notes on information organizations

July 16, 2010

Using library experts wisely

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Cervone @ 7:50 am

Rob Weir’s post today about using library experts in a different way than traditional bibliographic instruction is a breath of fresh air although the basic idea isn’t really new. As he correctly points out, library orientation/instruction sessions are generally boring and pointless exercises. They often attempt to tell people too much in a context that does not relate the information to anything that is really meaningful.

In his post, he suggest that faculty should be doing something different and something that anyone who sees the future of libraries would agree with. The basic jist of what he is doing is:

  • Integrate library “instructional” components into the actual content of the course
  • In the first go around in the library, just have a 10-minute talk on the importance of journals, how to find them, and how to differentiate an academic journal from a mass audience publication then have the librarian give the students their business card. That’s it – no database demo or other long-winded explanations.
  • Have the librarian work with the faculty member to develop a meaningful followup assignment such as locating “a journal germane to their field, read an article, and review it.”
  • Follow that up with a conventional assignment such as creating a working bibliography for the project.
  • A few weeks later, have the faculty member bring the students back to the library for a quick explanation of what databases are and why they’re essential. Ask each student to state their project and have the librarian offer initial thoughts of a database they might want to consult. Have the students find a database and give them an assignment of “Why My Database Rocks, and Why it Wobbles”
  • Finally, have an archive day where students briefly learn about what your university archives may contain. Again, this  session is a quick 10 to 15 minutes at the most.
  • After midterms, convene the classes in the library and conduct “coaching sessions” where the librarian is in a role of coach, sounding board, content-checker, and occasional cheerleader.

What is the advantage of this approach? Perhaps most importantly it would make the library actually relevant to students.  From the library’s perspective, this approach is more likely to meet the goals set up for our information literacy programs. While this approach may be a radical departure for some, it’s something that is long overdue.

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