Teaching Outside the Library

Happy Wednesday! I can’t believe we are to the middle of another week already. For the last bit of this week, I’ll be at the Personal Digital Archiving Conference in San Francisco and will hopefully be blogging some of the sessions. However, first I want to talk about teaching outside of the library (aka one shots). Most academic librarians will, at one time or another, have to teach one shot classes, usually with too much information to cover in too short amount of time. But I don’t want to talk about the difficulties inherent in this type of format, I want to talk about how you can be effective in subtly nudging your way into being asked to come to classes, rather than feeling like you must claw your way to getting time to talk with students in class.

As many of you are aware, there is ample literature on teaching information literacy one-shot sessions. We won’t be going over that again here. I’m just going to share what has worked for me with the hopes that it may help those of you who also teach one shot sessions or are looking to increase the number of sessions you teach.

Before going further, I should give you fair warning that the majority of these techniques take months if not years to reap benefits, but I think that is okay. You can also make gains in the shorter term, as we’ll discuss, but because so much depends on personal relationships it takes time to really build up a sustainable and long lasting instructional program.

So first, the easy bits. You should, obviously, introduce yourself to your faculty members in your liaison areas. This should occur via email, at faculty gatherings, in the line at lunch, basically anytime you can get a minute of their time. Don’t go into stalker territory, but do be proactive about meeting people and sharing information about the libraries. It is always amazing how many faculty members don’t know about all the great databases my library has to offer for research. I don’t care what anyone says, connecting in person has been the most successful way for me to further the library’s instruction agenda and get into classrooms.

Now for some of the longer term and more involved ways of getting invited to come and speak with classes. I think these are the ways that create a truly sustainable basis for instructional programs and lead into becoming more embedded with classes. Again, I just have to stress that relationships take time to build, as most of us know, and that means that you may not see the rewards of these approaches for a couple of years. I have been at my current position for 2.5 years and am just now really reaping the benefits of taking time to cultivate relationships with many faculty members.

So what are my two pieces of advice?

  1. Get on university level committees or organizational boards if at all possible. Being on committees (even though I’m really not a huge fan of committees) does have the distinct advantage of forcing you to come into contact with faculty and staff members from many different departments. It’s a great way to show off your mad librarian organizational and research skills thus proving to others that librarians are very cool people with a lot to offer. This matters because, as trite as the saying is, actions really do speak louder than words. Prove your value on committees, sneak in some plugs for the library when appropriate, and you’ll be well on your way to being asked to come in and help with information literacy instruction in their classes. Really. It works. And this is one of the few reasons that I think committees are worthwhile, on the whole.
  2. Meet the people who run your faculty development office and offer to lead workshops on technology and library topics. This is one of the best ways I’ve found to help faculty with learning new technologies and meeting those who might want me to come into their classrooms at some later point. I, along with a few of my colleagues, teach many workshops for our faculty development office. It is a lot of fun and we almost always come away with new contacts and ideas for collaborative projects. For example, after a workshop on Google Sites, a professor had me come to work with his graduate students on creating e-portfolios using Google Sites. Students then contacted me for help with the technology and with research questions. And the professor and I are thinking about working on other projects and research studies together. Another faculty member came to one of our talks about online library resources and then had us come and work with her students on their research projects. Does it take work to prepare and teach these workshops? Of course, but it is definitely worth it if you are serious about making connections and getting out there to help in ways that are meaningful to the faculty and students.

I hope sharing my experiences help those of you who are instructional librarians. I’d love to hear about the best methods you’ve found to become more ingrained and essential in the teaching of information literacy, etc. in classes outside of those that may be run through the library department. Remember, connections take time to build, but they’re really the only way to accomplish great work and, you know, keep society going and all.

I hope you have a fabulous rest of your day, dear readers. I should be back tomorrow with some thoughts from the Personal Digital Archiving Conference. Fingers crossed for good wifi and not getting lost on the way to the conference. Take care and thanks, as always, for reading. Allons-y!