Keep it Light Using Humour in Library Orientations

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Maha Kumaran
Tasha Maddison


For the most part, information landscapes such as libraries are structured, organized, created, and used by the dominant groups. These spaces may be unfamiliar territory for many students. Humour used in library orientation elicits enjoyment and helps to connect librarians and students. Low and high inference humour used during orientation can help connect students new to those landscapes with information and to librarians. Appropriate use of instructional humour in orientations can reduce students’ anxiety about using the library, especially when they need help from library staff. This reflective write up on using humour in library orientations, is to demonstrate how we used humour to create a comfortable learning environment, to encourage students to visit the library, to improve (hopefully!) recall and retention of course content, and enable positive associations with library resources or the librarian. There are challenges with humour when the classroom is diverse or if humour is used negatively. Care should be given to use humour to support course content.


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How to Cite
Kumaran, M., & Maddison, T. (2022). Keep it Light: Using Humour in Library Orientations. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 22(2).
Reflective Essay
Author Biographies

Maha Kumaran, University of Saskatchewan

Maha Kumaran is an introvert passing off as an extrovert. When standing in front of a class, she assumes a different personality. She has the confidence to not only teach all levels of students but also infuse her sessions with humour. She often uses humour to break the ice for others but also to make herself comfortable in front of strangers. Kumaran often uses unplanned, self-enhancing or her first-generation Indo-Canadian experiences (self-disparaging) humour when explaining her faux paus in searching databases, the vastness of English language, the cultural variations in language, and the need for finding appropriate keywords and subject headings to use in searches. She has had successes and failures with using humour, where she is sometimes surprised by the class guffaws, and other times disappointed by lack of reaction.

Tasha Maddison, Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Tasha Maddison laughs easily and loudly and is known for cackling at her own jokes much longer than is appropriate, but her friends and family believe that she has yet to say anything funny. Despite the accuracy of this statement, Tasha has found her audience at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, where students, staff and faculty have been known to snicker at her jokes. While there is a lack of evidence as to why they are laughing, possible hypotheses include ‘laughing out of pity,’ ‘laughing due to library anxiety,’ ‘laughing due to surprise that a librarian could actually be funny’ or the most likely explanation, that they are experiencing genuine mirth at her use of excellent library humour.