Category Archives: The Library Game

On Self-Efficacy

[H]appy people don’t believe that life is good because they’re just lucky. They don’t believe that they’re mere reeds in the winds of fate. Rather, happy people believe that they can influence what happens to them in the future, and they tend to take responsibility for the important events in their lives.

“What Are Happy People Like? the Characteristics of Happiness.” Positive Psychology 101, Philip C. Watkins, Springer Publishing Company, 2015.

“Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”

[…]

“To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves–there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.”

-Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect

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

What Does It Mean to be a Teaching Librarian?

This summer, my department is in the midst of an organizational transition, as we move from a traditional, disciplinary-bound reference department to a “Teaching & Learning” team. I’m excited to undertake this work alongside some really amazing colleagues (and you can bet your buttons that we’ll be writing and presenting on this process in the future), but this context is (for now) only to set the stage for why I’m thinking about the question in the title of this post.

As I’ve been thinking about what a library department of teaching and learning looks like, I’ve been considering what makes someone a teaching librarian (as opposed to a librarian who happens to teach, or a teacher, or some other category of educator). What are the qualities that are unique to this group of professionals, that position us to engage in the work of information literacy instruction?

I started by looking at ACRL’s recently released Roles and Strength of Teaching Librarianswhich is pretty useful for thinking about qualities that teaching librarians need to have in order to be successful in their work. There’s a nifty little graphic in the report that shows the various roles that a teaching librarian may need to embody:

Hats off to the committee who put together this report, as it’s helped me to think through goals for a teaching and learning department, and areas where we might need to grow. I certainly self-identify with most (if not all) of these roles, but it still didn’t really help me get at the librarian part of the teaching librarian equation. Basically, if my professional identity is about being a librarian (hint: it is), then how can I view my role and strengths as an educator more explicitly through that lens?

School librarians in K-12 institutions are often explicitly “teacher-librarian” positions, and the Australian School Library Association has a nice breakdown of how those different identities play together. Librarians in these roles (both in the U.S. and elsewhere) typically are required to have training in both education and librarianship–something that academic librarians generally do not, which explains the emphasis in the ACRL document on developing competencies related to teaching and instructional design.

After sitting with this for a few weeks, I’ve come up with a few thoughts on what the specific strengths of teaching librarians might be, and I’d love to hear your ideas too.

  1. We understand the organization of information and hierarchies of knowledge. Basically, this is the bread-and-potatoes of the library school curriculum, and I’d argue the most important part of having an MLS. All those cataloging and metadata classes? Those ideas are transferable across disciplines, which means that we can usually figure out how information is structured in any given database (with enough time) and help people find the stuff they need with a little librarian magic. Sometimes, even people immersed in a discipline don’t quite understand how or why information is organized in these repositories. Shedding a light on that is what we do.
  2. We understand the pedagogy of research. On a broad level, we understand what goes into the research process across a variety of disciplines. Librarians contributing to a reference service or leading library instruction have seen hundreds of research assignments–some excellent, some not-so-good. After a few years on the job, we can spot assignment pitfalls from a mile away, because we’ve seen how a large number of people approach this process. I’d argue that even if we don’t have formal pedagogical training, most librarians have some sense of what works and what doesn’t in student research assignments. The challenge is to tease out that knowledge and apply it to our work as educational partners.
  3. We’re really good at asking questions about things we know very little about. A.K.A. the reference interview. Most people don’t have this skill, because it’s uncomfortable to admit that you don’t know about something and ask a zillion questions to get to the precise knowledge you need to help someone find what they are looking for. But that’s what we are trained to do as reference librarians, and we can put that skill to work in thinking about consulting on research assignments, which could lead to interesting opportunities involving the collections, or a more scaffolded assignment structure, or something equally exciting. Bonus: This is also a student-centered approach, because students might be nervous or afraid to ask questions about something that’s unclear in a research assignment, but we can use our positionality to ask those “stupid questions.”
  4. We continually bring a beginner’s mind to our work. Again, because that’s the basis for reference. Librarians are trained not to make assumptions, and we can use that same mindset for approaching research assignments, thinking about what students might already know (and what might be confusing), etc.

Of course, we also have idiosyncratic expertise in research tools, disciplinary knowledge, etc. based on our individual unique experiences, and I want to acknowledge those as well.

The more I think about it, the more I think that reference experience (or perhaps a general ethos of reference?) is crucial for the role of teaching librarian. I don’t know that we have to “do” reference, but many of the ideas and approaches that we cultivate in that sphere seem entirely important for teaching work.

What do you think? Are there other things that you would add to this list?

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Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Dani Brecher, The Library Game

Press Release for ‘Learner-Centered Pedagogy’

Our book, Learner-Centered Pedagogy, which has been available for pre-order for a little while, is now going to be officially released by ALA and begin shipping on June 22. And if  you’re going to be at ALA annual, the ALA store will have some copies for sale.

Both Dani and I now both have copies in our hands, and we must say that we’re extremely pleased with the book. ALA took really great care with the cover, layout, and presentation of the book. We’d like to thank everyone involved, and give special thanks to our acquisitions editor at ALA, Patrick Hogan, for supporting the project, and for the high and somewhat unusual degree of autonomy he gave us over the book.

The book is something we worked really hard on, writing it mostly at night and in our free time, and it’s crazy to see something of this scope go from its initial stages to come to fruition in an actual, published book. We both really put our selves into it, and feel proud to have written an evidence based book that puts students first in our instruction and practice of librarianship.

If you’re interested in ordering a copy, you can use the following code to get $5 off our purchase if you acquire the book directly from the ALA Store:

COUPON CODe: LCPP17

I’ve gone ahead and pasted the text of ALA’s Press Release for the book below ( and if you’re so inclined you can see the whole thing here).

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Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game

Monday Quote

Just to be yourself is enough.

-Shunryu Suzuki

Suzuki

 

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

Coupon Code for Rule Number One Readers!

Happy June! We’re really excited that our book is being published this month, and ALA is helping us to celebrate this by offering a coupon code for Rule Number One Readers. If you use code LCPP17 via the ALA Store, you can receive $5 off Learner-Centered Pedagogy: Principles and Practice.

It’s very strange (and exciting) to think that other people will read this book, after we spent such a long and lonely time writing it (together, but still). Stay tuned for more Rule Number One posts coming soon, as we emerge from the book-writing/editing hole and return to blogging!

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Carl Rogers on Creativity

Perhaps the most fundamental condition of creativity is that the source or locus of evaluative judgment is internal. The value of the product is, for the creative person, established not by the praise or criticism of others, but by himself. Have I created something satisfying to me? Does it express a part of me – my feeling or my thought, my pain or my ecstasy? These are the only questions which really matter to the creative person, or to any person who is being creative.

This does not mean that he is oblivious to, or unwilling to be aware of, the judgments of others. It is simply that the basis of evaluation lies within himself, in his own organismic reaction to and appraisal of his product. If to the person it has the “feel” of being “me in action,” of being an actualization of potentialities in himself which heretofore have not existed and are now emerging into existence, then it is satisfying and creative, and no outside evaluation can change that fundamental fact.

Carl Rogers, “Toward a Theory of Creativity,” in On Becoming a Person, p. 354.

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

Is the ‘Reference Desk’ Student-Centered? (Guest Post by Melissa Harden)

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.

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Filed under Education, Guest Posts, Library Instruction, The Library Game

LC vs. Dewey?

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?

 

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

Congrats to Alex Carroll!

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

alex

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.

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

Libraries as Autonomy-Supportive Institutions

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.

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