Library Instruction shadowing

May 21, 2014: 3:30-8:15pm

While there are many things that I love about my classes at University of Richmond and the various opportunities students are given at the school, the library instruction class, in my eyes, is the most beneficial. The first class I took at UR was English201; the liaison librarian for SPCS (School of Professional and Continuing Studies) gave a library instruction class at the beginning of the semester. I remember thinking how fantastic it was to have a class that teaches students the importance of proper research and goes through the basics of searching library databases. Since I have been at UR I have sat in on several of these classes, each time learning a new thing. I had not, however, been on the other side of the fence, and on Wednesday May 21 I had the opportunity to be on the other side. Olivia and Carrie are two of UR’s liaison librarians: Olivia’s specialties are journalism, anthropology, and sociology to name a few, while Carrie is the liaison librarian for SPCS. These two incredible librarians allowed me to shadow them during their library instruction classes, giving me some insights into how they prepare for these types of classes.

Olivia 3:30-5:15pm: I met Olivia thirty minutes prior to her library instruction class so that we could go over how she prepares for her classes. She was kind enough to print out her bullet pointed list of things she goes over with each class, as well as a brief outline of the specific class she was teaching that day; the class was Diverse Learners, which is a class for prospective teachers in the SPCS school. I asked Olivia – who teaches both non-traditional and traditional students – if she taught non-traditional and traditional students any differently or if she received different feedback from them. Her answer didn’t surprise me; Olivia said that non-traditional students typically seem more proactive with their studies and are more attentive when she teaches the library instruction classes, but she did note that perhaps this was because we have been away from school for several years, while traditional students have not been away from their studies, but oftentimes have the attitude that they know it all. Of course, this is a generalization; not all traditional students think they know it all and not all of us SPCS students are ready to learn. It was interesting to hear this from a teacher because, being an SPCS student, I can tell a difference between the traditional students at my former community college and the non-traditional students that I am surrounded by in my current classes. There is a big difference to me: we support each other and understand the limitations we have regarding school because of different responsibilities in our lives, but I digress.

Olivia began the class by taking everyone on a short tour of the library, pointing out the library lockers that students can rent by the semester, the MRC (Media Resource Center) that houses movies and audiobooks, the TLC (Technology Learning Center) where a student can receive help learning how to create a digital story or print large posters, recreational books – which she joked we probably wouldn’t have time for and she’s right about that – and which floors were silent study, quiet study, and collaborative study, as well as where we could find the offices of the liaison librarians. Once we got back to the classroom, Olivia mainly taught the basics of a few databases. The main one that most people seem to use and Olivia pointed out is EBSCO, otherwise known as Academic Complete, and she went through how to conduct searches – and not in the Google way. Olivia pointed out to the students that searching in databases as you would in Google – a long search phrase – is not going to lead to good results, in fact it often leads to no results. This was the first time that I had actually heard a librarian make that point in a librarian instruction class and it’s definitely a fantastic point to make! She also pointed out that in order to ensure you get the best results you should enter your search criteria in quotes, which was also new to me. She also went over how to acquire an article or book through Interlibrary Loan when UR does not have it, as well as discipline specific databases. The latter was especially important to teach since Diverse Learners is a discipline specific class – teachers – and with discipline specific databases they can easily find the information they need in a concise database. The last thing Olivia showed everyone was EasyBib, which has become my best friend throughout my time at UR. EasyBib is a fantastic tool, on the internet, that creates citations in many different styles. I was especially pleased to hear her tell students that UR subscribes to EasyBib so that students do not have to pay for the premier version, which means we can select citation styles beyond MLA, and not all teachers want the same citation style so this is a really nice feature.

I found my time with Olivia to be quite informing and I appreciated the extra time she spent with me before class to show me how she prepares. I also enjoyed being on the other side of the fence; I was able to take notes on things she mentioned instead of having to focus on following along with practice database searches.

Carrie: 6-8:15pm: As I had done with Olivia, I met Carrie before her class began and went over how she prepares for her class. Carrie also had a notecard printed out with various bullet points that she wanted to talk about and a print out of which SPCS class it was and what their papers were about. Carrie is the SPCS liaison librarian and as far as I know she teaches only SPCS. This particular library instruction class was for MLA (Masters of Liberal Arts) students, which I was particularly happy to sit in on because MLA and undergraduates are two different levels of students. I think of MLA students as having mastered the basics of library databases, but there were a few in her class that night that had not and it was interesting to see how she could so easily maneuver between those who understood more and those who needed to begin with the basics.

Carrie also began the class with a quick tour around the library, pointing out most of the same things as Olivia had. She also pointed out the writing lab, which is a place students can sit down with writing tutors and hash out obstacles in their papers. I appreciated Carrie’s inclusion of the writing lab because it’s my experience that a lot of SPCS students are unaware that they can use the writing lab, tutors, and speech center just as traditional day students can. Once we had completed the tour, Carrie briefly went over the basics of researching databases and then quickly moved to more specifics. She did this by asking each MLA student what their MLA theme was; an MLA theme is what the student wants to focus their MLA degree around and with each class they have to tailor that theme to the specific class subject. This particular class was called Ethics of Empathy, which appears to be a difficult topic to combine with a students theme. There were some hesitations from a few people – one of which had commerce as his theme – but Carrie was right on top of it, offering a working thinking pot of suggestions, such as building new businesses in low-income areas of foreign countries, which can be tied directly with empathy. I think this was what I appreciated most about shadowing Carrie: her ability to think way outside of the box and then step away and allow the students to keep going with her thought process.

Carrie also showed the students EasyBib, but also showed them RefWorks, which was completely new to me, as well as the Journal Titles tab on the library website where a student can type in a particular journal that may be closely linked with their subject matter. She also went over buttons in EBSCO that weeded out languages, countries, and everything but scholarly articles. She pointed out subject headings and hyperlinks of subject headings, which I learned in a library instruction class with her last semester and helped me tremendously! When typed into a database, these subject headings allow for a more specific narrowing of search results and when you are researching a topic that is extremely broad, such as climate change, it is quite helpful.

While I have had Carrie as a library instruction teacher several times in SPCS, I found it just as informative to be sitting on the other side of the fence. I took a lot of notes because even when she wasn’t lecturing the entire class she was moving around from student to student, focusing on their specific theme and offering helpful advice and thought provoking comments.

 

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