I meant to write this yesterday but it was one busy day. Meeting after meeting after meeting. I truly value my bi-weekly meetings with my Anthropology partner, Ellen. We have been meeting every Tuesday and Thursday morning for a number of semesters now. We meet to discuss plans for her ANTH courses, to share news about special projects we’re working on, and to strategize how best to share the strengths of our partnership with other faculty members. The number one question we get from workshop participants (librarians, for the most part) is “how do we find faculty members who are as willing and enthusiastic to collaborate in the classroom?” The typical answer . . . “one professor at a time.” I don’t know that there is any easy answer to this question. I was fortunate that Ellen came to me (via my library director and instruction coordinator) since we had worked on a library session once in the past – a 75-minute session, jam-packed with every possible source that the ANTH students should be aware of. Needless to say, I only got through half the list, at best, and in very little detail. As wise and experienced in her career, Ellen could see that her students needed better research skills so that they would be capable of discovering more in the field of Anthropology. As I tell students, they can only learn so much within a 50 or 75-minute session from their professor(s). There is so much more information out there for them to learn, especially if the topics in class engage and excite them. But Ellen is a unique case (in many ways ), but I know she is not alone in her level of enthusiasm for students’ scholarly research skills. As librarians work with professors, inside or outside of the classroom, professional and friendly relationships begin to build, and through more informal conversations, we can get to the bottom of professors’ hesitation for a more systematic partnership where content and research skills come together – an E-ducational Merging, so to speak. Time is almost always the issue. Professors have so much content to cover within a 16-week semester (or however different colleges and schools structure their academic year), but Ellen and I argue that through a mastery of research skills, students can learn some of the content independently and through class collaboration – via discussion, group projects, wiki homework assignments, etc. Ellen and I have been able to achieve this learning of the content through 3-4 library sessions infused throughout the semester, followed up with homework assignments and scholarly research portions to exams. Our model includes the librarian as co-teacher, meaning that I am also responsible for part of the course grading, that which pertains to research findings and citations.
Wow, this post is already getting really long, despite my intention of keeping this short and sweet and focusing on the unexpected benefits of my partnership with Ellen. I guess I must have a lot to say. In any case, our Tues/Thurs meetings have developed into sharing each other’s work (Ellen travels a lot, for presentations, professional development, and fieldwork, much of which includes service leaning for her students) and sharing in each other’s lives. So what started out as purely a professional collaboration has turned into so much more. We learn from each other, we inspire each other, and in the end, we have both become better teachers for it.