From Dean Hendrix, Coordinator of Education Services, University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library

Three years ago, the University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library (UBHSL) and the New Visions Honors Level Connection Program from Erie I BOCES began a collaborative program to teach practical information literacy skills to high schools seniors in the area.

Focused on health sciences careers, these students spent one day a week at a local hospital (Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital or the Buffalo VA Hospital) during the school year. At the beginning of the year, their teachers assigned the classes controversial questions in field of health sciences to research, and ultimately debated in a formal setting.

Students are expected to research both sides of an issue.

Past questions include:

* Should the United States government legalize medical marijuana?

* Should the United States government pay for universal health care?

* Should local, state or federal legislation ban unhealthy behaviors (riding a motorcycle without a helmet, trans fats in foods, smoking in public areas, etc.)?

* Should US citizens be allowed to fill prescriptions in pharmacies residing in foreign countries?

* Should the US government allow human cloning research?

In October, the classes came to UBHSL for hands-on training in some basic information literacy skills including the nature of different types of resources, the information cycle, database searching, evaluative methods and synthesizing information into a useful product.

The evaluative piece of the curricula was stressed heavily. Discussions were centered around the assessment of books, journals, magazines and websites as well as more in-depth delineations regarding study types (randomized controlled trials, review articles, editorials, case studies, etc.).

Due to the age of the students (read: attention span), interactive activities and group work were incorporated into the library instruction. Students were encouraged to come to the UBHSL, or patronize their high school libraries to refine their positions on the issues.

In November, students wrote a position paper with references culled from their previous research. The quality of their sources was assessed. The capstone to this collaboration was a formal debate held in the hospital in front of family, friends and hospital staff. Broken into teams of four, the students argued their assigned positions in a Lincoln-Douglas debate format. I served as one of three debate judges. It was extremely gratifying to see these students eloquently speak on these contentious topics. One student made a point to discuss the higher level evidence presented in a review article in order to add weight to his argument. It was a health sciences librarian’s dream to be sure.

I know that I have already made my decision to serve on the Search Committee for this position, rather than apply for the job, but now that I see the applications of our first few candidates . . . I’m not sure if it’s truly wanting to take on this important position, considering I am already tackling many of the job responsibilities on an informal basis, or if I’m feeling a little insecurity vis-a-vis my supervisors at the library.  Or maybe it’s the fear of navigating through my faculty-librarian activities with an unknown Head of Instruction/Ref that could easily take advantage of the work I’m doing (and possibly take credit for it) or duplicate what I’m already doing.  Fear of the unknown is definitely an issue for me.  If we could find another Jeff Liles, that would be great!  I’m just not so hopeful that the right person exists out there.  I hope to be proven wrong.

  • I have imported an RSS feed from Scopus into this blog which will update me on all new publications pertaining to Librarian-Faculty Collaboration. When I can find the time, hopefully this summer, I will go through the articles – most recent first and work my way backward – writing up key points on each. This will be a good system for me to keep up with literature in the field. At current time, and for quite some time, there hasn’t been a moment for this kind of professional activity!
  • I will document my comings and goings with professors/teachers in my ultimate goal of formulating successful relationships and partnerships, inside and outside of the classroom. The dream is to have certain academic departments working closely with the instruction librarians with a progressive, developmental approach. As students move through their major, we should have a plan in place for when library instruction takes place (in what year and in which courses) and what will be covered in each of those sessions – starting small and simple and ending with a pretty sophisticated and comprehensive approach to research and critical thinking.
  • I would like to make this blog a practical place for colleagues (librarians and faculty) to gain new ideas for activities and partnerships. Of course, I cannot offer all of this information on my own, so feedback and brainstorming among those looking at my blog is greatly appreciated. At SUNY Geneseo, there have been a number of successful collaborative models happening, so there is by no means, one right way to form a successful teaching partnership.
  • It would be great to get some discussion going about challenges and triumphs, from the side of the librarian and the professor . . . and even students if they were to look at this blog.
  • It is possible that I vocalize my continuous “soul searching” as I consider the pros and cons of remaining in a traditional teaching role vs moving into a more managerial position. At current, I am still very much wedded to creating new lesson plans and working closely with students and faculty. Can you take the girl out of the classroom, but not the classroom out of the girl? Right now, I think not. 🙂
  • Finally, as you may have already read, I have become heavily involved in a wonderful summer program with middle school students and the reasons for my inclusion in this new project stem from my previous work in the college classroom with a Sociology professor. This opportunity has me branching out and forging friendships and professional working relationships that I might not otherwise have had. Based on the CSI (now DIG) curriculum, I am developing new lesson plans and activities geared at the middle school level and this has allowed me to try similar approaches, although more advanced, in the college classroom. My use of different technologies in the classroom has certainly increased. I now find myself teaching other faculty how to implement these different tools into their teaching repertoire. Very cool!