Teaching Adult Learners

A Guide for Public Librarians

by Jessica A. Curtis


A practical guide for teaching adults in the library.

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Cover image for Teaching Adult Learners

June 2019

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 132
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Librarian's Instructional Role/General
  Adult Services and Programs/General

As adult instruction becomes a more common part of library practice, librarians need guidance in an area that may not always have been a part of their library science education. This book provides the instruction necessary to instruct adult patrons.

Presenting complex concepts and ideas in an easy-to-understand format, this book applies learning theory to real-life situations and provides a much-needed resource for those responsible for or seeking to instruct adults in library settings.

The book introduces learning principles and techniques that will enhance your classes, programs, and one-on-one interactions as well as increase the memory retention of participants. It will help you not only to promote learning but also to create positive library interactions and build retention.

Current library instructional and theoretical texts address instructional programming but do not explain how the instructor handles learning instruction differently for individuals, general audiences, and specific audiences, or in passive situations such as through handouts or online interactions. This guide differs from other works in that it addresses all adult services positions, not only those with the title of "instructional librarian," and addresses the full scope of instruction that librarians need to better meet patron needs.


  • Helps librarians who don't have teaching degrees to understand how adults most commonly learn
  • Applies educational theory to everyday situations (e.g., why an elderly person may have trouble using an iPhone)
  • Addresses physical considerations external to the teacher–student relationship that affect learning (e.g., a cold or hot room can make it hard to pay attention)
Author Info

Jessica A. Curtis is an adult reference librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Ohio as well as a graduate instructor for the Kent State University Library iSchool. She is an active member and frequent presenter for the Ohio Library Council. She specializes in creating user-friendly classes for emerging technology and library services. She holds a BA from the Ohio State University and an MLIS from Kent State University.



"Jessica Curtis is so passionate about providing the library community with the tools they need so they can serve their respective communities. This book will give library staff on all levels the confidence they need to plan and execute valuable library programs and provide one-on-one assistance. There are also invaluable tips for managers and administrators to use when developing policies, procedures, and training to support their staff." —Erin Kelsey, Library Consultant, State Library of Ohio

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