Here we go again!  Another summer, another exciting RYSAG camp!  We are just a week and two days away from counselor orientation and then on Monday, July 19, about 60 middle and high school students from the Rochester City School District (RCSD) will descend upon SUNY Geneseo‘s campus.  This is the time of the summer when my organizational efforts really hit mach speed.

Thanks to the diligence and consciensciousness of one of our outstanding counselors, currently home for the summer and away from the hustle and bustle of confirming plans for the camp organization and storyline, I’ve been (positively) pushed to focus on finalizing schedules and google docs so that everyone involved will have the necessary information before arriving on campus.  Last night, I spent time refining the camp storyline in a google doc, adding notes from a previous meeting with the Camp Director as well as new ideas developed in a recent meeting with the camp’s faculty planning group.

Potential volunteer interviewees (faculty and staff from all different academic disciplines) have been contacted and most have responded with their availability to meet with our students to discuss personal experiences with conflict, difference and/or adaptation.  One more reminder should hopefully push the lagging interviewees along.  The hope is to have a nearly finalized interview schedule before our Monday (7/12) meeting with all camp volunteers.  At this meeting, everyone will be informed of the general camp plan, goals and expectations, putting us all on the same page.  We arranged for a similar meeting two years ago and that really helped for a smooth transition into the camp’s “theater.”

This year’s camp, whose theme focuses on peacekeeping and conflict negotiation, should be interesting with two teams consisting of brand new (to RYSAG) RCSD students entering seventh and eighth grades in the fall.  For the past two years, we’ve seen a lot of repeat students, many of whom have participated in every camp experience since the 2007 inception.  Our numbers for four-peaters are dwindling but we have still retained nine of the original RYSAG CSI candidates.  Understandable considering these students are likely to be entering the tenth grade this fall, where scholastic expectations and requirements are heightened and students are now at an age where they can begin working full-time summer jobs.

Our four-peaters, and even a handful of three-peaters, form one of our four camp teams and serve as CITs – counselors-in-training – where leadership skills and roles are stressed, placing the students in good stead for future counselor positions.  How amazing will it be if/when these students return in their pre-senior and even post-senior/college summers to assist with the running of the camp!!!!  Our first introduction to these students was when they were entering seventh grade!  How quickly time passes.

But I digress . . . the reasoning behind the title of this post refers to a recent SUNYLA conference presentation I offered.  I had two main reasons for developing the presentation.  First, to highlight the amazing RYSAG camp experience, which I’ve been wanting to boast about for a few years now.  The second reason was to encourage librarians, especially those new to the field, to identify their strengths and interests – both personal and professional – and promote them by joining campus projects and committees where librarian talents are seriously needed.

The strengths and interests I identified within myself at the presentation include:

  • organizational skills, especially where logic and scheduling are involved
  • technological knowledge and ability to make practical use of technological tools to bring people together
  • creativity
  • risk taking
  • pedagogical knowledge
  • team player, wanting to bring people together in meaningful and fun ways
  • mediator, using my contacts and knowledge among various academic departments

All of these attributes have come in handy when putting together the RYSAG camp infrastructure.  From creating rotating schedules for campers, instructors, counselors and interviewees to using a variety of social networking tools for the good of document and idea sharing (i.e., google docs, wikis, blogs), camper communication and training (i.e., gmail accounts, blogs, Truveo multimedia searching, interactive web scavenger hunt), and tracking volunteers’ availability (i.e., Doodle) to suggesting key players to the camp storyline based on a wide range of contacts in different departments due to library instruction efforts and other campus-wide committee participation.

As mentioned in the SUNYLA presentation, while I am well aware of the amazing skills and special talents librarians bring to the table, especially in campus-wide forums, I become downright giddy when I hear of stories where librarians lead the faculty/staff pack and offer a sense of unity, focus, organization, creativity and expertise.  It is these stories that remind me what a valuable service we provide to the campus community.

And again, I encourage all librarians to realize the unique attributes they have to offer, to get involved in campus projects and to promote the good that our librarian superpowers can foster.

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While not strictly tied to collaborative teaching efforts, a recent planning session with my Collection Development colleague for a staff retreat focused on faculty outreach has prompted me to brainstorm the many ways in which I connect with professors.  I wrote them all down so as not to forget, but at tomorrow’s retreat, all of the librarians will brainstorm their own ways of collaborating.  We are sure to generate a long and very rich list.

Following are the thoughts that I’ve come up with.  I will try to combine similar activities so that this list doesn’t become too cumbersome.

Instructional efforts

  • Successful teaching collaborations (Anthropology, First-year Writing Seminar, Foreign Languages, Political Science, Psychology, RYSAG, Sociology) have led other professors to engage in similar instructional efforts
  • Successful teaching collaborations have led to greater opportunities for myself and for those with whom I teach (i.e., RYSAG)
  • Conference presentations incorporating librarian and professor (and sometimes student representatives) have led to faculty interest in similar teaching collaborations, at SUNY Geneseo and elsewhere
  • Attendance and participation at departmental meetings helps initiate interest in what librarians can do for professors in the classroom and for students outside of the classroom (i.e., research consultations)
  • Attempts at establishing formal librarian-professor meetings or get-togethers (i.e., Librarian-Faculty Learning Community)
  • Assisting professors with their curricular material that have a focus on information literacy skills (i.e., proofreading a student survey centered on issues of plagiarism)
  • Providing introductions of what the library instruction staff can do for various campus groups (i.e., new faculty, First-Year Writing Seminar professors, teaching assistants)
  • Writing short newsletter articles for campus publications on different instructional projects in which librarians are involved
  • Engaging in campus-wide activities that focus on pedagogy (i.e., Teaching and Learning Center workshops)
  • Involvement in teaching activities that expand beyond the library (i.e., RYSAG) has allowed me to make connections across campus and outside of the academic environment (i.e., high school teachers)
  • E-mail contact with professors to suggest one-shot classroom instruction over individual research consultations for every student in a course or to clarify tricky questions that a professor has added to a research assignment
  • Working on professional development opportunities that incorporate librarians (and teachers) from all different educational settings

Collection building

  • Meetings that involve collection development librarian, subject specialty librarian, department chair and departmental representative to the library to discuss such things as budget allocations, electronic resources suitable for the subject discipline in question and subject areas covered through print resources
  • Making personal recommendations for sources to professors based on what I know of their research and curricular interests
  • Assisting with suggestions for course texts
  • Writing short newsletter articles for campus publications on issues of weeding, purchasing, new collection initiatives, etc.
  • Advertising and administering regional access cards so professors can borrow from local college/library collections
  • Inviting professors to provide input and/or train in orientations to various electronic resources

Faculty research

  • Answering reference questions for faculty, whether in person, on the phone, via e-mail, etc.
  • Offering research consultations to faculty members; not just to students
  • Meeting professors and their research assistants to provide instruction on various tools as well as strategies for tackling the necessary research question/project
  • Providing instruction for student research can many times lead to professors learning of new strategies and resources for their own research
  • Informal conversations can lead to new ideas for faculty research endeavors

Campus-wide engagement

  • Involving oneself in College Senate
  • Choosing relevant Senate subcommittees in which to participate
  • Chairing a Senate subcommittee
  • Running for/serving on other campus-wide committee participation
  • Working on library committees that demand a teaching faculty representative
  • Attending campus functions

Finally, I think that not enough can be said for informal, social interactions with faculty colleagues, on or off-campus.  These serendipitous connections can truly lead to great things, the very least being a newly formed friendship.

I am anxious to hear of other ways that my local colleagues interact with professors and would certainly like to extend the conversation to anyone else reading this blog.  How do you most frequently connect with faculty on campus/at school?

Wow,  7 months have past since my last post.  I need to get better at this blogging thing.  I keep telling myself . . .  just a short paragraph a day will keep this blog alive.  The unfortunate (or fortunate, based on how you look at it) thing is that once I start writing, I can’t stop, so to me, there is no such thing as a short paragraph.  🙂

I’ve been busy though.  The most recent time-consuming activity has been the third RYSAG summer camp.  Once again, it was a success, although there was doubt at the beginning.  Would the students be interested in “saving the environment”?  Was the topic “sexy” enough for them?  In the end, the students came to campus already aware of and concerned with issues of global warming and the need to change the way we all treat the environment.  While there was no real element of discovery or suspicion, as there was in the last two camps, and students didn’t seem super motivated in class, the final presentations impressed us all, as they have always done.

The typical subject collaborations existed as they have in the past – science/chemistry, math, research, public speaking/communication and technology.  In addition, we invited a few “green experts” from campus to each teach one day on their specialized topic.  An Anthropology professor took students back 1000’s of years to introduce the idea of those people’s “waste,” to make the point of how much that waste has grown into modern times.  She had students calculate their individual carbon footprint. Two Geology professors discussed water runoff and global warming/climate change, respectively. A History professor introduced students to the campus’ community garden and talked about sustainable agriculture, including the creation of  compost piles.  Finally, a Chemistry professor engaged our students in the harnessing of solar power based on blueberries as a source of energy.

Small student groups within each of our four camp teams were assigned to particular interviewees that would lend their perspective on sustainability issues and efforts.  Interviewees ranged from the middle-aged curmudgeon professor who’s only motivation to recycle was to recoup 5 cents from each plastic bottle returned to the sports enthusiast Geneseo alum who didn’t care how the new stadium was designed as long as he could attend his favorite sports events to administrative officials of our campus food service who introduced students to the idea of biodegradable cups and other “plastic ware” and the push to purchase food from local farmers.  Additionally, students designed 8-question surveys that they administered to anyone on campus that would take the survey.  All of these ideas and data were incorporated into each team’s final presentation – a formal plea to college administration to “green-up” our future athletic stadium by implementing the suggestions made by our students.  As mentioned above, the delivery, data and teamwork employed in each presentation was incredibly impressive.  Our youngest team consisted of 15 11-year olds (incoming sixth graders) and they did a fantastic job!

The ppt presentations will be loaded to the GREEN-UP camp website soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the public service announcements that our students created while on campus (found on the right hand page of the GREEN-UP webpage).

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.

A communication professor and I met earlier this morning  to develop a general set of lesson plans to be used in this summer’s D.I.G. camp.  It was really an amazing experience, working together and seeing how many of the NYS standards our new curriculum, Research & Rhetoric (R&R – formerly C.T.U. for Critical Thinking Unit), hit.  And when you combine our curriculum to that of our teaching partners (Chemistry, Anthropology, Digital Arts, and Math), we really do touch upon all of the intermediate standards as a whole.  The standards addressed in R&R include:

  • English Language Arts, standards 1-4 (Listening & Reading and Speaking & Writing)
  • Social Studies, standards 1-3, 5 (History of US & NY, World History, Geography, and Civics, Citizenship & Government)
  • Math, Science and Technology, standards 2, 5-7 (Information Systems, Engineering Design, Tools, Resources & Technical Processes, Computer Technology, Management of Technology, Systems Thinking, and Strategies)

Meredith and I talked about how, at the college level, we aren’t used to preparing formal lesson plans to guide our teaching practices.  We agreed, however, what a useful tool these completed plans will be when July hits and we start preparing for the students’ arrival on campus.  Where student or novice teachers may begin looking at educational standards and develop lessons and activities around them, we preferred to dive into the lesson planning first and then align our activities to the standards.  From last year’s camp experience, I knew that Meredith and I would work well together, but now that we’ve joined forces, I am thrilled to be brainstorming with her.  Although our current lesson plans are fairly general and will be tweaked as July approaches and while the students are on campus, we have a really good start, including some very specific ideas about how each class will be run.  We agree that ice breaker and self-esteem boosters are essential for the beginning of each class session.  I think Meredith and I make a natural teaching team.

I was expecting to write more of an opening post to my new blog, but considering that I am in the midst of sifting through the NYS standards in order to design lesson plans for the D.I.G. summer program, it seems appropriate that I launch right into librarian-faculty collaboration.  This program has been the epitome of educational collaboration.  Last year, the camp focused on CSI techniques under the premises of a series of fictitious art thefts that happened on SUNY Geneseo’s campus.  Each of the disciplines was dependent on each other, especially in the lessons provided by the Critical Thinking Unit (CTU) – a mixture of sociology, ethnographical and library research, and overall critical thinking.  In the CTU curriculum, students put the pieces of the puzzle together working with interview transcripts, forensic evidence, information found from the web, and tips and additional pieces of evidence left by a secret admirer.  Story boards were used to visually tie the different disciplinary information together in one place.  With this information, a communication professor and a graphic arts specialist worked with the student teams to develop an oral and pictorial presentation to be delivered to a “grand jury.”  Depending on how compelling each team’s case was presented, a panel of three judges ordered an indictment for our four criminals

I never would have been involved in such a fantastic program had it not been for the Sociology professor with whom I had been working in her semester courses.  Because she saw that I was able to weave in research skills to cover the content of her designated lessons, she knew we could work well together to deliver a fun and meaningful curriculum to our middle school students.  You never know what good things will come out of your everyday work responsibilities.

Anyway . . . back to those standards . . . This year’s mystery – an archaeological dig where we hope to find Seneca artifacts – goes even further as far as seamlessly merging academic disciplines.  Archaeology, chemistry, history, math, english language arts, technology, art – each subject will rely heavily on the other in the hope of providing another enriching experience for our young scholars bound for college . . . in about 4 or 5 years.