Monthly Archives: April 2010

Latest Ithaka Study On Faculty – A Small Step Forward

Today we learned from both Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle that the Ithaka Group released their Faculty Study 2009. I’m not going to write about the latest report in any great detail. You should read what these other sources had to say about it, and take a look at all the comments (I left one at the IHE article which had the more provocative title). If you want to know what I have to say about the report, you can take a look at the ACRLog post I wrote about the same report released last year that featured data from 2006. In that post I wrote:

But why are we only considering the role of the academic library as gateway, archive and buyer? I would argue this report needs to add a new dimension for faculty to consider – the academic library’s role as learning center and instruction partner.

A comment came from none other than Roger Schonfeld, who authors these Faculty Survey reports. In response to my post he wrote:

I’ve made a note of your suggestion that we add a question about the learning partner role should we pursue a 2009 faculty survey. Through other research areas and our affiliated organization NITLE, we have an ongoing interest in the support of teaching and learning, and these surveys could do a better job of addressing these interests.

That’s certainly not a promise, but I was encouraged by the comment. So how did Schonfeld and his Ithaka colleagues do in adding some questions for faculty about the library’s instructional role? I have yet to give the report an in depth reading, but I was pleased to see one chart (figure 9 on page 13) that asked faculty to rate the role of the importance of the library for “teaching support”. They write:

Almost three-quarters of humanities faculty indicated teaching support is a very important role of the library, while a notably lower share of social scientists and scientists saw teaching support as very important. Is this role really most strongly valued by humanists and if so why? Alternatively, is there some reason that perceptions vary so significantly? As numerous libraries have invested in building information commons over the past decade, are there alterative or additional teaching roles that would be valued by social scientists and scientists?

As far as I can tell – and correct me if you find otherwise as you read the report – there is nothing else beyond this in the report about the teaching role of the librarians. But when you compare it to the 2006 report, this is a nice step forward. I can only hope that Schonfeld and colleagues will work on developing a more robust section on the teaching and learning role so that we can also learn how faculty respond to our efforts, along with those sections on materials and scholarly publishing.

So how do we respond to the news in the latest Report that in some ways the library and librarians have a diminishing role for faculty across the disciplines? I’ve been sharing my ideas since the last Report on things we can do to put less emphasis on the “gateway, archive and buyer” roles on which these Reports focus. I think we academic librarians would agree that while those roles are all essential to how we support our communities, they are the passive ways in which we do so, and there is so much more we do – in an active way that is ignored by these types of reports – which are unfortunately the ones that get the attention of academic administrators. To get a sense of what I’ve been writing in response take a look at this and this – and heck – share them with an administrator so they know that we academic librarians are thinking about these issues and have lots of ideas for how we can be much more – when it comes to faculty – than just gatekeepers, archivists and buyers. Chime in on what you think we can do – and what you are already doing – to make faculty aware of how we can contribute to student learning and their research success.

Two last items:

1) What’s with IHE and the Chronicle. I thought it rather odd that neither article about the Ithaka Faculty Survey featured comments from an academic librarian. Excepting the IHE article offering a comment from Mary Ellen Davis of ACRL, you would think we have nothing to say about the report. Now maybe both reporters did interview academic librarians and the quotes didn’t make the editor’s cut, but I suspect there is diminishing interest in what we have to say.

2) This blog is one of the only ones I came across that mentions the Ithaka Report, but perhaps others will chime in on it.

Zen and the Art of Information Literacy

Last month marks two years that I’ve been at my job as an Information Literacy Librarian, and I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on how much has changed. There are certainly more students on campus (as at many colleges and universities), which means more bodies in the library, more classes to teach, more questions at the reference desk. My work on several committees has introduced me to colleagues across the college and helped me settle in. I’m much more experienced now as a librarian and an educator, and my teaching reflects that, even as I keep working to improve each semester.

I think the biggest change is that over the past two years I have become much more zen about doing information literacy. In my first semester at my job I read as much as I could get my hands on about library and information literacy instruction: theories, methods, case studies, you name it. I concentrated on articles and books from the past decade or so, but I also read a few older sources like Breivik and Gee’s Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library (1989). I spent lots of time thinking about the best way to do information literacy at my place of work. Given the particular constraints of my library and college, how can we best reach all students? Which are the best strategies and plans for delivering IL: one-shots, many-shots, intensive collaboration with faculty in other departments, train the trainers, course-integrated, credit-bearing courses?

I still plan and strategize (hey, it’s part of my job), but what’s changed for me is that I’ve come to accept the multiplicity of options for information literacy instruction. Just like in so many situations, there isn’t one best way to do it. Methods for integrating IL into the curriculum will necessarily vary by discipline, course, and even student. On the one hand this can seem somewhat chaotic. I know that information literacy is a critical component of a college education, and the need for IL instruction can feel urgent. How can we use several different approaches at once? Won’t we lose focus? And what about the students? Wouldn’t they all benefit from the exact same kind of information literacy instruction?

But it’s important to be realistic. Students, faculty, and courses are different, and what works at one institution might not be feasible at another. Much in the higher ed, library, and information landscape has changed and will continue to change. With so many moving targets, our information literacy plans must be flexible and we must be willing to shift our strategies. Two years ago this seemed like uncertainty to me, but today it feels like a necessary part of my job, and one that I really enjoy. And isn’t one of the great things about being a librarian that it’s never boring?