Top 5 Articles

Top 5 Articles on Online Library Orientations

Compiled and annotated by Ella Gibson and Ruth Monnier, members of the DOLS Research and Publications Committee.

Orienting students and faculty to the library and what it has to offer is an important first step for student success. But how do you create a successful online library orientation and if you create such an orientation, will students engage with it? The five articles in this collection explore online library orientations from asynchronous to synchronous options and the workflows and tools to create the orientations.

McMillan, J. Fonstad, J., & St.-Jacques, A. (2023). Piloting a library-led online academic skills orientation program. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 18(1), 1-28. DOI:10.21083/partnership.v18i1.7244 

This article describes a synchronous online piloted academic skills orientation to replace face-to-face workshops at the beginning of the year. This transition was due to the lack of an academic focused orientation at the institution and the COVID-19 pandemic. This piloted orientation at University of Saskatchewan encompassed both undergraduate and graduate students and brought a custom conference experience to the attending students with multiple sessions running concurrently. The authors detail  the event planning, execution, and implemented future changes. This article’s transparency provides readers with the rationale behind the event, implemented accommodations, practical recommendations for others, examples of their schedules, and highlights the limitations and workload of librarians in execution of this orientation. Furthermore, this article is a good place to start if you are aiming for a live orientation as it provides general considerations of such an event. 


  • When the library department takes on a synchronous orientation initiative, it can help the library become more integrated and recognized with campus partners.
  • It is important to recognize the amount of staff labor and time spent on creating and implementing orientations, especially since funding isn’t always available.
  • When possible re-use and modify any existing content that the library already has for library orientations.
  • Using existing software, such as LibCal, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams saves money and ensures that your library staff is already familiar with the technology; however, there might be heavy invisible staff costs.

Jacobs, S., Nash, M., Burress, T., & van Beynen, K. (2023). Quality matters: Using a peer-review process to create a cohesive multi-campus library online instruction program. Communications in Information Literacy, 17(2). 487–509. 

This article examines how three library departments across multiple campuses created a shared vision for self-guided online library instruction. Planning for the project necessitated a unified vision across the campuses as well as a complete vision for a unified web presence and creating a cohesive instructional program on a shared Learning Management System (LMS) platform – Canvas in this instance. Built into this was a cohesive model for continuous assessment and improvement using a rubric based on the Quality Matters Course Design Standards. Using a peer review process to assist with this sustainable and continual assessment also helps broaden the input of who has a voice in the project itself. The practice of implementing a series of workshops like these with a method sustainable continual assessment as described in the article isn’t reliant on a large university system and could be replicated at many different types of institutions. 


  • Combining library instruction initiatives across multiple campuses can be done collaboratively as long as all stakeholders are involved and a clear vision is in mind.
  • Creating sustainable, iterative, assessment methods is an important element to a successful project.
  • The provided appendices are great resources for those interested in implementing something similar at their institution.

Raish, V. & Behler, A. (2019). Library connection: An interactive, personalized orientation for online students. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 13(1-2), 129-149. DOI: 10.1080/1533290X.2018.1499247

Raish and Behler discuss the intentional outreach to meet online students and design an online orientation using the ACRL Framework at the Pennsylvania State University World Campus. This article explores their intentional interactive online orientation, The Library Connection, with badging and collection of student data from the orientation including a survey of student perceptions. The Library Connection occurs during week 5 and 6 in introductory English courses when it is required; however, students can elect to do the orientation on their own and instructors can add it to their courses. The orientation covers topics like the library’s website, LionSearch (Summon), course reserves, advanced search techniques, ask a librarian, and subject guides. The study results had many interesting findings including students having access to technology does not necessarily mean that students can filter and locate the relevant information. It also addresses a gap in the literature about interactive online orientations. 


  • Online and distance learners deserve at least the same amount of librarian attention and access to library resources as residential students.
  • Badges or microcredentials provide an additional incentive beyond a class requirement for students to participate in online library orientations.
  • Librarians need to consistently design each module for students’ ease while allowing students to complete each badge with a variety of evidence (file uploads, text response, URL).
  • Having The Library Connection later in the semester helps students be less inundated and overwhelmed with information. This promotes reinforcement of content and greater chance of students retaining the information.

Hoelscher, C. E., & Jumonville Graf, A. (2021). Accessible, sustainable outreach: New priorities for an online orientation program. Marketing Libraries Journal, 5(2), 96-121.  

In lieu of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the university’s reopening, this article examines how the library can create virtual library orientations for any modality to prioritize campus culture and library goals. A team collaborated to determine a few specific goals that would inform students about the value of the library as a space but not overwhelm students. Creation balanced items that would be able to remain static and others that may need more frequent updates. Using tools such as Thinglink and platforms such as WordPress, accessibility of the orientation was a priority throughout development and integrated a broad range of resources and tools to ensure engagement and quality. Primarily, web analytics were used to orient the overall success and each of its self-contained webpages/modules. Orientations like these can be used alone asynchronously, but they can also reinforce in-person orientations as well making them well suited for others to explore.


  • The overarching goal of the orientation was to create a positive feeling about the space, people, and inform about the available resources.
  • Aligning ongoing online goals to broader lib-degreerary initiatives make sustainability of projects more likely.
  • Short videos throughout the modules led to mixed results despite being the only time users would see a librarian leading to questions about their usefulness.
  • Utilizing different learning tools to ensure accessibility can help make online orientations more inclusive to a variety of learners.

Hamilton, J., Stapleton, B., & Plaisance, H. (2020). More than just a walk through: Connect library users to resources with new 360 tools. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 27(2-4), 176-196. DOI: 10.1080/10691316.2021.1924911 

This article examines how a library is using 360-degree technology to create interactive virtual library tours. Incorporating tags and descriptors throughout the tour allows users to obtain much more information than a passive activity. Information on library resources can also be incorporated by including other multimedia and still images. Collaboration within the library and other units at the university was necessary to make the project successful. The authors did not discuss the differences in the experiences of residential and distance learning students on using this interactive virtual library tour.


  • Using immersive 360 tools to create library tours is another advancement in terms of ways libraries can share information about their spaces and resources with users.
  • Some platforms for 360 technology, such as ThingLink, offer opportunities to make virtual tours more accessible and ADA compliant that other options.
  • Consistent tags throughout the tour is important to make it easy for users to manipulate the tour and learn information throughout it.
  • Online library orientations and learning objects created for these orientations can be beneficial to both residential and online distance learners.