When I first arrived on campus, set to begin my career as a librarian, I was grateful to find that my college arranged a faculty mentor for me. Ten months later, I feel that the relationship has helped me with small adjustments. It was especially refreshing because my mentor is from the English Department and not the library. A couple of times a month we would get together for lunch and discuss not only what was going on in the library but around campus as well. It was an opportunity to gain feedback and opinions of the library from the faculty’s perspective. I have a mentor within the library as well, which made questions within our department easy to answer. The double-mentor approach was unique and I appreciated the conversations and assistance of both mentors. It has essentially permitted me to tackle some problems from two different angles, therefore allowing me to choose the best response. For other new librarians, if you do not have a mentor inside and outside of your library, I would recommend it. Not only do you develop relationships across the faculty, but you also gain insight into people’s needs and perceptions of the library.
When instructors would ask me to come to their classes to provide instructional sessions I used to jokingly recommend that they should keep that a secret from the students. After all, I would tell them, knowing the librarian was coming to give a presentation might encourage the students to consider it a good day to skip class. Well, according to an interesting article in today’s Inside Higher Ed it might not make a difference whether it’s the librarian or the instructor making the presentation. Apparently today’s students are skipping class in droves.
No one seems to know why this is. Too busy schedules? Power point slides that give notes to students? New technologies for remote access to information? Classrooms that can’t compete with mass entertainment? The ability to Google anything students need to know (yeah, a commenter mentioned that)? Faculty are frustrated that a variety of strategies to get students into the classroom for lectures are failing to bring in the crowds. Some faculty have decided that it’s no longer worth the bother to devise methods to encourage attendance. If students want to spend their time doing other things, that’s their business. Their suggestion to other faculty, don’t take it personally when students skip class.
So if you have been taking it personally that only about half the students show up when you visit a class for an instruction session, stop being so hard on yourself. Apparently, its not you, its them. On the other hand, some might suggest, as one commenter does, that if lectures are boring students have every right to skip them. If you are doing everything in your power to avoid being a boring classroom presenter, or at least one that can create some long-term learning is short-term sessions, see this article for some tips on how to create a memorable lecture.