Over the last ten to twenty years, academic libraries have experimented with different reference services models (tiered service model, roving reference, etc.) and desk configurations (unified service point, separate desks, no desk at all). The goal has been to improve user experience while also using the librarian’s time more efficiently. But even when new ideas for services or physical spaces are implemented, some libraries still refer to these services and desks by an old name: “reference.”
We often talk about student-centered learning in our instruction, and we aim to design user-centered physical and virtual spaces. Which leads me to a key question: Is calling the reference service point a “reference desk” taking a user-centered approach? We have long been reminded that we should avoid using jargon when communicating with patrons, including on signage. I would argue that the term “reference” slips into jargon territory.
But what other word or phrase best communicates what we offer? Reference work has changed over the years, and we’re now spending very little time on basic questions and more time on helping users grapple with big ideas and concepts related to finding, using, and creating information. However, some users may not know that we can help them navigate the more complex stuff. The term “reference” doesn’t seem to communicate it very well, either.
Question for academic librarians: As a reference and instruction librarian, do you prefer the LC or Dewey classification systems? I mean this specifically from the student perspective: do you find that one or the other is easier for students to understand?
For most of my time working in libraries, I worked in libraries that used LC, but I’m now working for the first time in an academic library that uses Dewey. And my entirely unscientific, anecdotal sense is that students find Dewey easier to understand. It just seems to me to make more sense to them (I wonder if the explanation for this is that the fact that most letters don’t correspond to the actual letters of the subjects in LC (e.g., P isn’t Philosophy is kind of weird to students and Dewey doesn’t have to overcome that).
Thoughts based on your experience?
Huge congratulations to my friend and fellow UNC SILS library school alum Alex Carroll for his award from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the MLA
for Professional Excellence by a New Health Sciences Librarian. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving librarian or a better dude. Next Pappy on me when I see you brother.
Students of the game, we passed the classes. Nobody could read you dudes like we do.
The librarian doesn’t tell me what to read, doesn’t tell me what sequence of reading I have to follow, doesn’t grade my reading. The librarian trusts me to have a worthwhile purpose of my own. I appreciate that and trust the library in return.
Some other significant differences between libraries and schools: the librarian lets me ask my own questions and helps me when I want help, not when she decides I need it. If I feel like reading all day long, that’s okay with the librarian, who doesn’t compel me to stop at intervals by ringing a bell in my ear. The library keeps its nose out of my home. It doesn’t send letters to my family, nor does it issue orders on how I should use my reading time at home.
The library doesn’t play favorites; it’s a democratic place as seems proper in a democracy. If the books I want are available, I get them, even if that decision deprives someone more gifted and talented than I am. The library never humiliates me by posting ranked lists of good readers. It presumes good reading is its own reward and doesn’t need to be held up as an object lesson to bad readers….
The library never makes predictions about my future based on my past reading habits. It tolerates eccentric reading because it realizes free men and women are often very eccentric.
Congrats to my esteemed co-blogger, Dani Brecher Cook, on her recent acceptance of a position as the Director of Teaching and Learning at the University of California, Riverside’s library. It’s extremely well-deserved, as is this really nice write-up on Dani that I encourage you to read!
My awesome colleague George Thompson passed this along to me. I think it summarizes nicely what, to me, is probably the most fundamental thing to keep in mind as a librarian, educator, or human being more generally: that genuine connection with other human beings is at the core of everything we do.
Happy to announce that an article Dani and I wrote that was published by Reference and User Services Quarterly last year – “How Do Our Students Learn: an Outline of a Cognitive Psychological Model for Information Literacy Instruction” – was recently named a “Top Twenty” Article of 2015 by LIRT – ALA’s Library Instruction Roundtable. So I thought this might be a good time to toot our own horn again, and promote the piece for those who may not have had a chance to check it out. I’ve heard now from several people that the article helped them engage in discussions with their colleagues about implementing empirically informed, learner-centered teaching in their own libraries, which is really awesome.
Here’s the abstract:
Effective pedagogy requires understanding how students learn and tailoring our instruction accordingly. One key element of student-centered pedagogy involves understanding the cognitive psychological processes according to which students learn, and to structure our teaching with these processes in mind. This paper fills in a gap in the current literature, by applying empirically grounded lessons drawn from the cognitive science of learning, and discussing specific applications of these lessons for information literacy instruction. The paper outlines a framework for information literacy instruction, grounded in the educational and cognitive psychology literature, for facilitating student retention and transfer of information literacy skills, two classic measures of student learning. Five specific principles and several strategies for promoting retention and transfer within information literacy instruction are outlined.
And you can check out the whole thing via RUSQ. If you’re having trouble locating the article, drop me a line (kevin dot michael dot klipfel at gmail dot com) and I’ll help you out.