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.

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?

Ellen Kintz was in town between her travels to Mexico and California and we were able to meet this morning to discuss possibilities of presenting at a Lilly Conference. We’re convinced these days that we must present where the faculty are. Librarians are already on board with collaborative endeavors. Finding willing and enthusiastic faculty to partner with always seems to be the toughest challenge. But we’re gaining some steam . . .

Along with the wonderful compliment given by Michelle at SUNY Oswego, I heard from a librarian at Suffolk County Community College today who has been collaborating with an ESL professor and presenting the partnership at conferences (the most recent at LOEX 2008) and through publications (look for a chapter from Bealle & Cash-McConnell titled “A Construcivist Approach to Instructional Technology and Assessment in ESL Course Design” in the upcoming Neal-Schuman publication, Using Technology to Teach Information Literacy (2008). In Bealle’s own words, “the presentation with your anthro students (regarding Mayan research – SUNYLA Cortland, May 2004 – I believe) helped me realize the potential of librarian-faculty collaborations.” So, successful collaborations are being formed whether by librarian or faculty initiation. The more faculty we can engage in very powerful teaching partnerships, the more effective student learning can be, especially within the context of our ever-increasing digital world.

I have already discussed Ellen’s and my vision of a triangular model of collaboration (student-librarian-faculty) in this blog, but I’d like to add a fourth stakeholder to the mix – a technology expert. Without the inclusion of Milne Library‘s Technology Instructor, Steve Dresbach, students’ mastery of research skills and content would sit flat on its own. Steve has been involved in Ellen’s classes from day one, although separated from the librarian’s participation in the learning process. Much like I teach a number of research-based sessions in Ellen’s classes, Steve leads at least one technology session per course, which is then followed up by one-on-one or group consultations. The final product that students create is impressive.

Although the philosophy of learning content through research skills that is then delivered via technological projects (Powerpoint slide shows and InDesign posters thus far) has always been key to Ellen Kintz’ courses, there has never been much direct collaboration between the technology expert and the librarian . . . until now. This morning , Steve joined Ellen’s and my meeting to discuss a proposal to Lilly. The goal is to share with a faculty audience the model of content-to-research-to-content-to-final presentation (content appears twice since students must start with a little knowledge on a topic before effectively expanding upon that content through the research process) with the students actively engaged throughout the entire process. It is through the partnership of three faculty/staff members and the students that we are able to transform our students into scholars who are highly capable of presenting on a professional level.

Since we cannot be sure if this fall’s version of ANTH 229: Ethnography and Film will be Ellen’s last course taught (post-retirement), the plan is to film as much of the semester’s classes as possible and develop a documentary that clearly highlights each stakeholder’s role in the educational process. If our proposal is accepted by Lilly, we can use clips from the documentary and direct comments from student interviews regarding their impressions of the learning experience. Rather than bringing just one student to present with us (which is always a big plus, but expensive), the video can illustrate multiple student perspectives on all that they have learned through the ANTH experience.

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.

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.

Rather than have me alone share ideas about librarian-faculty collaboration, I would love for others (librarians, professors, K-12 teachers, etc.) to divulge their “best kept secrets” concerning librarian-faculty educational partnerships.  I have set up a Google document to be shared by many collaborators.  To begin with, I’ve taken names off my outlook address book (and from other various places & contacts), but if you cannot readily add to the document, send me an e-mail, describe your collaboration, and I’ll invite you as a contributor.  My main goal here is first to broaden the discussion surrounding educational merging by documenting the many different instances in which e-merging can happen and second, I hope to be able to elaborate on the different models with help from different Google docs contributors.

Thank you in advance for joining in on the conversation.