We’re thankful for all of the awesome librarians and library practitioners who read this blog. Hope you have a happy and restful Thanksgiving, and may you also find joy in the small delights of our profession (like book turkeys).
Author Archives: Dani Brecher Cook
Well, it’s been a while since I wrote on this blog, and rather than just come back and start posting without addressing that fact, I want to spend my first post back talking it.
Earlier this year, Maria Accardi launched a new blog called Librarian Burnout. The blog provides a space for librarians (beginning with academic librarians, but now encompassing more than that) to build a community and support around this shared experience, and to feel less alone in their individual institutional context. I recently encountered the Librarian Burnout blog, and it really got me thinking about this post, this blog, this job, this year–I’d highly recommend it to anyone who reads Rule Number One.
So, was burnout my problem? Yes and no, but it certainly gave me a framework to think within.
Let me start by saying that creating Rule Number One has been one of the things I’m proudest of so far in my librarianship career. Kevin and I set out to just make a space where we could talk about library instruction and being new librarians in an honest and personal way, and I think we’ve done that. We’ve been blown away by the response, and that feeling of community that’s grown up around Rule Number One–other librarians interested in talking about the same issues in a similarly open way–has been so rewarding to find. Even if it was totally by accident, this blog has opened some doors for the two of us, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything–there’s been so much good, but then there’s also been some less good.
Two things happened a little over a year ago: First, some librarians who I very much respect but hadn’t talked to in a while let me know that they didn’t think what Kevin and I were doing on this blog was a good idea–that it was unprofessional in some way and that we should be careful not to burn bridges (and implied that I had already done so). This scared the crap out of me, frankly, especially since I didn’t (and still don’t) understand how what I’ve written here could be construed in that way. And since I couldn’t figure it out, it made me nervous to write anything, because what if that next post is the career-ender, and I just couldn’t see it? So I would start writing, and then panic, and then nothing would happen. Other, equally respected colleagues and friends told me that it was nothing to worry about, but it was just so hard to believe them–why would someone give that kind of warning unless they knew something I didn’t? It took a long time, but I’ve made my peace with this, which is why I’m telling this story now: That comment may have come from a place of good intentions, but it scared me and it seemed like there was no way to fix whatever it was I’d done. I let that comment shut me up, and I’m sorry I did that–it was antithetical to what we had set out to do here, which was to be real about librarianship and share what we’d learned or are learning and hope maybe it resonated with someone, somewhere.
Here’s what I think now: As a community, I agree that we have a responsibility to say something when we think someone is doing something damaging to themselves or the profession, but I think we have a further responsibility, especially to new practitioners, to tell them how they might change what they are doing and not resort to scare-inducing rhetoric like, “Librarianship is a small world.” I’ve found that librarianship both is and isn’t small, but if it is indeed that much of a village, then isn’t that a reason for us to help build each other up? We’re all we’ve got, and silencing doesn’t help us move forward. So I’m done with that.
Second, also about a year ago, my department got reorganized and I stepped into a position with more responsibility. I was (and am) super jazzed about this development: I have significant agency in helping to determine the direction of instruction in my library (and recently, research services as well), I’m able to work on a variety of cross-departmental teams with sharp co-workers, and my role has shifted to be more externally facing. I love the gig, but like many other librarians’ experience, these new duties are on top of things I was already doing. The learning curve has been steep, and figuring out how to negotiate how to get everything done (and done well) has been a challenge. I come home tired every day and ready to think about anything BUT librarian-ing. A lot of good personal things happened in the past year, and I still did professional things I’m proud of with various colleagues (shout-outs to Char Booth, Natalie Tagge, Alex Chappell, Kate Crocker, and of course Kevin Michael Klipfel), but I do feel creatively drained. Blogging felt like the proverbial camel’s straw both in terms of brain power and some kind of disastrous professional consequence. But I’ve realized that this blog is important to me, because of that community I’ve found through it.
This past weekend, I went to Minnesota to attend my first LITA Forum. It’s a different crowd than I normally see, but I found so many commonalities in experience with the people I talked to. I must have talked to 9 metadata librarians: none of them do the same thing. Everybody feels overwhelmed in some way. Everybody hits that budgetary or bureaucratic wall. And that was a helpful reminder and perspective that, as librarians, there is a commonality of experience, and sharing that makes it a more welcoming profession for all. We’re spread out in libraries around the country and the world, and sometimes it feels like nobody else could possibly be going through the same things…but they are. So thank you, LITA Forum, for helping me to remember that, and to remind me that informal spaces like blogs (like Accardi’s), chats in the hallway at conferences, and Twitter are so critical for community building.
All of which is to say, that I’m ready to write on this blog again–to finish some of those neglected, half-started posts and to engage in a dialogue with other librarians who do similar work or think about similar things and to be supportive of one another. So you keep doing you, and I’ll keep doing me. Hopefully we’ll find something to talk about, here on Rule Number One.
Kevin and I are really excited to share that we’ll be teaching an online class for RUSA for the first time. The class, “Learner-Centered Reference and Instruction: Science, Psychology, and Inclusive Pedagogy,” will be held from April 6-May 17. We’re having a blast putting together the syllabus and learning about Moodle, and hope that you’ll join us! The description is after the jump, and you can read more about the course at the RUSA site. Please let us know if you have any questions! Continue reading
Your Rule Number One writers are off to conferences galore this week, and we hope you’ll look us up! Conference details follow–if you’d like to meet up and chat about instruction, libraries, or…whatever, send us a line!
@ ACRL from Wednesday, March 25 – Saturday, March 28
I’ll presenting twice on Friday:
11:00-11:20, google glasses for the masses with Char Booth in Portland Ballroom 255
1:30-2:30, High/Low/No Tech: A Snapshot of Instructional Techniques from Four Academic Libraries with Kyle Denlinger, Jennifer Garrett, and Sabrina Wong in C123-124
I’ll also be attending the Newcomers Orientation (psyched for my first ACRL!) and the all-conference reception on Friday night, as well as many TBD sessions (so much good stuff to choose from). Hope to see you around!
@8th Annual Conference for Humanistic Psychology from Thursday, March 26 – Sunday, March 29
Presenting on Sunday from 8-9, Authentic Engagement: A Humanistic-Existential Approach to Learner-Centered Pedagogy in Room 515
Mad props to my co-blogger for presenting outside of the usual library circuit! I think this will be a really interesting presentations for those who might be able to attend.
On Twitter the other day, a tweet from @TheAtlanticEducation caught my eye: All students don’t learn the same. For readers of this blog, it will come as no surprise that this was clickbait for me—learning styles are our bête noire, so any article that potentially engages with that conversation is a must-read.
In fact, the article wasn’t about learning styles at all. But still interesting and very relevant to any educator: The article, “How Black Students Tend to Learn Science”, summarizes a recent study, “Getting Under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work?” (open access) from biologists Kelly Hogan (UNC) and Sarah L. Eddy (Univ. of Washington) regarding how different pedagogies can affect students of diverse backgrounds differently. Hogan & Eddy’s study found that STEM courses structured around active learning produced improved outcomes for all students, regardless of their background, but produced a larger improvement in minority students. In fact, active learning pedagogies almost eliminated the gap in outcomes across demographic groups.
One excellent aspect of this study: Previous work has not been robust enough to draw conclusions about the transferability of methods across classrooms, instructors, and disciplines. The experimental design of Hogan & Eddy’s study indicates that active learning methodologies and a more structured course environment do, in fact, work across university contexts.
The preponderance of evidence, from this recent study and others (example), indicates that traditional lecture style classes no longer work, if they ever did. The literature on active learning raises the question: In an increasingly diverse educational landscape, is it even ethical to still teach mainly through lecture? If outcomes are so drastically improved across the board, are you even doing your job if you primarily lecture?
Though the Hogan & Eddy study looks at STEM classrooms, the broader literature indicates that active learning methods achieve similar results, regardless of the discipline. So what does that mean for librarians?
As we’ve discussed both on this blog and in presentations before, lecture-style “how to use a database” demonstrations need to go away…forever. Even if that’s the way we learned, that doesn’t a) mean it’s actually the most effective way to teach and b) take into account the varied backgrounds that students bring to the classroom. Active learning in the library classroom can take many forms, from asking students get their hands dirty in the databases and accomplish tasks to engaging in critical discussions about the creation of information. Yes, in almost every case, we don’t have time in a one-shot to get through everything we want to show students about library research, but if lecture-style teaching doesn’t result in solid, long-term outcomes, then wouldn’t it better be better to focus deeply on one or two critical IL skills that students can carry forward with them?
Active learning is, at its core, student-centered. No matter the good intentions behind it, lecture-style teaching is by nature much more about the lecturer. For educators with student-centered philosophies of teaching, it should come as no surprise that active learning pedagogies are critical to the future of education system with more equitable (and improved) learning outcomes.
Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.
-Amy Poehler, Yes Please
Some news from your SoCal contributor to this blog: I got married last weekend to my library school sweetheart, so I’ve changed my name to Dani Brecher Cook—you’ll see this reflected on this blog, social media (@danibcook), and at upcoming conferences. The name change process is long and tedious, but I’m excited to embark on this new adventure with a shiny new name!
Here’s some pictorial evidence from the event, featuring your two blog contributors and two other fabulous librarians: