At the Canadian Health Libraries Association conference in Winnipeg this year, there was a fair amount of talk about getting librarians (particularly academic librarians) out of the library and embedded into classes. I’m all rah-rah and yeah, that’s right along with everyone else, until I think about my own classes…into which I don’t invite the librarian.
As background here, I have a librarian-researchy type job, which is my primary professional identity, and then at another institution I have a faculty-teacher type job teaching undergraduates. At the institution where I’m a research librarian, they are very kindly tolerant and accommodating of my teaching fetish. At the institution where I’m teaching faculty, I’m really not perceived by many people as a librarian at all. I am very part-time at that school, and I mostly just come in and teach my classes without getting too involved with the other stuff at the school. I am shamefully unfamiliar with the library there, in part because I have access to a much bigger collection at my other institution, and in part because I’m just busy and the need for increased use of and familiarity with that library hasn’t made a compelling case to me.
I feel like such a fraud.
I’ve been thinking about talking to a librarian there about designing a “library assignment” for the intro class I teach, but I haven’t done so yet. Why? Hm. Well, I guess I just haven’t had enough time.
I’ve also considered inviting a librarian into my class to give some sort of talk, but, well, I am ashamed to say I don’t actually know my liaison librarian yet, and furthermore, when I look at my jam-packed syllabus it’s hard to think of an hour I can cut out. The students I have mostly do a pretty good job of finding scholarly sources — obviously I’d like it to be better, but frankly there are other issues I think need more focus for most of them.
Also – and it’s hard for me to believe I’m even admitting this – I don’t want to bother the librarians. There, I spat it out. I know it’s a lot of work to run a library, there aren’t that many staff there, I’m sure they are really busy, and I figure I can do most of the stuff myself rather than bothering a librarian by asking them for a favour.
Yeah, I actually just said all that. I’m kind of appalled myself.
I should say here that the library at this institution is a very good library. The building itself is great. The collection seems quite good for the size and scope of the institution. Everything I have ever heard about the librarians is positive. What I’m saying here has little or nothing to do with the specific library or library staff at the school.
What it does have to do with is the challenges academic librarians are really facing in reaching out and becoming embedded. Maybe, just maybe, when I revise my Intro class in a year or so, I’ll get around to adding that library project. But I’m a librarian. If anyone is going to see the value of a library assignment, it’ll probably be me, right?
And still I’m saying these tired old things we bemoan in faculty attitudes:
- I’m too busy
- The class doesn’t have enough time
- There are higher priorities
- I can do a good enough job on my own
- I don’t want to bother you
It’s not that I’d have any problem with inviting a librarian into my classes. It’s just that it seems like more work for uncertain payoff. And if I’m left to seek it out on my own, it may never happen.
I’ll have you know that I’m having serious “Bad librarian: no biscuit for you” feelings over this.
Obviously, I’m hardly representative of all faculty at all postsecondary institutions in all places. And I do like to think that I put an emphasis on information literacy and research skills that is rarely seen in classes taught by non-librarians. However, if this is how I feel, when I really look at myself critically, I am quite concerned about what faculty who haven’t been through library school think about the value of bringing a librarian into their classes.
If we can’t even convince me, and I’m one of us, how the heck are we going to convince other faculty members of the value of working with librarians?