Written by Lauren Hays, Instructional and Research Librarian at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, KS. firstname.lastname@example.org @Lib_Lauren
This post is in a sense declaring a hoped-for/planned career emphasis. Let me introduce myself. I am a librarian, academic, and SoTL enthusiast. SoTL entered my professional career rather suddenly and unexpectedly. Perhaps other academics start their careers with a narrowly defined scope. I did not. I just knew I loved higher education. It was in my blood and bones. Conceivably this was because I grew up living in married student housing while my dad pursued his Ph.D., which is where I remember seeing The Chronicle of Higher Education arrive weekly in the mail. My love for higher education, though, is also likely due to my innate curiosity about the world and everything in it.
When deciding on a career, I decided to become a librarian because, well, why not? I loved learning, books, students, and the buzz of academic life. Those things are in the library, right? After completing a masters of library science, I started work as an instructional and research librarian. Working as a librarian is an excellent fit for me. I enjoy research, students, faculty, and yes, the administrative work that comes along with working in a library. My undergraduate degree, though, was in education, and at times I found myself missing the teaching and learning discourse in which I heard teaching faculty engage.
Early in my career I sought a professional network. Margy MacMillan from Mount Royal University, who I had met through my library network, spoke passionately about SoTL. From her descriptions, I knew I had to dig deeper. Furthering my knowledge of SoTL confirmed that this was an area of academia where I wanted to focus my career. Therefore, I decided to continue my education and pursue a Ph.D. To be accepted into the doctoral program where I eventually enrolled I had to have a solid idea for my topic of study. Therefore, I spent a lot of time reading about SoTL and academic librarians. In my reading, I read about SoTL’s impact on faculties’ identities, and wondered if SoTL would have a similar impact on academic librarians’ identities. This curiosity led to my current study on academic instruction librarians’ involvement in SoTL. As I learned in a review of the literature, academic librarians do not always see themselves as teachers (Austin & Bhandol, 2013; Houtman, 2010). Yet, teaching is an important part of many librarians’ jobs (Westbrock & Fabian, 2010; Wheeler & McKinney, 2015). I also learned that librarians experience similar paths to becoming teachers as teaching faculty (Walter, 2005). I anticipate defending my dissertation proposal this summer and starting to collect data after June.
My doctoral work has been all-consuming, but it has afforded me the opportunity to read a lot of journal articles. As I dig deeper into the SoTL literature, I see the teaching and learning I want to discuss. I see how my work as a librarian and the study of teaching and learning are complimentary. Academic librarians support the full curriculum and teach information literacy. Instruction librarians spend a lot of time thinking about teaching methods and the best ways to help students become literate in information. Practical examples of this include the numerous presentations on teaching and learning at conferences such as LOEX and the Association of College and Research Libraries. Additionally, the Association of College and Research Libraries published a Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education built on threshold concepts. Prior to the Framework many librarians were unfamiliar with threshold concepts, and that led to debate about the Framework. The debate surrounding the Framework underpinned my interest in engaging with the broader teaching commons—it is too easy to silo ourselves.
The work I see other librarians doing and the need for information literacy skills makes me eager, and impatient, for the time after dissertation writing when I can spend even more time with my work as a librarian, a SoTL researcher, and maybe someday an administrator with responsibilities bringing together SoTL and librarianship.
Specifically, I dream of future projects that center around:
- Information literacy
- Librarian-faculty teaching partnerships
- Student-librarian partnerships
- Teaching and learning in the Library and Information Science classroom
- SoTL in faculty development
- Signature pedagogies for information literacy
- Co-curricular teaching and learning
- Educational technology
- And hopefully other projects that will benefit students
It is also a goal to connect the academic library community with the SoTL community. I have colleagues who have done tremendous work in this area, and I hope to work alongside them. Declaring a career trajectory is a little scary, but good too. SoTL is a wide and varied field. There is much I can imagine doing. So, to all who paved the way and made SoTL what it is, thank you. To all of you doing the good work of teaching and learning today, thank you. And to all who will come after, I hope I can help create a path that will make librarianship, teaching, learning, and SoTL even better.
*For more information on librarians and SoTL, and to view the call for proposals for the forthcoming book The Grounded Instruction Librarian: Participating in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (working title) published by the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2018, please visit http://bit.ly/librarianSoTL.
*Special thanks to Cara Bradley, Jackie Belanger, Rhonda Huisman, Margy MacMillan, and Melissa Mallon for being such great colleagues.
Austin, T., & Bhandol, J. (2013). The academic librarian: Buying into, playing out, and resisting the teacher role in higher education. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 19(1), 15–35. http://doi.org/10.1080/13614533.2012.740438
Houtman, E. (2010). “Trying to figure it out”: Academic librarians talk about learning to teach. Library and Information Research, 34(107), 18–40. Retrieved from http://www.lirgjournal.org.uk/lir/ojs/index.php/lir/article/view/246
Walter, S. (2005). Improving instruction: What librarians can learn from the study of college teaching. In P. Genoni & G. Walton (Eds.), Currents and Convergence: Navigating the Rivers of Change: Proceedings of the Twelfth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, April 7-10, 2005, Minneapolis, Minnesota (pp. 363-379). Chicago, IL: Association of College & Research Libraries.
Westbrock, T., & Fabian, S. (2010). Proficiencies for instruction librarians: Is there still a disconnect between professional education and professional responsibilities ? College & Research Libraries, 71(6), 569–590.
Wheeler, E., & Mckinney, P. (2015). Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching roles. Journal of Information Literacy, 9(2), 111–128. http://doi.org/10.11645/9.2.1985