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?

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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 very fortunate that my good friend Lisa just responded to an old blog post from last semester. It has been a full semester since I last contributed to this blog. Yikes! Coincidentally, as I am working from home this morning, I did have visions of jumping back into my blog to fill in all the gaps from last semester to this semester. Lisa’s comment was just a reminder that I better get writing.

So, where to begin?

ANTH 216: African Diaspora – This was a class where I worked very closely with the new Department Chair in Anthropology. We began our planning toward the end of the summer, examining her previous syllabus and adding mini research assignments and library sessions where appropriate. RM likes to structure her courses with lots of student discussion. A typical assignment is the student-led discussion. Students are arranged in groups at the beginning of the semester and then as the weeks pass, they are responsible on a certain date for creating an interactive conversation with their classmates on a designated topic.

Topics last semester included the comparison/contrast of Mardi Gras to Carnaval; the history of Haiti; problems facing contemporary Haiti; migration and adaptation from the African Diaspora to US and Canadian cities like Miami, NY, Boston, and Montreal; reaction to the film Lumumba; African/Carribean religions as they are practiced in the US; and nationalism promoted in music.

While it was required that every group meet with me a week prior to their student-led discussion, not only for help with research but also in preparation of making the discussion interactive and lively, I didn’t see every group. I had great conversations with many of the students about how to plan the presentation, but in the end, my ideas for interaction may have intimidated them. Time and time again, no matter what we had discussed as a group, the students ended up talking from a powerpoint presentation with a few discussion questions thrown in. The unfortunate part of this is that the technology in the room we were assigned was not very strong or reliable. Students consistently struggled with the seamless flow of ppt to video and sound. Frustrating for everyone involved.

The ONLY group that took me up on my advice was a set of 4 ladies who were assigned a discussion on the film, Lumumba. They had no idea how to design their presentation. I was thinking “critic’s corner” as they came to see me with two variations. 1) half of the class would discuss all the positive attributes of the film while the other half would pan it and 2) the class would be split into 4 groups, each discussing the film from a certain perspective – Patrice Lumumba (the main character/freedom fighter), the film’s director, the Conglese (for whom Lumumba was fighting), and the Belgians (against whom Lumumba was fighting). Each group would have to examine whether or not they thought the film portrayed them satisfactorily. This second option is the one that the group chose. It worked beautifully! The designated date occurred right after Fall Break, so the students had the great idea to first show a video clip that would recapture the essence of the film and reacquaint classmates with what they had seen a week prior. They then divided students into groups, with each of the 4 ladies leading a group. They had definitely done their homework, looking into the background of the film, the history and critiques of the movie. They were able to share this new information with the newly formed “critic” groups. Many times, the added facts and opinions influenced the students’ understanding of the film. The plan was simple, the pressure of “performing” was taken off of the 4 ladies in question, and the class, as a whole, had the most animated conversation that I had been witness to. Further comments on the class’ LMS page proved how effective the strategy and lesson plan was. Everyone remarked on the simplicity of the plan and the overall positive outcome.

YET . . . all groups to follow this presentation reverted back to ppt. *sigh* One group literally questioned my suggestions for incorporating hands-on activities/discussion, claiming that they “weren’t in 3rd grade.” To that, I said that while the method of interaction seemed juvenile, the topic of discussion was not. Unfortunately, that group’s discussion happened the day before Thanksgiving break so I never was able to see what they ended up doing.

Other than the student-led discussion, I involved students in mini-research assignments, mainly to equip everyone for the content of discussion in class throughout the semester. It became obvious to me that to help the leaders of the student discussions/presentations get their classmates talking, everyone in class needed to come prepared with some information on the topic. For instance, one assigned presentation focused on the migration and adaptation of Haitians to US and Canadian cities. The homework that I assigned to students after a brief presentation on researching news stories in LexisNexis, was to find a related article. I divided the students up by US/Canadian city, making sure that there would be a variety of perspectives and experiences represented during the student-led discussion. Students turned their annotated citations into me via LMS (Angel on our campus), with a deadline set just before that student-led discussion took place.

Other research assignments (all in the form of annotated citations) included making comparisons/contrasts between a scholarly and a popular film review; finding a scholarly/educational video or sound clip on African-based religion; finding a CD or a single song that highlighted nationalism; and the study of a particular cultural group through eHRAF.

While the collaboration between RM and myself seemed successful, we have yet to make plans for this semester. It very well could be that we’re both slightly burned out from the fall session or that our preparations this semester will be more impromptu in the coming months. I’m sure that it’s a combination of both. We have discussed putting a limit on the use of powerpoint during student-led discussions (some use is okay but students cannot rely solely on ppt) and brainstorming with the students interactive assignments in which they have been engaged in other classes. Once we come up with a good list of options, students will be able to choose from these in an effort to liven their presentations. But, I’m still waiting to hear from RM . . .

It appears that I had much more to write than I originally thought, so other updates from the Fall semester will have to wait until my next post. Things I will write about include:

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.

I spent a beautiful spring day at a one-day workshop in Brockport, NY today. The focus: how libraries and librarians integrate themselves into campus culture using a LMS. Many good sessions although after spending three days at the Computers in Libraries (CIL) conference, today’s workshops just flew by. I could have actually sat through a few more presentations. But a little at a time is a good thing. I was happy that the venue was so close to home. The keynote speakers came from Penn State and I was immediately reminded of speakers from CIL, also from Penn State, and they presented on similar topics. The modules/tutorials/library course guides (however you want to call it) sound fantastic. And Penn State uses ANGEL, which is great since Geneseo is on the same system. For librarians not familiar with and/or adept at HTML, the PA librarians have figured out a way to get the necessary resources into the professors’ and students’ hands in the online environment. What sounded like the perfect system became very confusing as it was never explained, until later, that the templates Penn State uses have been customized in-house. Luckily, they are very willing to share the templates and have suggested this to ANGEL, but were rebuffed since “no one else was expressing a need for such resources.” If other librarians and IT depts were aware of these capabilities, there would be many of us clamoring to avoid reinventing the wheel. I will definitely have to contact the higher-ups to make my recommendation.

Other interesting sessions included the use and/or development of tutorials, using Captivate, Camtasia, and other software programs. This gives me the idea of creating an interactive tutorial/scavenger hunt for the DIG students this summer. Not only can I make the hunt come alive and make it interesting and fun for our middle school students, I can be teaching them basic research skills in the process – something that during the two week camp, I may not have time to do. I may need to enlist the help from a few librarians to create the tutorial that I envision. Student assistants may be out of the question at this point since they are so swamped with final projects and exams.

The last light bulb that popped up over my head today pertains to the situation of E-reserves. With the implementation of ANGEL, the library’s e-res system as we know it will fade away at the end of this semester. Currently, the LOR (learning object repository) for course reserves looks like a mess, and without library intervention, I’m not so sure that professors will be as diligent about cleaning out their reserves list at the end of each semester. I have already run into the problem of outdated material in an ANTH course I worked with this semester. The only syllabi I could find within the ANTH course, using ANGEL, were 2-3 years old. And the list of resources within the list were unweilding. So, my thought . . . I will see what dept meetings I can visit before the end of the semester and suggest to faculty that rather than hassle with adding articles and books to their course reserve list (time consuming to find the sources, create the PDFs, link them and then figure out whether the documentation falls within copyright parameters), I can check to see if the library has access to the materials and, if so, recommend a brief session and/or online tutorial (probably the better idea, which should be an attractive choice to busy professors worried about time constraints for delivering their course content) demonstrating to students how to access these chosen resources. Once they have the skill, it will be practiced many times over throughout the semester, cementing this process into their minds. With any luck, students in these courses will no longer come to the reference desk asking questions about how to know if the library owns such and such journal/article/book. Because course readings will be part of a student’s final grade for the semester, it will be to their benefit to perfect the skill of knowing how to access particular, pre-designated materials. Without accessing the required source, they cannot do the reading, which in turn prevents them from coming to class prepared to discuss their homework reading assignment. This may later affect their performance on course exams. I have already been utilizing such a strategy in Ellen’s courses (ANTH) and I haven’t heard of any problems from the students. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

The additional benefits of meeting with academic departments before the semester is up is to remind the professors of new and existing resources in the library that they may want to consider and experiment with over the summer. Scopus seemed to be hugely popular with the science faculty, but they were the only ones to attend the demonstration earlier this week. Scopus is a great tool for the Social Sciences as well. The alterior motive, of course, is to remind the departments with whom I work that I am at their service, during the summer and certainly in the fall semester.

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.

I just attended a database demonstration for one of our newest purchases. Lots of science faculty there, which was wonderful to see. Apparently, our teaching faculty can be lured in with free food. 🙂 I was able to talk summer camp stuff with our Chemistry partner. Eric has fantastic ideas when it comes to teaching the middle school students in the sciences. They loved him last year and were even asking for him this past weekend. He and our resident Archaeologist will make a tremendous teaching team. It’s interesting to work with professors beyond the typical one-shot library sessions. I think in a more collaborative and teaching-intensive environment, professors can truly see what librarians are capable of in the classroom. Research skills become merely the means for students to learn the content. Once students are empowered with research abilities, their world of knowledge opens up. I have definitely seen this in cooperative classes with Dr. Kintz, Anthropology. But it’s essential that librarians and faculty teach together beyond that one-shot session.

The database demo becomes a perfect opportunity to connect with faculty who we typically don’t work with. It’s important to see where their needs and interests lie. It’s essential to get a conversation started, whether it’s over a shameless “carrot” of free food and technology or before/after a campus-centered meeting. Librarians must become increasingly involved in campus activities so that they can get their face out there and become a recognizable member of the college community. Even to this day, I find it difficult to leave the library when there is so much work to be done at my desk. But without “outside” visits, friendly lunches, cooperative volunteer/service work, no one on campus will be aware of all that the library has to offer. Professors and students know to a certain extent, but they are always amazed when you can keep wowing them with new discoveries. I heard that very level of excitement from Eric who was just discovering the power of Scopus.