It is amazing how my mind bounces around to so many different ideas, all somewhat related however. I will try and make some kind of sense and congruence to my thoughts . . .
Thanks to my director, I am able to stay home today and catch up on the professional literature and spend some time writing on my blog. My major goals for today have been somewhat shifted but I try to remain as focused as possible. The first article I have read comes as a nice surprise. “Faculty-Librarian Collaboration,” written by Hollander, Herbert, and Stieglitz DePalma (APS Observer, March 2004, 17(3)), comes from the perspective of a Psychology professor; not a librarian. What a refreshing change! The article was written in first person by Sharon Hollander (last documented as working at Georgian Court University), who states being initially weary of what the Library could provide her and her students. From the very first library instruction session, she was reacquainted with all that librarians have to offer and she was sold from that moment on. As she mentions, I think it’s important that professors see, with their own eyes, the real lack of information/research skills that today’s college students possess. In many cases, like anything else that comes easy to us, professors rely on the idea that since they know how to conduct sound research (and that it’s relatively easy to do), their students must already know this too. But as we know, the Library of today is much different than the Library of just 10-15 years ago. As Hollander puts it, the Library has “morphed into a more comprehensive institution, the ‘teaching library’.” With so many choices for where to find information these days, and having to sift out the reliable from the unreliable, it’s no wonder students get lost in the sea of information. It’s always gratifying when professors tell us that even they learned something new in a library instruction session geared to their students.
Sharon Hollander asks a few beginning questions in the article, ending most importantly with the question, “why is faculty-librarian collaboration worthwhile?” I’d be interested in posing this question to our library blog to see if any professors answer, providing a bit of free PR for what we do at our library.
I would further like to pose the question that Hollander highlights about the obstacles faculty see facing them when using the library and/or collaborating with a librarian. The reasons she cites sound way too familiar.
What follows in the article are some really key pieces of advice to professors on how to begin working closely and collaboratively with an instruction librarian. Start small by incorporating a library-based assignment into the syllabus or requiring students to ask the reference librarian for something specific. Think of librarians as teachers and realize that the BI sessions of yesterday (one-shot, general and unrelated to the actual work students are being asked to do) have become much more tailored to the discipline and specific subject(s) of a particular course. Use librarians for independent research projects, for assistance with topic selection for research papers, in term paper clinics, for education on specialized databases and other information resources, for help with grant writing assignments and computer-based projects, and for their subject expertise, where applicable.
This last point reminds me (not that I’m a subject expert by any means in Anthropology) that I have been able to offer more of a multidisciplinary approach to the anthropology students I see in class. When disciplines such as Anthropology and Sociology cover so many different subject areas, it comes natural to me to research topics within the discipline through many varying subject-specific databases. Many research topics within either field can be found under the perspectives of psychology, medicine, geography, history, business, etc. keeping the theoretical basis, however, grounded in the original discipline (i.e., anthropology, sociology).
Hollander completes her words of wisdom by discussing the use of librarians on a grander scale – campus-wide collaborative teaching – and by recommending continuous assessment of how the faculty-librarian collaboration is working. As she writes, and as I have illustrated in this blog, “not everything works the first time, and some things never work.” “This is not an easy process” but certainly the benefits of faculty-librarian collaboration outweigh the fear of risk-taking, the continuous process of evaluating and tweaking, and the release of control or the idea that a professor must teach independently to be seen as fully competent and/or successful (especially for new or non-tenured teachers).
Although I gained no new information from this first article within a series of future summaries, I am pleased to have begun this project on such a high note. Unless we are already working collaboratively with a professor/teacher, rarely would we hear the glowing comments and outright recommendation for collaboration to other teachers from a professor. One thing that Ellen and I have realized is that we can no longer “preach to the choir” of instruction librarians of the tremendous benefits gained from a close working relationship. It’s the faculty who need to begin to see the advantages and propel themselves into similar collaborations. Without their motivation, buy-in and commitment, a collaborative initiative can fall flat.