Managing The Instruction Balance

On Monday ACRLog carried a report on the Bright Ideas session held by the Management of Instruction Services Committee of ACRL’s Instruction Section. The session took place at ALA Midwinter. As promised here is a report on the companion program co-sponsored by the Teaching Methods and Education Committees of ACRL’s Instruction Session. This report comes to us from from Michelle Lee Jacobs of University of California, Merced:

This year’s Instruction Section Discussion Forum took form as the traditional Teaching Methods Brainstorming Session. With approximately 200 librarians in attendance, the turnout was the largest that any of the Teaching Methods Committee members could remember. The large turnout was a major indicator that that “Instruction Balance” is on everyone’s mind. For academic librarians that have multiple responsibilities in addition to instruction, the program sought strategies for balancing instruction with those other duties and managing and coordinating instruction requests. The forum also was an exchange of information about the ways in which instruction programs are structured, and who within the library performs instruction activity.

The conversations at each small group (whether sitting at a table or on the floor) were intense, bringing up several problems to address as well as many great ideas on achieving the proper instruction “feng shui.” The participants impressed the committee by using the time constructively to share solutions. Ideas included:

• using materials created by our colleagues to avoid “re-creating the wheel,” such as the Library Instruction Wiki , PRIMO, and resources from the Information Literacy in the Disciplines Web site;
• implementing a “Training the Trainers” program to reach those courses with a large number of sections taught by TAs;
• determining the best way for instruction requests to come into your library – perhaps a central person who then divvies up the classes;
• piloting “new” instruction ideas – programmatic and individual teaching methods, with a core set of librarians to work out kinks and “gently” change the culture; and
• establishing a “constructive downtime” (whether it’s an information round table or retreat) for your instruction librarians to brainstorm and team build.

A big thanks goes out to those who volunteered to facilitate small group discussions, and apologies for anyone who was turned away due to lack of room. A summary of the all the session’s ideas will be posted to the ACRL Instruction Session Web site in the near future. What is most clear from this particular discussion group is that we need an easy-to-access forum to continue this conversation. For now, please share your ideas or programs on the ILI-L listserv and include links if you have them.

Many thanks to Michelle Leigh Jacobs for providing this report.

Tried “Dunk The Librarian” Yet

In a post last week I mentioned my disappointment in being shut out of the Instruction Session’s discussion about teaching and outreach methods (two back-to-back sessions). No one in this jam-packed room was debating if information literacy was still relevant to the role of academic librarian or if there was still a need for library user education in higher education. These folks were too busy brainstorming and sharing great ideas about reaching out to the user community and helping them to use libraries and librarians more effectively. If you missed the session too, here’s the next best thing – a report about the outreach session from attendees Jean Caspers, who also happens to be Chair of the Management of Instruction Services Committee for 2005-06, and Anna Van Scoyoc, who is Chair of the Teaching Methods Committee for 2005-06:

The Management of Instruction Services Committee of ACRL’s Instruction Section held a Bright Ideas session on Sunday afternoon at ALA Midwinter that drew over 100 librarians to discuss ways to improve outreach. Using the interactive “jigsaw method,” participants got together to become “experts” in outreach efforts to undergraduates, graduate students, non-academic departments, adjunct faculty & teaching assistants, and faculty, as well as in “cool marketing ideas.” Some ideas that came from the discussions ranged from the mild to the wild, including:

• creating a library profile on public community online tools such as MySpace or Facebook because many students may find the library approachable through that venue;
• offering train-the-trainer workshops (as well as research consultations) to graduate students and TAs;
• coordinating programs with student affairs departments (e.g., “Research Consultation” Workshops in the Residence Halls during heavy term paper times);
• initializing contact with adjunct faculty by informing them of the research tools available to them through the library;
• using RSS feeds and blogs to inform faculty of new books, instructional services, library news, etc.;
• designating space on library Web sites to rotate news re: upcoming workshops, programs, etc. happening in the library; and,
• setting up booths at student orientations which feature playful activities such as “Stump the Librarian” or even, “Dunk the Librarian”, and giving students temporary library logo tattoos.

The ideas kept on coming even after participants returned to their “home groups” to report on the “expert group” discussions. Many participants walking away from the Bright Ideas Session expressed great enthusiasm about new ideas they had gleaned to take to their institutions. As with the Teaching Methods’ Brainstorm Session, a summary of all ideas offered will soon be posted to the ACRL Instruction Session Web site.

Many thanks to Jean Caspers and Anna Van Scoyoc for providing this report. I anticipate that we will have an additional report on the Bright Ideas session for teaching methods coming soon.

Baltimore Button Debuts At ALA Midwinter

There were lots of flashing buttons and other gizmos up for grabs at the ALA Midwinter conference, but the one I proudly displayed was the new ACRL button promoting the 2007 national conference in Baltimore. Here’s a photo of the new button shown on my classic ACRL X (still the best freebie conference bag to date) conference bag:

acrlbuttonon bag

Here’s a thumbnail with a closeup of the button – click on the image for a larger view:

acrlbutton

Outside of picking one up at ALA Annual in New Orleans, where I’m sure they’ll have plenty to give away at the ACRL booth, I’m not sure how ACRL members can get a Baltimore conference button. If I hear news about it, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

Top Trends in Public Services

Also at the Heads of Public Services Discussion Group that Steven mentioned was the following listing of “Top Trends in Public Services”:

*Institutional Repositories
*Marketing/Promotion of Services
*Recruitment of Staff
*Scholarly Communications
*Providing Seamless Services from the Desktop
*Staff Training and Development
*Trends and Directions in IT
*University Partnerships Between Librarians and the Faculty
*Services to Alumni/Donors
*Space
*”With Google, I don’t need you anymore”
*”Integrating Library Resources into Course Management Systems”
*Learning Communities in the Libraries

Now, if you read these like I do, you’ll see that several of these are not actually “trends,” but “issues” or “problems” (how is “space” a trend, for example?). So, for what it’s worth, I offer the following as a start at re-envisioning some of these issues as actual trends. I trust others to add to and edit my list (disclaimer: some of these may overlap; this is a moving target and I am writing off the top of my head):

*Collaborating Across Campus – not only with members of the classroom faculty, but with student affairs educators, coaches, student clubs, faculty development experts, and others. Learning occurs in a variety of venues other than the classroom, and we must be creative and entrepreneurial if we are to demonstrate how we can collaborate with colleagues across the learning landscape in an effort to keep library public services at the heart of the university.

*Meeting Users Where They Live – whether the discussion is integration of library services and resources into course management systems, campus portals, social networking sites (e.g., FaceBook), residence halls, student clubs, athletic events, or departmental meetings, the message is the same – to keep the “library brand” at the forefront of user consciousness in an increasingly crowded information environment, we need to be in the places – physical and virtual – that they already frequent. This trend has significant implications for the skill set required of public services librarians and the ways in which central library services need to be configured to interact with IT environments outside the library. Also included in this trend would be the increasing collaboration between libraries and others in the creation of new learning spaces (both inside and outside library buildings).

*Deploying Expertise – as various trends conspire to make information and instructional services increasingly important across campus, while digital delivery of content conspires to reduce gate counts, we will have to be (say it again!) creative and entrepreneurial about developing structures that support the deployment and diffusion of professional expertise from the library across campus. Public services will revolve around providing faculty development programs, train-the-trainers models and materials, and a dedication to outreach to defined communities of users. As information literacy becomes an increasingly important part of lifelong learning, those of us in public institutions will be increasingly called upon to partner with colleagues in the community, including public and school librarians, to form one hub of the information literate community.

*Committing to Continuing Professional Education – not only do we have to integrate lively professional development programs into the library, but we have to build connections between in-house programs and campus programs, which might be housed in Human Resources, the Center for Teaching, Instructional Media, or elsewhere. Moreover, library leaders need to create systems that actually encourage (allow?) librarians and library staff to take advantage of these programs and that recognize and reward individual commitment to professional development.

*Scholarly Communications – It’s Not Just for Collections Folks Anymore – early discussions of the scholarly communication crisis were led by leaders in collection development (serials pricing) and digital initiatives (institutional repositories), but a knowledge of scholarly communications issues and options is increasingly required of all public services librarians. Building instructional and outreach programs that encompass information literacy and scholarly communication expertise is going to be increasingly expected of large libraries, and supporting this diffusion of expertise will be as great a challenge as was the diffusion of expertise regarding the World Wide Web a decade ago.

*Providing Seamless Services at the Desktop – this one was right on, except they forgot to mention mobile technology. Providing services solely to the desktop is “so 2001”!

*Accountability – whether the discussion is assessment of user perceptions (LIBQUAL+) or assessment of student learning (SAILS, ETS), libraries (like our colleagues across campus) are increasingly being asked to demonstrate their value to the core missions of the campus and to demonstrate attentiveness to “consumer concerns.” Not only does this imperative have significant implications for allocation of professional time (i.e., an assessment program does not run itself), but also leads us toward a dynamic view of public services in which some traditional services – if little used – may be de-emphasized, while emergent services may require greater time and effort.

That’s enough for now, and this post is way too long. I’ve gone out of my way not to provide rankings, but you may wish to argue for one or the other (or something new) as part of a Top 5.

Oh, and one more major trend – in my library, our instruction statistics are up almost 100% since 2000. In my last library, the jump was closer to 160% over the same period. That’s a major trend with implications for recruitment, professional and continuing education, expectations and annual review of library staff, allocation of professional time, use of non-MLS professionals and para-professionals, the place of the library as an instructional center on campus, and, literally, perceptions of the professional role of the academic librarian on campus.

Public Service Identity Crisis

Arriving about fifteen minutes after the start of the Instruction Session’s discussion on teaching methods, I found they were already turning folks away. The room was busting at the seams with librarians at roundtables deep into discussions about issues related to teaching and learning and the role of librarians in that process. Hmm. I suppose we need to further debate our instruction role, and whether it’s got a future. But I digress – and I expect we’ll have a report on that session from an attendee – so more on that session later.

Since I was already at this hotel I found another session to join. So I headed off to the Heads of Public Services for Large Research Libraries discussion group. The fact that I’m neither a Head of Public Service or working in a research library didn’t make this session any less interesting. In fact it’s always a surprise to sit in on a discussion where you are an outsider, and hear that the “big issues” in another segment of academic librarianship have much in common with your own. One of the recurring themes was marginalization. Do our users need us, and do our current service structures make sense for them? I also sensed an identity crisis of sorts. Parts of the discussion kept coming back to a critical question for all of us. What does public services mean to the library organization and academic institution, and what does it mean for our users?

Jumping into the discussion I asked if there was an identity crisis in public services. I mentioned some ideas I picked up at the OCLC seminar on “Extreme Makeover for the Library” that was largely about re-branding the library. Perhaps, I suggested, public services needed to remake its brand. After all, does the phrase public services mean anything to a user or an academic administrator. Isn’t public services a thing – a conglomeration of different departments – rather than the educational product it is designed to deliver. It may be helpful to read this brief essay by Clayton Christensen (disruptive technologies) about designing services that target the job that users want to accomplish (successfully completing an assignment) rather than the users themselves (e.g., undergrads). Maybe it shouldn’t be public services. What about “learning support” or “education and research management”. At least one person commented that there was no identity crisis, but I think more than a few thought the idea might be worth further exploration. Could be public services may be in need of a makeover.