The Value Of Keeping Up With Disciplines

Here is a guest post from Neal Baker, Information Technology and Reference Librarian at Earlham College. Neal used our tip sheet to suggest that ACRLog needs to consider sharing more information about developments within specific disciplines. We thank Neal for contributing a post that shares his thoughts on this issue:

If librarians are educators, it’s vital to know the debates that affect educators. ACRLog is an excellent venue for coverage of some topics, but it could improve its treatment of academic disciplines. Here’s an example:

A report from a panel of top foreign language professors advocating revolutionary changes in their disciplines was previewed to attendees at the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention last week. Sponsored by the MLA, the pending report urges language departments to abandon their emphasis on literature in favor of history, politics, and economics. The resultant controversy will shape debate over the next few years, but sadly, most of us remain unaware.

Knowledge of the MLA report will help me to keep librarianship central to the Earlham College curriculum, and relevant liaison librarians everywhere can likewise benefit. I can first ask questions raised by the report with faculty, thereby demonstrating an awareness of disciplinary concerns. Second, the report gives me another opportunity to suggest resources that allow faculty to address the report’s concerns. For example, instead of assigning students to research Heian poetry criticism, Japanese professors could use Skype and a speakerphone to discuss politics with Tokyo contacts. French professors could assign students to listen to Europe 1 podcasts as background for class discussion. With the MLA report as a context, such “exotic” resources acquire more relevance.

To remain central to the curriculum, we need to prioritize our knowledge of debates within the curriculum. Do you have suggestions for how ACRLog might do more to bring those debates to our attention?

One thought on “The Value Of Keeping Up With Disciplines”

  1. Thanks for the positive post Neal. Keeping up within our own subject disciplines is essential and your suggestions about using newer technologies are right on target.

    Keeping up: I am a big fan of using RSS feeds from discipline-specific sites to keep current, but some things are bound to slip through. Perhaps the continued use of “guest-postings” like this, from librarians in various disciplines, will help keep all of us abreast of the emerging debates across disciplines.

    Following up on “exotic” suggestions: once fellow faculty understand the relevance of tools like Skype and podcasting, it also helps to offer resources that can guide faculty through using these tools. One suggestion, follow up the MLA-discussion with an offer of a quick-start guide or offer a departmental faculty workshop where you demonstrate both the pedagogy and the technology. (e.g.: as part of the workshop, arrange to Skype a colleague who is currently using podcasts in their teaching)

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