Humor in library instruction: a narrative review with implications for the health sciences
Keywords:Library Instruction, Information Literacy, Humor, Narrative Review
Objective: The review sought to gain a better understanding of humor’s use and impact as a teaching and learning strategy in academic library and health sciences instruction and to determine if the most common techniques across both disciplines can be adapted to increase engagement in medical libraries’ information literacy efforts.
Methods: This narrative review involved retrieving citations from several subject databases, including Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts; Information Science & Technology Abstracts; Library & Information Science Source; PubMed; and CINAHL. The author limited her review to those publications that explicitly addressed the use of humor in relation to some form of academic library or health sciences instruction. Studies examining use of humor in patient education were excluded.
Results: Scholars and practitioners have consistently written about humor as an instructional strategy from the 1980s onward, in both the library literature and health sciences literature. These authors have focused on instructors’ attitudes, benefits to students, anecdotes, and best practices summaries. Overall, both librarians and health sciences educators have a positive opinion of humor, and many instructors make use of it in their classrooms, though caution and careful planning is advised.Conclusions: Commonalities between the library and information science literature and health sciences literature provide a cohesive set of best practices and strategies for successfully incorporating comedy into library instruction sessions. Health sciences librarians can adapt several of the most commonly used types of instructional humor (e.g., silly examples, cartoons, storytelling, etc.) to their own contexts with minimal risk.
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