The Librarian as Q: Defining Our Role in the Classroom

Last year, I had the most unlikely of revelations. After I stopped thinking about the creepiness of Javier Bardem in Skyfall (the part where he pulls his teeth out—yikes), I realized that, oh yes, there is a terrific analogy to library instruction in every. single. James. Bond. movie. We’re Q, and it’s time to embrace it.

All the Qs, minus Ben Whishaw.

In the universe of college teaching, especially when we’re coming at it from a student-centered perspective, the student is James Bond. They’re on a critical mission in every one of their classes: write an amazing research paper, master disciplinary content and methods, get an A.

That makes the faculty member M. She defines the parameters of the mission, informs our favorite super spy of the stakes, and James is ultimately responsible to her.

Our role as librarians, then, is as Q, the eccentric inventor who always shows up at just the right time with just the right tools that make Bond’s mission a success. Even though he only shows up for a fraction of the movie, no Bond movie is complete without a visit from Q (I mean, Q is what made Skyfall the best movie of the Daniel Craig franchise).

What does this mean for us in practice? As instruction librarians, we need to own the important role that we play in the college classroom. The information literacy concepts (and the important relationships they have with critical thinking) are crucial to student success, and that is where we provide expertise. When we meet with faculty members about working with their courses, this is what we have to get across: That we bring something important and unique to the conversation about student success.

To extend this metaphor even further, librarians, like Q, show up at the most opportune moment. Or, at least, we should. The skills that we teach are most effective when they are tied to an assignment, giving students the motivation and opportunity to apply what they’ve learned. We can position ourselves as an ally to students; we have no stake in grading, and our sessions (either in class or one-on-one) are aimed at improving their final product. If we show up right when they need resources for their paper, then basically we’re magic.

I actually think we’re really lucky to be in this position—it’s one of strength, once we successfully convey the value of our work to our institutions, liaison departments, etc. Which, of course, is often a challenge, but the potential payoff is huge. So it’s pretty excellent to be Q, even though sometimes it can be frustrating not to be Judi Dench in a power suit.

And, well, Q has the coolest toys. Who doesn’t want a bagpipe flamethrower?

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4 Comments

Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Dani Brecher

4 responses to “The Librarian as Q: Defining Our Role in the Classroom

  1. Jess Bellemer

    This is really fantastic, Dani. I think this analogy allows not only instruction librarians to better understand their role in the education process, but it could also be used to explain that role to faculty and students. When I came into my current position, I discovered that there had never been really active library instruction at this institution. There was always someone to show students how to access a database or find a book but there hadn’t been any true information literacy engagement. Classroom instruction seems to be less common in theological schools, and it’s a shame because many of the students in seminaries are second career and have been out of school for a long time. Adult students in a theological setting can really benefit from what an instruction librarian can provide so I was eager to start making that instruction available. Before I could institute a library instruction program, I had to spend a lot of time explaining to various administrators and faculty members what library instruction really means and how it would benefit both students and faculty. It can be difficult to explain to people who have had little experience with it. The Librarian as Q is a great way to describe it to students and faculty in an accessible and fun way. Plus, what student doesn’t want to hear about themselves as James Bond (without the violence and womanizing)? Thank you for your thoughts. I’ve really been enjoying this blog and I look forward to future content.

    • Dani

      Hi Jess,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to hear that you think this analogy could be useful IRL; as you pointed out, I think one of the benefits of the Librarian as Q is that it puts everyone involved in a positive light.

      Thanks again for reading, and I hope that your new job is going well (it sounds like it is)!

      Dani

  2. Pingback: Teaching Philosophies, Revisited | Rule Number One: A Library Blog

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