By Genevieve Larkin
My Pitch at LibCamp this year was two things. On the one hand it described a few of the highlights of LILAC 2016 (which I attended thanks to sponsorship from the ever-supportive Academic and Special Libraries Section of the LAI), and on the other it was an attempt to generate some discussion on how teaching librarians could support each-other in Ireland by forming a community of practice.
Mapping to standards
Challenges that I face (and I’m sure I’m not alone) include the formidable one of mapping any teaching I do to internationally recognised professional standards. Having studied information literacy standards and models during my M.Sc LIS I know what’s out there and which ones I like (ACRL’s framework for information literacy for higher education and ANZIL) but the more conceptual aspects of these models can make generating meaningful learning outcomes and content for classes time-consuming and tricky.
This is where good lesson planning comes in – concepts familiar to educators such as learning outcomes, scaffolding, sequencing and assessment can all seem baffling but they are the tools of the trade and allow you to structure what you’re doing so that it makes sense for learners.
For those of us working outside of traditional University support structures (which come with perks such as in-house teaching and learning support/training) it can seem doubly-daunting and we must find help where we can – from instructional designers and academics to the internet and each-other!
Most librarians have other duties in addition to the teaching aspect of their roles – such as management of electronic resources and institutional repositories, website and social media maintenance, outreach, acquisitions, etc. (the list goes on!)
The solutions I’ve come up with so far are the following:
- The Library Juice Academy offer online training in how to structure learning meaningfully, specifically geared towards librarians. I took a six week course called Backward Design for Information Literacy Instruction: Fostering Critical Habits of Mind through Learning Outcomes, Assessment, and Sequencing. It was very worthwhile but remote study has it’s drawbacks.
- CILIP have a weeklong course in “Pedagogy for Librarians” which Irish ILG members can apply for a subsidised place on. Unfortunately there have been some hicccups this year and it seems to have been postponed but check it out next year.
- There are accredited courses in teaching and learning in Higher Education in most Irish Universities, although these can be expensive and possibly not fit into your work schedule.
- You can develop a teaching philosophy yourself on why and how you go about your teaching which can help to guide you and your students towards success. The University of Texas Libraries have some great tips and exercises here to help you to write your own.
- Look at best practice elsewhere – apply for bursaries to attend conferences such as LILAC and A&SL’s Annual Conference where you can learn from colleagues.
My Highlights of LILAC 2016:
Instructional Design and how to apply it to IL work
Instructional design is the process of analysing learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. I came across Kimberley Mullins IDEA model at LILAC which she has adapted to allow librarians to integrate information literacy into most courses. She provides templates for the stages: interviewing, designing, embedding and assessing. I hope to try this approach with my first embedded course. You can see her slides from LILAC here.
Reflecting on my imposter syndrome
During Char Booth‘s inspiring keynote speech at LILAC she talked about the journey from librarian to teacher to administrator – planning and overseeing information literacy programmes. She eloquently described how pushing yourself outside your comfort zone can be a “heinous trauma.” This was by far my favourite part of the whole conference as I (and the rest of the audience!) identified strongly with her brave acknowledgement of the fear that many of us have at some time felt about learning to teach. Later on I found her blog-post on banishing your professional imposter here. Top tips from Char:
- “Cultivate experiences that rip you out of your comfort zone while still providing support
- Be mentored and seek mentees
- Challenge your perceived limitations
- Build a community of allies…”
I think all of these are highly applicable to teaching librarians. Find Char’s LILAC slides here.
Researching your practice
The importance of taking the time and effort to research and reflect upon your practice came up time and again at LILAC as the main differentiator between meaningful engagement with our colleagues and students and just rehashing mistakes while failing to capitalise on user needs and preferences. Some key trends in library research evidenced at the conference were:
Ethnographic research in libraries (or UX) involves taking an ethnographic approach to library service design – in other words, thinking like a student instead of presuming to know what they want/need etc. It did occur to me that it might be very difficult to use this approach in a small or special library context.
Librarians doing doctorates: Why? Because this allows us to base our practice in evidence or at the very least to deepen our understanding of the research process. Why not? I’ve had this discussion with lots of librarians and the reasons are many: time/expense/the perils of over-qualification etc…doctorates are not for everyone!
Appreciative inquiry allows the researcher to embrace the positive, start from what the library is doing right, what you want to retain, what the ideal outcome of your activities would be, and how to reach as close to that as possible.
Brainstorming on creating a community of practice for instructional librarians using appreciative inquiry Qs
“Communities of practice” were made famous by Wenger and are often the focus of educational research. For this brainstorm, we collected ideas on how to create a local community of practice for instructional librarians. There were many imaginative and exciting ideas, with Marie O’Neill from DBS Library suggesting DBS as a meeting place for a group of like-minded librarians who would like to come together to share their methods and resources. We also thought about a repository of open access materials such as lesson plans for librarians which could be hosted by eDeposit Ireland. Michelle Dalton (LibFocus/UCD Library) pointed out the opportunity for further TeachMeets in UCD Library after a successful one run a few years ago. I came away feeling there was great scope for building a COP and lots of potential ways to actively support each-other. See further ideas generated in the snapshot below:
Written by Genevieve Larkin