and because they have a vested interest in making sure that these sources are appropriate for inclusion in their research; they tend to engage with the concepts more than if I brought in examples of sources for them to analyze.

Tell us about your favorite teaching tools (e.g., cool apps, clickers, etc.).

This semester we transformed our librarian-led tour of the library spaces and services for all first-year students into an app-based scavenger hunt. We used a tool called ActionBound which allows you to create mobile, interactive, location-based activities. It is free to use for smaller groups, but since we needed to use it for 1600+ students we did pay a subscription fee. It is seamless and easy to use both on the user and developer sides. You can put QR codes at specific locations and have students scan them, ask multiple-choice questions, have students take and upload pictures, and so on. It’s also very easy to make changes to the scavenger hunt along the way, so if you find that students are encountering difficulty with a task, you can modify the content and make it live immediately.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

I love to teach classes in subject areas that are new to me. I offer to other librarians that if they get overwhelmed with classes for their liaison areas that I can cover for them. I find that it keeps me fresh thinking about how to present and engage students around different research methodologies and tools. I also enjoy making connections with students and faculty in areas that I might not usually meet.

Name two things you would share with a librarian who is new to teaching.

One thing that is not always made clear when you are new to instruction is that everyone starts somewhere. Between learning how to communicate with faculty; to learning the vast number of research databases, tools, and skills; to learning how to effectively engage a class and create active lesson plans, there is a lot to learn. Some new librarians come in with pedagogical training from their library programs, but many do not. There are also a lot of “soft” skills (invisible labor?, emotional labor?) that can only be learned through experience and observation of what works and what doesn’t work. Also, you’re never going to make everyone happy. There will always be classes or students or professors who do not engage with the material you bring to them, and that’s not all on you. You do your best to get to know who you’re working with; you prepare to your best ability. It’s hard not to take things personally when something falls flat. It’s equally difficult to steer yourself away from becoming stale and out of touch with your student population. I think that’s why I love instruction though – it’s a challenge that never ends.


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October 2019 Site of the Month

The Peer-Reviewed Instructional Materials Online (PRIMO) Committee of the Instruction Section of ACRL is pleased to announce that a new Site of the Month interview has been posted to our committee website.

October 2019 PRIMO Site of the Month: Reading Scholarly Articles. Interview with creators Amanda Nichols Hess and Joanna Thielen and interviewed by Rachel M. Cooke.

A description of the project has been provided by the creators:

“Reading Scholarly Articles is a three-lesson, freestanding e-learning course that students can enroll in to learn more about effectively understanding peer-reviewed articles. The lessons provide chunked information with formative assessment opportunities throughout so that students can check their understanding about the concepts addressed. Students can select from a number of discipline-specific articles and formative assessment options so that they can get hands-on, practical experience in their subject area. The outcomes for this e-learning resource are that, upon completion, students should be able to:

  • Describe the kinds of information they will find in scholarly and popular articles, and identify the differences between these kinds of resources;
  • Identify the sections of a scholarly article as well as the kinds of information they can expect to find in each section; and
  • Explain strategies to read scholarly articles meaningfully and intentionally, and pick out the strategies that will be most useful as they read scholarly articles in their discipline.

Once students have worked through the three lessons, in order, they can take a quiz to test their knowledge; a score of at least 80% earns the Reading Scholarly Articles badge, which is a static credential of completion.”

The full interview is available here.

See the archive for previous Site of the Month interviews.

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Announcing ACRL Liaison to the Conference on College Composition and Communication

The Instruction Section and Literatures in English Section is happy to announce the appointment of Dr. Kathy Anders to the position of ACRL Liaison to the Conference on College Composition and Communication. In this 3-year appointment, Kathy will be responsible for outreach, education, and communication between the CCCC and ACRL in order to form strong relationships and advance the interests of ACRL, IS and LES.

Kathy is an assistant professor and graduate studies librarian at Texas A&M University. Her research interests include the intersections of information literacy, writing studies, and scholarly communications. She enjoys interdisciplinary collaborations that bring together libraries and writing programs.

Thank you to everyone who expressed an interest in this role.

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Do you know the next recipient of the Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian of the Year Award?

The ACRL Instruction Section is now accepting nominations for the Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian of the Year Award. This award recognizes an individual librarian who has built a record of contributions that have advanced the pursuit of teaching and learning in a college or research library environment. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize.

Nominees should be highly accomplished in aspects of librarianship such as leadership of a library instruction program, production of a body of research and publication, outstanding participation in organizations at the regional or national level, and/or consistent mentorship or professional development of other library professionals.

For more information about the award criteria, nominating process, and a list of past recipients, please see the Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award web page: http://www.ala.org/acrl/awards/achievementawards/miriamdudley.

To nominate someone for the Dudley Award, complete the online nomination form.

  • Nominations must include the name, mailing address, email address, and telephone number of the nominator and the nominee.
  • Include a letter of support detailing the nominee’s qualifications for the award.
  • Additional letters of support (up to three) are encouraged and will be considered as part of the nomination packet.
  • Nominations must be submitted electronically
  • Deadline for nominations is December 6, 2019

Questions? Contact Meghan Sitar, Dudley Award Chair, at msitar@umich.edu

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ACRL IS and LES seek liaison to Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC)

The ACRL Instruction Section (IS) and Literatures in English Section (LES) are currently seeking applications to serve a three-year term (through July 2022) as the ACRL liaison to the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). CCCC, a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English, supports postsecondary teachers of rhetoric, composition and communication.

This is a new liaison position, recently approved by ACRL.  Liaisons are responsible for outreach, education, and communication between the CCCC and ACRL in order to form strong relationships and advance the interests of ACRL, IS and LES.

About the CCCC

CCCC, according to its mission statement, “advocates for broad and evolving definitions of literacy, communication, rhetoric and writing (including multimodal discourse, digital communication, and diverse language practices) that emphasize the value of these activities to empower individuals and communities.” CCCC’s advocacy for a broad definition of literacy, which includes digital and multimodal literacy, dovetails very nicely with ACRL’s goal to advance student learning and advocacy for information literacy and other literacies. As both CCCC and ACRL are looking to collaborate with institutional partners to improve curricula, it makes sense to bring these two organizations together. 

Deadline for Applications

September 1, 2019

Submission Requirements

Nominees must submit:

  • An email of application articulating qualifications to Meghan Sitar, Past-Chair, ACRL Instruction Section, msitar@umich.edu
  • A current vita


  • Liaison attends CCCC Annual Convention, which takes place in March.  
  • Liaison must be willing to identify opportunities for collaboration with CCCC members on research and scholarship to advance understanding of ethical and effective teaching practices, shared frameworks, and other emerging focus areas.
  • Liaison should effectively share information about ACRL strategic initiatives and agendas to CCCC.
  • Liaison must submit a report jointly to the Executive Committees of IS and LES and contribute a newsletter item following attendance at the conference, providing a summary of the experience. 
  • Liaison will also report to the ACRL Liaisons Assembly.



  • Current member of IS or LES.
  • Experience working with composition and writing programs as a librarian.
  • Interest in coordinating activities to increase interaction between the CCCC, ACRL, IS, and LES.
  • Financial support to attend the CCCC for the length of the three-year term if not funded by ACRL (Note:  Liaison may apply for conference funding from the grants working group of the ACRL External Liaisons Committee, but funding is not guaranteed. The current deadline to apply for Spring 2020 conference funding is September 15, 2019.)
  • Experience with or interest in outreach and advocacy to campus stakeholders engaged in writing instruction.
  • Excellent communication skills


  • Record of serving IS, LES, and/or ACRL on committees, task forces, etc.
  • Experience conducting research on the collaborations between composition instructors and librarians.

IS and LES are committed to assessing applicants promptly in order to allow the liaison to apply for funding through ACRL’s grants program. 

If you have any questions about the process, please contact msitar@umich.edu.

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2019 Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award: Megan Oakleaf

Megan Oakleaf is the 2019 recipient of the Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award. Megan accepted this award at the ACRL Annual Conference on April 11, 2019. The 2018/2019 Awards Committee would like to share her acceptance speech as a means of honoring Megan for her many accomplishments, and to continue to inspire instruction librarians to engage in this community, critically reflect on our role as instruction librarians, and continue to assess our teaching.

Many thanks to ACRL Instruction Section for this award, and for your kind words Merinda! I’m so honored to receive this award and share this moment with Sharon, and I too want to acknowledge many of the other Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award winners who I have had the pleasure to connect with and who have had such a lasting impact on my career, both in practice and research, including: Mary MacDonald, Lisa Hinchliffe, Esther Grassian, Beth Woodard, Craig Gibson, Randy Hensley, and of course my professional heroes: Betsy Wilson, Patty Iannuzzi, and Deb Gilchrist. I’m so grateful to be in their company and to belong to a profession that values this work—the “instruction librarian” work so many of us do, oftentimes from our first days as a librarian and sometimes right through to retirement.

I don’t know whether the teaching role of librarians has always had primacy among the many roles a librarian undertakes. I do know that the teaching role of librarians has never been more important than it is now. Indeed, in this place and time, those who teach and those who provide information—and more importantly, provide a means of engaging with information in useful, meaningful, and ethical ways—those are the people, we are the people, who endeavor to develop in learners what someone recently described to me as “intellectual health.”

This “intellectual health” resides both in our heads, where we identify information needs, seek out ways of filling those gaps, and determine whether the information we’re consuming is worth our time and our trust, and it also resides our hearts, where we learn to process information in a different way, look for deeper meaning, seek personal connections, and empower a desire to be compassionate in our dealings, prompting us to ask ourselves:

  • Does our use of information help us attain our goals in positive ways?
  • Does it help others?
  • Does it help us all work toward the greater good?

In other words, are our information practices healthy for our minds and our spirits and for those of the people we share the world with? This work that we do to help learners pursue intellectual health—this work of using our teaching skills to enable the use of information in service of healthy heads and hearts—this is challenging, important, and essential work.

That’s one of the reasons why I value this community so much. I’ve been a teacher all my adult life, and I’ve been a librarian for two decades. And I deeply believe that our work as instruction librarians is essential, within our libraries, across the academy, and throughout society. Our work is core to helping students build lives of the mind in line with their hearts.

And because this work is so core, essential, and consequential—because it matters so much that we get it right—it is imperative that we question ourselves. We need to continuously inquire about whether we are doing things right, whether we are doing the right things, and whether the lens we use to decide what’s right is really, well, right. That introspection, that reflection, that listening to ourselves, our students, and each other is foundational for being responsible practitioners of this most important work.

There’s a word for that kind of inquiry, reflection, introspection, lens-checking, and listening. You knew this was coming, right? That word is assessment. Assessment, as a word, is kind of crummy. First of all, it doesn’t start well. But as a concept? As a concept, it’s central to the work we do.

You cannot teach well if you do not assess.

That sounds dramatic, I suppose, but can you teach well if you don’t reflect on your teaching? Critically inspect your past practice and question whether it could be better? Check your lens to see if somehow it slipped out of focus and needs recalibrated to center your teaching on what grounds and what inspires student learning? Can you teach well if you know nothing about your learners? Can you teach well if you’ve fallen out of touch with the contexts they live in and contend with? Can you teach well, if you’re not listening to them? Really listening?

No, of course you can’t. And so you don’t. Rather, you teach AND you assess.

Throughout the course of my career, I’ve been so inspired by this community, and its ever-growing commitment to assessment, admittedly not always with that moniker. During my time in our profession, our community has committed:

  • to connecting with learners in order to assess the gap between what they know and what they need to know;
  • to assessing whether we’re teaching well or could be teaching better;
  • to gauging the degree to which students learn from their experiences with us;
  • to investigating the impact and, yes, value of teaching and learning in the library;
  • to listening to students and prioritizing their voices as co-creators of their own learning experiences; and, as is evidenced by many programs here in Cleveland,
  • to critically checking our lenses and being open to radical change.

This work—the work of the many instruction librarians in our community to support the intellectual health of students—is a source of constant motivation and inspiration to me, as I’m sure it is to you as well.

So thank you. Thank you for this award which means so much to me, and thank you for including me in this community. I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next!

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