Blog Archives

Teaching Librarians How to Teach

The American Libraries Magazine published a wonderful article by Char Booth entitled, “Instruction Literacy.”  It discusses the role librarians serve as educators, but how very few librarians are formally trained how to teach.  This is very true!  There is always the opportunity to learn from within the trenches, but how much better of a librarian could I be with formal education training? If I were to take my graduate courses again, I would definitely take at least one class that practically taught me how to be an effective teacher (in fact, this is one of my personal goals).

Source: American Libraries Magazine, June/July 2010

To the left is Char Booth’s USER method diagram.  There are many models that have slight differences, but I like this model because of the layout, is memorable, and is specifically geared toward teaching.

The framework covers the aspects of reflective practice, education theory, teaching technologies, and instructional design.  Notice the numeric sequence which also spells USER.

Understand. In the first stage, investigate the learning scenario.

  • Start by identifying a problem that instruction can solve by asking, “What is the challenge learners face, and how can I help them meet it?”
  • This is followed by analyzing the scenario, which involves considering the conditions and constraints of each element of instruction: learner, content, context, and educator. Listing these specifics provides insight into who your audience is, what they need to know and why, the resources you bring to the table, and how the learning environment can be shaped to facilitate a positive learning experience.

Structure. Next, define what you want learners to accomplish and outline the strategies you will use to present active and learner-focused content.

  • Begin by creating targets—goals, objectives, and outcomes—that help you streamline your content and activities and evaluate whether learning has occurred.
  • Identify methods to a) involve learners using delivery techniques, technologies, and activities; and b) extend the interaction by supporting students along the continuum of learning.

Engage. Subsequently, create your instructional objects and participate in the learning interaction:

  • Develop the materials of instruction, e.g., the syllabus, outline, handout, lesson plan, and/or course guides in a live interaction; or the storyboard, game, website, or tutorial in a web-based interaction. This begins with creating prototypes, gathering feedback, then revising and finalizing your learning objects.
  • Deliver instruction by developing an implementation plan, then capturing and sustaining learner attention through engaging delivery.

Reflect. Finally, consider whether learning has occurred and how you might improve your instructional product.

  • Assess your impact by determining whether participants have met the desired performance targets.
  • Consider how you might revise and reuse your content in the future.

Read the original source: American Libraries Magazine, June/July 2010)

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Dangerous Statements for Librarians to Make

I got this from the ALA email list…

Doug Johnson writes: “An online workshop I took April 19 made me think a little about how librarians can be their own worst enemies. I am not convinced that the profession as a whole is in a crisis, but I suspect a lot of librarians may be. I shudder when I hear certain phrases uttered. Here are 21 dangerous statements, off the top of my head.”…
Blue Skunk Blog, Apr. 21

1. But the school HAS to have a librarian/library.

2. The research proves that libraries improve student achievement. (Subtext: So I don’t have to.)

3. Kids can’t come into the library at _________ time…
– because I have work to do
– because I might need to step out and they would be unsupervised
– because it is MY library and what I say, goes.
– because I need 4 weeks in the fall and spring to get it ready/shut it down
– (Subtext: Because they annoy me.)

Read more…

Advice for New Librarians: Science Background

What kind of undergraduate classes & background do you need to serve as a (Science) librarian?

It depends on the requirements for the job position and flexibility of the search committee.  When you see a job advertisement that requires a particular background (e.g. an undergraduate degree in chemistry or two masters degrees), it is possible to negotiate the “requirement” if you are a very strong candidate for a position.

For example, if a job post says they require an undergraduate degree in chemistry or two masters degrees, the search committee may be willing to let you take extra classes to fill in your lack of experience or earn a degree in the first few years of your job appointment.  They may even help pay for your education!

Or perhaps a job description states that two years of experience is requested or required.  They may give you a test period (e.g. 3-6 months) to prove that you can handle the job.  They have several elements to balance when making a decision, so while you may be fresh out of graduate school some other aspects may balance your lack of experience.  It is difficult to land a job fresh from a grad school when the applicants are requested to have previous job experience; most search committees recognize this factor and are willing to negotiate.

IF YOU ARE AN UNDERGRADUATE and you want to become a science librarian, major in something that you enjoy and compliments your professional goals such as chemistry, physics or biology.  If you want to become a young adult (YA) librarian, you might consider English or literature as a major.  This will give you an edge above competing applicants who do not have a strong background in the job position.  Also consider working in the library and/or volunteering at your local public library (e.g. shelving books).  My point is to get as much practical experience under your belt as you can.

IF YOU ARE A GRADUATE STUDENT in library school and have no background in the areas that you want to enter, try to take graduate classes that compliment your interests (e.g. science librarianship or story time for children).  If you’re insecure about your education background, you could also take a few undergraduate classes in your area of expertise to help bolster your knowledge and education.  This shows prospective employers that your are serious about the job position, and you also would have more current education than, granted not as broad as, applicants who have an undergraduate degree in related fields of study.  Keep in mind that this is just one aspect that search committees consider when evaluating candidates.  Also try to get paid internships at campus libraries and/or consider volunteering as an intern at a public library.  My point is to get as much practical experience under your belt as you can.

From my perspective, I really want to see examples of your work that demonstrate quality and give a taste of what you’re capable of doing.  Consider making a digital portfolio if you haven’t created one already.

Next Topic:
Digital Portfolios: Tips & Tools for Creating One

Topic Series:
Advice for new librarians

Advice for New Librarians: What is it Like Being a Librarian?

I’ve talked to many people who were interested in becoming a librarian, so I thought I’d start writing about this topic.  Actually, I’m writing TO those who are interested in becoming librarians or are new to this field as if this were a conversation.  The comments are from my own experiences and are my own opinion.

What’s it like being a librarian?  And what do you do?

Being a librarian is like being on a treasure hunt every day.  You never know what you’ll be working on from day to day and hour to hour.  I really enjoy the fast past nature (switching from topic to topic), as well as the constant learning.  I try to pick up bits of information for fun as I’m helping people–I’m learning too!

When people ask what my main roles are, I usually say that I’m an educator.  My perspective has shifted over the years from being “just a librarian” who helps find information to being a true teacher.  I routinely teach people how to interact with information (e.g. how to search for information, how to find it, how to legally and ethically use it, how to produce it).  I try to teach concepts that will last a life time, but address the immediate information needs of individuals at the same time. There is a balance between the two which naturally differs with each individual.

One aspect that people tend to overlook is that librarians are public service professionals.  A major part of my job is to work with and for my respective communities (college student, faculty, staff, and the general public).  I serve 10 hours each week (a quarter of my time) at the reference desk.  Because I work in a university library, I need to be able to address questions outside my areas of specialty (outside of the science); I need to serve as a generalist to answer questions related to art, speech, Spanish, history, etc.).

I usually joke that librarians get sick more often because we interact with a variety of people.  When the cold and flu seasons roll around, I cringe a little because we still have to help people who are sick.  I kind of wonder if we have MORE sick people come to the reference desk because folks can’t think clearly & need more help than usual.  Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy helping people find what they need whether they are sick or well.

Our time schedules also fluctuate with the school year.  I’m on a semester schedule (autumn and spring).  Other institutions are on a quarterly system (autumn, winter, spring & summer).  The semester system runs about 16 weeks versus the 10-week quarterly schedule. I’ve found that professors are more likely to let me come into classes to talk about information literacy because there are more days in a semester.  I think that there is much more content smashed into the ten week quarterly schedule, so professors are less likely to let librarians come into their class.  If you do the math for a class that meets three times each week, one class out of 30 class meetings (quarterly) is a lot of lost time opposed to one class out of 48 class meetings (semester).

My primary responsibilities include:

  • Serve as a liaison (main contact for the library) to seven science departments: biology, chemistry, computer science, earth & environmental sciences, exercise science, math, and physics.
  • Provide library instruction classes to students.  Faculty sometimes ask me if I can give a session for the class, while other times I’ve been giving instruction session for years for a particular department or class.  Sometimes I ask the professor if I can come to their class and give a quick session, but this is usually if there is a trend in skill or knowledge deficits (e.g. students have no idea where to begin their research, where to find articles, or how to check if Willamette has print or electronic access to something). We keep statistics on the questions we receive at the reference desk, which helps pick up trends.
  • Provide research consultation to students, faculty, staff.
  • Provide collection development: add new library materials, weed old and under used materials.
  • Provide one-shot information literacy classes.
  • I serve on campus committees with faculty.

Next topic:
What kind of science background do you need to serve as a science librarian?

Topic Series:
Advice for new librarians