Category Archives: The Library Game

The Information Behavior of Librarians: A Super-Scientific Study

Based on about four years of periodically checking this blog’s traffic, here’s my super scientific impression of the percent of people who click on various kinds of links when I link to something on this blog.

Pictures of me or Dani: 99.9%

Any anecdotal thing I’ve said about threshold concepts that I thought about for less than three seconds: 92.4%

Ryan Gosling memes: 72.3%

Links to personal websites of guest bloggers: 68%

Links to persons, places, or things I just insulted: 49.6%

Papers we’ve authored: 19.1 %

Articles I think are extremely important for people in our profession to read: <1%

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Filed under Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game

Opposing Viewpoints

I don’t generally comment on what other people in the profession are writing or blogging about (ironically,  I suppose, I don’t read any library blogs), but on my esteemed co-blogger’s twitter I came across and enjoyed this post by Lane Wilkinson on “Dealing with Both Sides in Your Library.” I liked it not just because I tend to agree with its general sentiments :re folks with morally repugnant and intellectually indefensible positions, but also because I haven’t seen a ton of discussion (though I haven’t really looked) about how dumb it is to think that “pro” vs. “con” or “for” and “against” is at all an interesting or nuanced way to think about research, debate, or anything else that is not a sporting event.

This has come up in a variety of professional contexts for me (e.g., at one job I had I was against showing freshmen the “Opposing Viewpoints” database because, well, there’s just evidence for or against a particular claim, not “opposing viewpoints, which aversion was met by horror for some other librarians) and it’s nice to see someone explaining why it’s not all that great.

More controversially, perhaps: I really like the tone (at least in this post) Lane writes with, and am glad to have people who conduct themselves that way publicly in the profession.

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game, Uncategorized

First Review of “Learner-Centered Pedagogy”!

Our publisher just sent over a link to the first review of Learner-Centered Pedagogy and it’s … a good one!

An excerpt:

Fusing theory with practice, this handbook is exceptionally organized and presented, making it a valuable and very highly recommended resource to help every practitioner connect with learners more effectively. Enhanced with the inclusion of a eight page bibliography (Directions for Further Reading) and an eleven page Index, “Learner-Centered Pedagogy: Principles and Practice” is an unreservedly recommended addition to college and university Library Science collections and community library staff in-service training supplemental studies reading lists.

Here’s where you can read the whole review in full, Mom.

(*Small correction to the review, if anyone cares: I’m not, as the review suggests, currently a lecturer in moral and existential philosophy at Virginia Tech – that was a past life. I’m the Instructional Design and Assessment Librarian at the University of Southern California Libraries).

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John Stuart Mill on Individuality and Conformity

In our times, from the highest class of society down to the lowest, every one lives as under the eye of a hostile and dreaded censorship. Not only in what concerns others, but in what concerns only themselves, the individual or the family do not ask themselves—what do I prefer? or, what would suit my character and disposition? or, what would allow the best and highest in me to have fair play, and enable it to grow and thrive? They ask themselves, what is suitable to my position? what is usually done by persons of my station and pecuniary circumstances? or (worse still) what is usually done by persons of a station and circumstances superior to mine? I do not mean that they choose what is customary, in preference to what suits their own inclination. It does not occur to them to have any inclination, except for what is customary. Thus the mind itself is bowed to the yoke: even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of; they like in crowds; they exercise choice only among things commonly done: peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, are shunned equally with crimes: until by dint of not following their own nature, they have no nature to follow: their human capacities are withered and starved: they become incapable of any strong wishes or native pleasures, and are generally without either opinions or feelings of home growth, or properly their own. Now is this, or is it not, the desirable condition of human nature?

-John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter Three, “Of Individuality, as One of the Components of Well-Being,” 1859

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Filed under Education, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Quotes, The Library Game

Vulnerability in the Classroom

It is an intriguing comment on our educational system that it is assumed that only under the most dire circumstances would a professor reveal himself in any personal way […]

I have almost invariably found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal, and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others.

-Carl Rogers, from “This is Me,” in On Becoming a Person. (pp. 3 and 26, respectively).

This chapter is a great read – full PDF available free online.

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Quotes, The Library Game, Uncategorized

Congrats, Kevin!

Major congratulations are in order for my friend and co-blogger, Kevin Michael Klipfel, who is starting a new gig this week at USC as the Instructional Design and Assessment Librarian! A little over a year ago, Kevin and his wife moved to Los Angeles to live out their SoCal dreams, and now Kevin will be joining one of the great SoCal university libraries, and I couldn’t be more happy for him. Can’t wait to see what you do in this new position, K!

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Filed under Posts by Dani Brecher, The Library Game

The Professional Imperative for Learner-Centered Teaching

This piece is cross-posted on the Facet Publishing blog, our UK publisher for Learner-Centred Pedagogy: Principles and Practice. Many thanks to Sinead Murphy for asking us to write this piece and publish it on our blog as well.

If only you’d remember before ever you sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world Buddy Glass would most want to read if he had his heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself. I won’t even underline that. It’s too important to be underlined.  – Seymour: An Introduction, J.D. Salinger

Four years ago last month, we walked across the stage in the Great Hall of the Carolina Union at UNC-Chapel HIll, freshly minted librarians, both about to move to California to start our first professional jobs, ready to lay some information literacy knowledge down on our future undergraduates. Those two years in library school were incredibly formative for us, as we tried to absorb everything we could about teaching, reference librarianship, and the profession as a whole. We became friends working together at UNC’s Undergraduate Library reference desk, chatting about how we could get students engaged in our instruction sessions and make sure they actually, like, you know, learned things.

The more we talked and read and taught, the more it felt like there was something missing from the information literacy literature we were reading: A focus on the individual learner, as a unique person with individual experiences, interests, and needs. While there are certainly exceptions to this statement, so much of what we read was about specific strategies for teaching specific content, while what we felt we needed was a step before that: What are the underlying principles that can make people invested in learning and able to learn, whether at the reference desk, in a one-on-one consultation, or an instruction classroom? Our experience as readers largely echoed that of librarian David Maxfield, who wrote in an article in College & Research Libraries in 1954 (!) that claimed that “conventional reference work does not always place so much emphasis upon the library patron as an individual person as it does upon library materials and bibliographic techniques.”

A year after graduation, we attended a LOEX conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Terry Doyle began his keynote presentation with the assertion that, as educators, it is our professional responsibility to understand how students learn and then apply this understanding to our work. This idea of focusing on the learner, and not the content, is known as “learner-centredness.” Doyle’s position that being learner-centred was not optional, but instead a kind of professional obligation, struck us as exactly right (see “Education Training for Librarians”). And we wanted to read something that was framed this way for librarians, focused on the individual learner, so badly that we…wrote a book like that.

Our central question in writing a book on learner-centred pedagogy for librarians was: How can we teach information literacy to real learners – embodied existential beings with passions, loves, hates, and sources of life meaning that extend beyond understanding Boolean operators – so that they are engaged with information literacy outcomes in an authentic way? How can we make information literacy really matter to learners?

We turned to literature in education, counseling, psychology, and (yes) library science where others grappled with similar questions, and ultimately concluded that the core aspect of learner-centredness is a practice of empathy: the question what is it like to be a person learning something? is central to our learner-centered approach. That also led us to redefine information literacy in a learner-centred way as involving learners using information to think well about questions that matter to them.

So, practically, how do we go about this? In our book, we point to five main aspects:

  • Engaging people’s curiosity, interests, and personal experiences in an autonomy supportive rather than controlling learning environment
  • Applying ideas about how people learn from evidence-based literature in learning science
  • Developing meaningful relationships with our users (even in the briefest of interactions!)
  • Providing learning experiences that help to develop a growth mindset about the research process
  • Using technology wisely as a potentially useful tool to help learners use information think well about things that matter to them

…with empathy as the overarching framework that connects them all. This central idea, that who we are as people matters as both learners and educators, is both based in the current scientific literature, but also has a timeless quality that we believe will make it relevant for library practitioners for years to come.

Indeed, we believe that this view of learner-centeredness is not a trend, but a way of approaching librarianship that can change over time, as our scientific and psychological understanding of what it means to be a person learning something evolves. While the specific answers to the central question of this book may not always be the same, as long as librarians continue to monitor and engage with the current literature on motivation and the science of learning and follow where the evidence takes us, the basic framework that we present here will continue to apply. As we strive toward a fully learner-centered practice of librarianship, we would consider a practical success to be expressing these interests and views to others, both within and without the library. Building community around this approach is a powerful way to transform our work and to practice an existential form of librarianship: we are learner-centered educators because we decide that is what we are. As you go forward and adapt these ideas for your own contexts, we hope that you will share your ideas and continue to enrich and expand the profession’s understanding that who we are as people matters for how we teach, how we learn, and how we engage with information and each other.

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Filed under Education, Posts by Dani Brecher, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game