Benefits


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.

Classes for the fall semester begin in just over a week! When did the summer pass me by???? Meeting with Ellen Kintz (ANTH) yesterday has helped me to start thinking towards library instruction sessions. I’ll also meet with RM (taking over as ANTH Dept. chair) on Monday to discuss the continuation of the ANTH-Library collaboration. To prepare myself for the meeting, Ellen and I talked about what we feel are the benefits of the work that has been accomplished between us over the past 5 (!!!) years.

  • Pre-tests show that students are grossly unaware and unprepared to evaluate and use scholarly resources
  • With embedded library instruction, students dramatically increase their scholarly skills – research and information literacy must be directly related to course requirements and projects, introduced very early in the targeted semester, and practiced throughout the semester in short modules (used as a vehicle for course content and student research)
  • Practice makes perfect and students need to be graded on their library literacy and scholarly work
  • Instruction from one course crosses over into other courses and dramatically improves students’ scholarly work (transferable skills)
  • The strongest and most enthusiastic ANTH students ended up with jobs in the library (student reference assistants and CTAs), further improving their skills, as well as their friends’ through mentoring and informal training
  • Students become more skilled and quicker at their research, improving critical thinking skills – students have reported completing their research projects at an advanced level and faster
  • Students become empowered as critical thinkers about information on the web, as well as in articles and books – they become more aware of the scholars in their field and begin to identify themselves as active scholars rather than passive students
  • Faculty-librarian collaboration and brainstorming improves the process and the product
  • Collaboration between faculty, librarian, and students creates a dynamic learning community with contributions from all ( i.e. FAMSI identified by a student; the Khipu Database Project, Tuskegee Syphilis Project via NPR and PBS and HIV/AIDS in Brazil video identified by faculty and/or librarian)

I’ll need to gather up some data to bring with me to our Monday meeting. Not that RM needs any convincing of the positive results a collaboration can bring (otherwise she wouldn’t be meeting with me), but Ellen has been such a force in pushing this working relationship along, gaining steam with every new year, so the new relationship with Ellen out of the equation will need to grow on its own.

My colleague, Bonnie, just gave me a bit of good professional news (as opposed to her good personal news!).  A biology professor has apparently picked up on the good work that has been happening between teaching faculty and librarians at SUNY Geneseo and she would like to work toward a similar approach for one of her classes.  Furthermore, a chemistry professor who has been present many times when the librarians share information on the faculty-librarian collaborations is asking Bonnie for more library instruction sessions this semester.  I’ve been recently wondering if I should continue to push for the Faculty Learning Community focused on F-L collaborations, but it does seem like the more conversation, sharing and modeling that happens, the more professors are listening and suggesting partnerships.  This is fantastic news!

So, my next step in the short run . . . I have printed out a number of recent articles about faculty-librarian collaborations and I would like to report in on the data, with possible thoughts of my own.  This is a goal I have had since starting this blog, but finding the time has been a challenge.  Just trying to write something every once in a while has been a challenge.  And there’s so much to say!  I will continue to invite guest writers to share their collaborations as well.

From Julie Grob, Digital Projects and Instruction Librarian, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Like most instruction librarians, I typically teach one-shot classes at faculty request, although my classes focus on the rare books that are held in Special Collections. In the fall of 2006, faculty member Dr. David Mazella, an eighteenth century scholar in the English Department, contacted me with a different kind of instruction request. He was interested in doing more to enhance undergraduate research skills, mirroring the goals of a new Quality Enhancement Plan for the campus called “Discovery-Based Learning: Transforming the Undergraduate Experience through Research.” Dr. Mazella was designing a pilot course that would coalesce around the ideas of inquiry-based learning, undergraduate research, primary source materials, and information literacy. The course would parallel research he was doing for a book project called 1771: A Geography of Feeling. Students would read books from the year 1771 that were related to four key cities – London, Edinburgh, Philadelphia, and Kingston, Jamaica – and then do independent research using rare books and journals to develop their own lines of inquiry related to those texts. Dr. Mazella believed that such a course would require the ongoing contributions of a librarian.

I was eager to take on the challenge of working with Dr. Mazella on the 1771 course, which he would be teaching for the first time in Spring 2008. What was particularly exciting was that I was not being asked just to suggest places where library instruction sessions might be slotted into an existing course, but to help build the information literacy component of the course from the ground up. We decided to schedule four visits to the library during the semester, one in which students would learn database searching skills and three in which they would work on assignments utilizing eighteenth century materials in Special Collections. During the planning period, I combed our existing collection to find relevant materials, and applied to my library for a Micro-Grant that allowed us to purchase $2000.00 worth of rare books and journals geared specifically to the course. I also worked with Dr. Mazella on developing Special Collections assignments, in some cases proposing the actual construction of the assignment. One suggestion I made was that we should create worksheets with questions to be answered that forced students to immediately become involved with the materials, thus reducing their anxiety over handling old and rare items.

Once the course got rolling, the advantages of the faculty/librarian semester-long collaboration model became apparent. For one thing, it offered me the opportunity to do assessment after the first Special Collections instruction session. I posted a link to a SurveyMonkey questionnaire on the courseblog, and received valuable input that I used in planning the next Special Collections visit. Dr. Mazella and I were also able to build on earlier library instruction sessions and plan a more complex assignment for the final visit. Previous Special Collections assignments had required that students examine one item in depth, and conduct research on that item using databases such as MLA, JSTOR, and Project Muse as their homework. But during the final visit, we asked students to identify a keyword in the rare book they were perusing that they could use as a stepping off point for their database searching. One student who was examining the slave autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, chose the keyword “agriculture” from the text, which led her to an exploration of how Jamaican slaves worked with sugar crops and livestock. By selecting keywords directly from eighteenth century texts, students were able to draw a direct connection between primary source materials, database research, and the development of new lines of inquiry. Both Dr. Mazella and I were pleased with the outcomes of the course, and “1771” will be offered again next spring.

Had lunch with my friend/colleague in Spanish today and we discussed plans to improve upon her SPAN 326: Latin American Civilizations course.  At the top of the list of student comments provided at the end of Fall 2007 . . . KEEP KIM! Both Cristina and I are pleased to see how valuable her students found the embedded library instruction and follow-up as they compiled their final portfolio projects.  A few possible tweaks:

  • Shorten history lessons (in powerpoint format) given during class time with homework assignments (or work time in class) leading students to scholarly articles, books and/or websites that provide answers to a given set of questions.  This approach puts more of the learning in the students’ hands (never teach what students can learn on their own) and would generate more class discussion.  A particular thought is to give students a key article to provide a little context.  Next, students research articles on their own that supplement the original article where specific examples and different points of view can be explored and discussed in class.  Content can be learned independently and through group discussion with the research skills as the vehicle for finding the content.
  • Forewarn students of topics that will be harder than most to locate solid, scholarly materials on.  For instance, Precolumbian to 20th Century history in Latin America involves changing geographic borders, especially if you consider the main civilizations of the Maya and the Aztecs.  It will be difficult for students to locate with 100% certainty where a particular tribe (that perhaps became part of the greater Maya or Aztec) lived when Mexico and Guatemala, for instance, were not their own separate countries with distinct borders.
  • Include required readings that students have to find through their newly acquired research skills, rather than simply linking them in MyCourses (ANGEL).
  • Adjust the timing of when students need to see me (or e-mail me) to have sources verified in conjunction with the timeline for Ellen’s ANTH 229 class.  Last fall, I got bombarded with SPAN and ANTH students needing to meet with me, each on an individual basis, within the same week.  STRESS! Although face-to-face is better, I managed to instruct students with their choice of scholarly materials and citation style almost as easily though e-mail communication.
  • Require verification of sources by attaching a grade to the consultations (whether in person or via e-mail).
  • Include criteria in the portfolio assignment to ensure students are finding a variety of sources on their chosen country, rather than consistently using the same book for the different historical eras.
  • Provide an instruction session at the beginning of the 20th Century section to show students how to access current news stories and websites of grassroot and non-profit organizations, in the Spanish language.

During the course of our conversation, Cristina mentioned to me the growing interest in the Foreign Languages Department for including library instruction in the curriculum, especially where Spanish is concerned.  Within the past year, I have seen an increase in the number of Spanish library sessions I’ve been requested for.

Proof that if you start small and get just one professor interested, word will spread.

From Barbara Ciambor, Outreach Librarian, Rochester Regional Library Council

The Information Literacy Continuum Committee, working under the auspices of the Rochester Regional Library Council (RRLC), is an example of a collaborative group of academic, school and public librarians in the Rochester, NY area, committed to ensuring that students in K-12 and higher education institutions learn information seeking skills. The group has developed a continuum of information literacy skills needed for a transition from high school to college.

The committee was first formed in 2004 as a result of a Library Services and Technology Act funded, New York State Library Division of Library Development grant awarded to RRLC, to promote the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL) databases. The committee’s original charge was to encourage lifelong learning through the use of the NOVELNY databases but the group quickly broadened its scope to include students’ information literacy skills.

Area academic librarians were concerned that students entered their institutions lacking basic information literacy skills, yet school librarians knew they were teaching these skills. There was obviously a disconnect somewhere, and librarians were interested in working collaboratively to define the disconnect and discover what could be done about it.

The committee posed the question ‘What if we could develop a document that would assist students with the high school to college transition, introducing specific skills with reinforcement as part of the process?’”

A lengthy collaboration produced the “Core Library & Research Skills Grade 9-14+” document which outlines grade levels at which specific skills in each step are expected to be introduced and mastered. The document has been shared throughout the Rochester area, at a workshop hosted by St. John Fisher College, for the Rochester Area School Librarians (RASL) and feedback has been received from librarians in the U.S. and abroad. Committee members have had the opportunity to present at regional library meetings and conferences, including a joint presentation with the Buffalo area High School to College group at the Spring Sharing session of the School Librarians’ Association of Western New York (SLAWNY)

Information Literacy Continuum Committee members have organized and participated in a variety of programs to help educate school and academic librarians about information literacy instruction at the different levels. School librarians have attended academic library orientations, which include tours of library buildings as well as discussions about library instruction at the host institution. Academic librarians share their expectations for incoming students, and high school librarians discuss their experiences teaching students information literacy skills. An “Information Literacy Discussion Forum” was held, attended by both school and academic librarians.

Collaborative activities have included a panel presentation by academic librarian members to a faculty meeting at Brockport High School. The college and university librarians discussed what they felt were the skills students were lacking, and made suggestions as to what high school teachers and librarians could do to address these issues. Topics of discussion ranged from note taking and writing skills to research and social skills. Overall the resounding message was that incoming college students need to better understand the research process, including how to take adequate notes, identify or focus a topic and associated key words or phrases, how to evaluate web sources, and how to cite sources. The panel stressed that repetition and reinforcement was critical to success, all agreed that the more students wrote and researched in high school the better.

The panel discussion generated a great deal of positive feedback from Brockport High School faculty and administration, with one teacher observing “It was great to make a connection with people in the academic arena, they reaffirmed that we’re on the right track. I definitely gleaned some good ideas from their feedback.” The high school librarians have also stated that the experience of collaboration has added a level of credibility to interactions with students and teachers, sharing the realistic expectations of librarians and faculty at the college level.

Two new members representing public libraries have joined the committee. With their input, the committee will broaden its focus to learn how information literacy can be supported across a “continuum” of lifelong learning.

This will be a quick post since the clock is ticking before I head out into a new storm that has been wreaking havoc in Buffalo and Rochester.  But before I forget to share one of the best compliments I’ve ever received . . .

I was part of a panel presentation last Thursday at the SUNYLA Conference in Potsdam, NY focused on assessment of teaching and learning in the library classroom. As the last presenter on the panel, I quickly ran over my allotted 15 minutes and we moved into Q&A.  A librarian from SUNY Oswego wanted to tell me that a theater professor from her campus attended a talk that I presented with an Anthropology student back in March.  The professor returned to campus determined to get a similar collaborative teaching approach started.  I look forward to working with the Oswego librarian-faculty team, in conjunction with Ellen Kintz, before the fall semester begins.

Michelle encouraged me to continue sharing the positive results and benefits of my work with Anthropology (and other areas), especially to teaching faculty, because “it’s making a difference.”  Wow, four of the sweetest words a librarian can hear.  It’s making a difference.

It looks like I’ll need to seek out more faculty-heavy conferences and workshops to present at.  I know that there is a prominent Teaching and Learning Conference called Lilly.  I should start there first.  Any other ideas on where to reach faculty at their conferences?

As I drove into work this morning, I listened to an NPR story about the uranium mining that has been happening in the Navajo Nation, and how it has negatively effected the Nation’s people, for years now. What’s funny is that the name of the Chief/President interviewed instantly rang a bell, before I ever discovered that the report was related to the Navajo. The intro to the story was purely about uranium, in general, or perhaps I just wasn’t listening closely enough yet. Why was that name so familiar? Because I have gone through student-chosen website upon website as a regular assignment in Ellen Kintz’ ANTH 229: Film and Ethnography where his name has come up. The course schedule is divided by different cultural groups that students study by way of documentaries. The Navajo, of course, are one of these groups to be explored. It is a fascinating course (not that I have had much, if any, time to sit in on it when I’m not actually teaching in it) and one in which Ellen and I have been very successful at infusing scholarly research skills. Students are introduced to the Navajo during a time where we are simultaneously focusing on scholarly web skills – searching, evaluating, citing, and annotating. On the first or second day of class, I come in to provide a 75-minute session on web skills that move beyond the typical use of simple Google. After lots of hands-on time in class, students are given periodic assignments (as stated in the course syllabus) to produce short annotated bibliographies (3 sources) on the cultural group being studied, in the scholarly research format that we are practicing (in addition to the web, I teach students scholarly skills for finding books, journal articles, and sometimes multimedia platforms). The goal of these assignments is to have students practice and retain these lifelong search skills while learning more about the culture, beyond what can be taught with limited time in the classroom. The formula and balance of content to skills works extremely well! In a sense, students are learning the course content by using advanced research techniques as the vehicle. As I recently titled a faculty workshop at the University of Buffalo, “Broccoli, Headhunting and the Mayan Universe: Is There a Connection?” I make the analogy of sliding scholarly research skills into the course curriculum and learning goals to make “library stuff” seem more palatable much like parents hide broccoli and other greens under gooey, melty cheese or into sweets like brownies so that kids will eat the vegetables that we know are so good for them yet do not have the appeal of . . . let’s say . . . a hot fudge sundae. 🙂

Anyway, back to the Navajo stuff . . . In the past, I have compiled students’ web “picks” onto a website, but more recently, Ellen and I have developed a wiki where students can progressively post their chosen research sources and I can go in and make comments and suggestions on their annotated bibliographies (not done so well in Fall 2007 due to complete work overload, but a new wiki will begin when ANTH 229 is offered in Fall 2008). An additional benefit to the students’ wiki work is that they continue to learn, from each other in this case, as they tend to catch glimpses of what their classmates have written, with the annotated bibliographies but more so with the class readings and online discussion.

In brief and returning to the NPR story from this morning (boy, I do like to go on tangents!), I think it is amazing how much of the Anthropology taught by Dr. Ellen Kintz I’ve been able to absorb, merely by working with her and her students. I barely ever attend class sessions if I’m not teaching scholarly skills to the students (no time to do so. I wish there was more time for this.). So, all of my education in Anthropology has been gleaned from what work the students provide to me that I then assess and comment upon. Ellen and I have talked about plans for my graduate work in ANTH. I would LOVE to get a Master’s in Anthropology. It’s so funny how this discipline never came onto my radar screen in my undergraduate days (despite my studies in the French language, culture, linguistics, sociology, and international relations, all of which surround Cultural Anthropology). I do need to get serious about putting in an application for a Master’s program at Empire State College. Must look into this today since I know the most recent deadline is coming up.

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