The Making of an Instructional Design Librarian

I’m now in my sixth month and second semester as a tenure-track Instructional Design Librarian, which is a new position at my library. In December I completed my second master’s in Educational Technology (specializing in instructional design) so now I can call myself an instructional designer with confidence. I’m a new academic librarian AND a new instructional designer, and my job is to wear both of those hats, often at the same time.*

I spent a lot of fall semester figuring out exactly how an Instructional Design Librarian should fit in at my institution. Figuring out my role(s) and mastering the intricacies of the tenure-track handbook has been an enormous, time-consuming challenge. (Spoiler: I’m far from having it all figured out).

Instructional Design Librarians, Please Stand Up

As far as I can tell, there aren’t a whole lot of people like me – at least, title and primary responsibility-wise. There are oodles of instruction librarians, lots of emerging technology librarians, many online/distance education librarians – and multitudes of librarians that have taken on instructional design/educational technology as an additional duty or interest. I discovered this last group in the wonderful Blended Librarian Online Learning Community, which offers fantastic webinars. A term coined by Steven J. Bell, the “Blended Librarian”

first combines the traditional aspects of librarianship with the technology skills of an information technologist, someone skilled with software and hardware. Many librarians already demonstrate sound technology skills of this type. To this mix, the Blended Librarian adds the instructional or educational technologist’s skills for curriculum design, and the application of technology for student-centered learning (2003).

My position and skills certainly fall under this definition. I think that a large percentage of academic librarians have at least some of these skills. Sometimes I say I have the librarian job of the future (at least for academia) and I think that more and more librarian jobs will require these skills going forward.

Taking Stock

When I started this job, I realized my new library desperately needed new and innovative ways to reach more students. Only 23** librarians (including me) serve 38,000 students and 2,000 faculty. Our YouTube page hadn’t been updated with fresh content in years, and there were no communal, reusable learning objects*** to speak of. After settling in last fall (truly settling in will take years in this position), I started my work by doing lots of brainstorming. It was clear from the start my time is limited. Since I am wearing “two hats,” I have to carefully manage my time to fully attend to my librarian duties (liaison subjects, instruction, reference hours, tenure-track work) while striving to make enough time for instructional design. I talked about keeping a work diary in my last post, but I use the same online notebook to sketch out loads of ideas. Holy cow, do I have a lot of ideas: badges, learning object repository, an information literacy curriculum customized for our campus, interactive tutorials, design workshops for librarians, instructional videos, assessment plans… I’ve also been instructed to work on improving my library’s existing online resources, namely, LibGuides.

Last semester, I strove to meet everyone that works in our very large library building and to meet the instructional designers on campus. Our campus has an Academic Technology Center (ATC, which falls under IT), the Faculty Development Center (FDC), a resource called Online Academic Strategies and Instructional Support (OASIS), as well as the University Extended Education (UEE) department. Each of these has one or more instructional designers, and confusingly these centers tend to overlap in their offerings. I spent a lot of time tracking down needed software – Camtasia for the videos, Adobe Captivate for interactive tutorials. My office computer died once and had to be replaced. I had to figure out which librarians I had to talk to about getting YouTube access and my own corner of the website for tutorials (still working on my own corner of the site, but I want to have a mini-repository of learning objects like that from University of Arizona libraries).

Jumping In

In my ACRLog posts so far, overwhelm is a prominent theme for me. So I started small. My library is currently suffering through a stacks closure due to an earthquake last spring, so I created a brief video on how to page materials. By consulting with librarians, I came up with a shortlist of other basic videos and developed two more on searching for library materials. I also took a course on Universal Design for Learning, while concurrently taking a course on writing a journal article in twelve weeks, both through our Faculty Development Center. Per my assignment sheet, and my personal interest, I’ve also been working hard collaborating with another librarian to revamp our assessment model (using the draft ACRL IL framework) for the information literacy component of our campus’ First Year Experience (FYE) program.

Partly due to the stacks closure, and partly due to coming re-organization and major renovation, I moved to a new office the day before winter break. I’m now consolidated in the same hallway as all of the other instructional designers on campus – from ATC, FDC, OASIS, and UEE (holy alphabet soup!). I’ve already learned a lot from them and am excited about the possibilities for collaboration and promoting the library and its resources. Under a grant last week, we were all able to attend two days of training on Quality Matters and our university system’s version, Quality Online Learning and Teaching. I was inspired to think about ways to develop and offer rubrics to allow librarians to self-evaluate learning objects.

Now on to Spring Semester

I continue to work hard on the assessment redesign for our piece of the FYE program (my colleague and I are presenting a poster at SCIL Works, and we submitted a poster proposal for ACRL, look for us if we get accepted! [Edit: Accepted for virtual con]). We’re also working on a grant proposal for release time to assess the pilot once it’s completed. I’m meeting with librarians to talk about developing videos/tutorials for their subject areas. I’m working on developing resources to help students and faculty use library resources like eBooks and streaming video. I’m working with members of our library’s Open Access Team to create presentations on utilizing open educational resources. I want to work with librarians to improve their instruction and their instructional materials, and I’m planning to employ social justice themes in information literacy instruction. I’m also following the critical librarianship community, as I’m from a blue-collar background and sometimes feel out of place in academia.

I get asked a lot what I do as an Instructional Design Librarian. I am certain that my answer will change as I embark on new projects and as I explore new possibilities, but I have come up with a short-ish answer. My new elevator-length job description/mission statement is that I endeavor to design and develop reusable learning objects that can be embedded into online learning environments, and to inculcate effective instructional use of educational technology among campus faculty.

Yep, that’s a mouthful.

Bell, S. J. (2003). A Passion for Academic Librarianship: Find It, Keep It, Sustain It–A Reflective Inquiryportal: Libraries and the Academy3(4), 633-642.

*I want a button that says “ASK ME about cognitive load!” Because IMHO many, if not most, librarians excel at inflicting cognitive overload in their instructional materials.
**Give or take a few positions in flux.
***At my in-person interview for this position, I was required to teach my audience how to create a reusable learning object (in 20 minutes or less, yikes!). I taught them to make an educational slideshow using myBrainShark and assessed their learning with Poll Everywhere.

Author: Lindsay O'Neill

I'm a shiny new Instructional Design Librarian at California State University, Fullerton. I'm a bike commuter, triathlete and compulsive reader trying to figure out this whole tenure-track librarian thing. Tweet me: I'm @lindsayontherun.

16 thoughts on “The Making of an Instructional Design Librarian”

  1. Congratulations on finishing your second Masters, Lindsay! That is definitely a *lot* for your first year, not to mention your first semester.

  2. Felicia, definitely! I still need to scour the ACRL schedule, but perhaps we can do an informal instructional design librarin meet-up while we’re there. Hopefully we’ll also run into each other at SoCal events.

  3. Sounds a lot like my position at Cal State San Bernardino. Just started August 2014 as well — hope to run into you soon!

  4. Can I like this comment 1,000x over? “*I want a button that says “ASK ME about cognitive load!” Because IMHO many, if not most, librarians excel at inflicting cognitive overload in their instructional materials.”

    This is something I’ve talked about, especially in regard to LibGuide design. I think it’s in our nature as librarians to want to be helpful. There’s also a tendency (and desire?) to provide information for each eventuality (i.e., do this if xyz happens, but do that if abc happens). It all comes down to “need to know.”

    I created a presentation about LibGuide design which I shared with other librarians at my college:

    I definitely need to tweak it, as my “design” has continued to evolve (hopefully for the better). Instructional design is such an important skill and sadly not enough librarians demonstrate expertise in the topic.

    Anyways, best of luck with your position! It sounds very exciting, albeit a lot of work. 🙂 Maybe I’ll see you at ALA this summer.

  5. Lindsay, how much coding and web development do you do? I am learning web development and wonder how much this comes into play in your work. I am a medical library manager who focuses on “blended librarianship” pretty heavily. And, I agree that this is the future of our profession.

  6. Hi Chris, the answer is next-to-none. I know XHTML and CSS, and I have my own personal website on which I installed and customized WordPress. At work, I use HTML knowledge to work out embed codes and to customize LibGuide widgets, but that’s about it. A few years ago I thought it would be helpful to my career to learn to code, but I think there are so many pre-built options that just knowing where to cut-and-paste is all you need.

  7. I just started a Masters program at Purdue (online) towards Instructional Design. I work part time in a City library with 7 branches, and I am surprised at the lack of knowledge that many of them have about what I am pursuing, and what I intend to potentially do with it within the library organization. Our city library only defines ‘Librarian’ as someone that has an MLS, while the bulk of the libraries daily tasks fall on ‘Library Service Associates’ who routinely do most of the tasks, including some patron outreach program planning, that one would normally associate with a librarian. Each branch has 1 or 2 librarians on staff, but the duties performed overlap considerably despite the difference in salary between the two positions. It is a bit convoluted to me and I wonder if you have seen anything like this where you are. There seems to be an artificial line that determines who can be called a librarian in my organization, despite the day to day activities actually performed by many of the line staff that mirror what the librarians do. Is this common in other libraries that you may have observed?

  8. I work in a library setting but instead of getting an MLIS (I already took two classes) I want to purse instructional design instead. I wanted to kind of make my MLIS path as close to instructional design skills as possible but I worry that I won’t learn all the skills I need. I go to SJSU online.

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