One of the things that bothers me about some library instruction is that it can be boring and since the student can't see the need yet, they tend to lose interest quickly. This process can be exacerbated by well meaning librarians that try and make a course or material "be" all things to all people. Students, newbie computer users and even someone just browsing the library can get caught up in tidal wave of instruction, handouts, maps and tours. What starts out as simple book question can quickly mutate into a catalog lessons and instruction on the Dewey Decimal System with a patron half way to a degree in library science!
Even for academic patrons where there is a real mission to help students understand serious research and library materials. How deep should this discussion initially be when students don't even understand what they are "in for"? Many librarians want to discuss how we should be teaching subtle differences in databases, searching techniques and Boolean operators. Of course librarians think these topics are interesting! Average student has lost interest after about 5 seconds. They just want an article or a book and to be done.
In both one-on-one settings, as well as formal classroom instruction think about what the student THINKS they need and lead them to more ask more questions. When a student asks how to find an article, show them how to find an article. Lead them toward better answers by NOT overwhelming them with so much information or ways to "perfect" a search. Just give the "easy" answer and gently coach them to continue to include the librarian in the search for more and better information.
Keep it simple and easy. The overall message should always be the library, and the librarians, are here to help. Think in terms of FAQ when designing instruction and try to keep answers to the absolute basics until the student has invited you for more! Here are some questions to use as guides when designing instruction. Try and break your answer down to simple steps and answer in under 5 minutes:
How do I find an article in the databases?
How do I know if an article is considered "scholarly" ?
How do I attach a resume to my email?
If you think in small FAQ style questions and just stick to answering the questions with an attitude of come back when you need more, the instruction will be more likely to stick and patrons will always be grateful for the help. Remember, less is more!