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Book Review Project
Academic Librarianship by Design: A Blended Guide to the Tools and Techniques
Steven J. Bell and John D. Shank, 2007
American Library Association
1. Describe the overall theme or topic of the book.
This book is about integrating the library into the teaching and learning process in
higher education and enhancing collaboration with faculty through the application of
design thinking. The book is arranged in three sections. In the first section (Chapters 1-
4), the authors provide an introduction to design thinking and how it can be applied to
the field of academic librarianship. The second section (Chapters 5-7) provides practical
applications for integrating design thinking into academic librarianship. Specifics include
strategies for integrating the library into the university's learning management system, a
model for effective faculty-librarian instructional partnerships, using Low Threshold
Applications to collaborate with faculty, and using digital learning materials to integrate
the library into the teaching and learning process. Chapter 8 includes information on
participating in the online blended librarian community and Chapter 9 (the final chapter)
discusses demographic, social, and technology trends that are impacting libraries. The
authors close with strategies for meeting these trends using design thinking.
2. Summarize the major points of each of the chapters. (List all the chapters and
summarize with 2 to 3 sentences per chapter)
Chapter 1: Where it All Begins: Blended Librarianship
This chapter lays out the concept of blended librarianship and ends with examples of
blended librarians. In a nutshell a blended librarian is a librarian who applies
instructional design thinking to improving library services and resources in an effort to
facilitate the academic success of faculty and students.
Chapter 2: The Blended Librarian in Action: Applying Design Thinking to Academic
How to go about integrating instructional design and technology skills into librarian
work is the focus of this chapter. Librarians need to be able to put themselves in the
place of the students and faculty they serve. They need to be willing to work through a
series of gradual changes in developing new services or resources. And, a commitment
to assessing how well the service or resource is meeting the needs of the user is vital.
The chapter closes with a couple excellent case studies highlighting the successful use of
design thinking in two libraries.
Chapter 3: ADDIE: Putting the Design in Academic Librarianship by Design
This chapter introduces the theory and practice of instructional design with a focus on
the ADDIE model (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation).
This process employed by instructional designers is very time intensive. They then
introduce BLAAM (Blended Librarians Adapted ADDIE Model) that condenses ADDIE for
librarians needs. The steps involved are assess user needs, establish clear measurable
objectives, draft a plan, deliver the instructional product, and measure objectives.
Chapter 4: What’s in it for Them? Furthering Campus Collaboration through Design
The authors review the importance of WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) philosophy in
developing collaborative relationships with busy faculty members. Faculty historically
have not seen a central role for librarians in the teaching/learning process. Techniques
to open more collaboration are reviewed, they include promoting new instructional
technologies that help faculty save time and do things more efficiently, connecting
faculty with the resources they need, and demonstrating how to integrate technology
into classroom learning management systems. The chapter closes with four case studies
illustrating successful faculty-librarian collaborations.
Chapter 5: Applying Blended Librarianship to Information Literacy through Course
The focus of this chapter is on how librarians can integrate themselves into a
university’s CMS using the A_FLIP (Administrative, Faculty, and Librarians Instructional
Partnership) model. This integration is crucial as courseware is increasingly becoming
the standard tool for connecting students and faculty to course documents and
information. Historically librarians have been excluded from the CMS. The A_FLIP
model seeks to “flip” this dynamic through two approaches: system level and course
level integration. The system level approach involves librarians working with CMS
administrators to create a standard, broad-based library presence in the CMS (e.g.
adding a library button or tab to the CMS). The course level involves librarians working
with faculty to directly integrate library resources into a particular course (e.g. adding
course specific pathfinders and resources). The authors review the positives and
negatives of each approach and conclude with a case study on successful course-level
Chapter 6: Low Threshold Applications: Helping Faculty Focus on New Technology
The authors make the case for using LTAs (low threshold applications) as tools to
connect faculty to library technology. LTA refers to technology or technology
applications that can be mastered quickly and easily enabling faculty to painlessly
integrate new instructional technologies into the teaching and learning process.
Essentially it is a simply designed and formatted tutorial. The development of LTAs for
library-related technologies is a fairly new endeavor, an example would be the creation
of a guide showing faculty how to use RSS to stay abreast of current news. The chapter
closes with how to create LTAs for library resources.
Chapter 7: Digital Learning Materials: Enhancing the Instructional Role of Librarians
The authors begin this chapter by touching on the debate surrounding digital learning
materials and providing a definition, simply stated they define a DLM as “any interactive
web-based digital resource that is used for instruction” (p. 119). DLMs can enhance the
learning process through active learning, giving prompt feedback, increasing the time a
student spends on the task, and respecting diverse ways of learning. Librarians can play
a critical role both in the creation, discovery, and use of DLMs that will benefit the
teaching and learning environment at their institution.
Chapter 8: The Blended Librarians Online Learning Community: Learning and Practicing
Academic Librarianship by Design
This chapter discusses the blended learning online community started by the authors.
There are two components to it. The LearningTimes Library Online Community, an
online community that allows members to interact both in a synchronous and
asynchronous environment, and the Blended Librarians Web Portal, a more traditional
web presence. The LearningTimes venue allows members to share images and bios;
participate in live webcasts; view archived webcasts; do instant messaging and text chat;
and meet in a virtual room. The Blended Librarians Web Portal includes basic
information about blended librarianship, FAQs, announcements, information on joining
the Online Community, and various links to different tools and resources.
Chapter 9: Evolving through Design Thinking: New Roles for Academic Librarians
The final chapter looks at three significant trends effecting libraries and how blended
librarians can respond to them. They refer to the first trend as the “simplicity-
complexity conundrum” - students are familiar with simple Internet search systems and
are often overwhelmed by the complexity of using library resources and hence tend to
avoid them. The second related trend they call “the age of the user experience” – this
refers to the fact that users measure the value of online resources by how simple they
are to use. Their expectations are often set by simple search systems like Google and
Yahoo. The third trend they call “the age of peer production” – this trend looks at the
world of Web 2.0 where content is created by web site users not web site owners. The
second half of the chapter shows how blended librarians can respond to these trends by
applying the principles in the book.
3. What new insights or perspectives did you gain from the book?
Viewing library science as library design, getting away from the notion that design refers
to buildings and infrastructure and instead focusing on designing experiences that
enhance a users’ learning experience.
Looking at faculty collaboration from the angle of “What is in it for them?” I have
always thought that faculty would naturally want to collaborate with librarians because
we all have the same goal in mind: information literate students who are able to do
good research. The book gave me the new insight that faculty don’t view librarians as
major partners in this process. Most are simply too busy and pulled in too many
directions to give serious thought to faculty-librarian collaboration. The book taught me
that the way to go about building that relationship is by looking at ways that librarians
can help faculty make the most efficient use of their time through the use of LTAs,
instructional tools and technology.
Integrating library resources and services into the university’s CMS is of vital
importance. I was always aware that this is something we should be doing but the book
convinced me that it should be a top priority. This is where students and faculty are
connecting and this is where the library needs to be as well.
Developing LTAs (low threshold applications) for promoting the use of library electronic
resources as instructional technologies makes perfect sense. The idea is that faculty
view electronic library resources in the same light that they view an instructional video,
PowerPoint presentation, or webcast of a subject expert as tools that they can use to
help students achieve desired learning outcomes. Librarians would develop LTAs with
this purpose in mind highlighting the ease and convenience of using library resources to
find credible sources versus the web. Despite a modest learning curve faculty would
reap the incredible benefits of using library electronic resources including many hours
saved of instruction and research time, completed student projects that use credible
resources (not just web sites), and increased faculty and student productivity.
Participating in the blended library online community will be empowering. It will be
good to connect with other librarians of like-mind for support, sharing, and ideas. The
free webcasts will be a benefit to me to compliment what I am learning in the MSIT
The book brought me to the clear realization that our profession needs to embrace
change and be change leaders in order to remain viable to the 21 st century student. The
authors point out some dire research e.g. 70% of faculty and 98% of students go to an
Internet search engine first when beginning their research, studies have shown that
students find library resources too confusing and complex, and faculty do not view
librarians as partners in the educational process…Talk about a wake up call! I think this
book really did it for me. Of course I have been aware of these trends – that’s one of
the main reasons I am in the MSIT program but this book laid it all out in a very concise
direct way. What I loved about the book is that it’s full of hope – they point out that the
core values of librarianship are as valid today as they were one hundred years ago – we
just need to change our focus, focusing on creating library experiences that show
students and faculty how indispensible the library is to their teaching and learning
process at the university.
To think of myself as a blended librarian instead of simply a librarian because what I do
every day, as the authors point out, is a blend of library work, technology, and
4. What are 5 of your favorite quotes from the book? Why were they so significant
“A design thinker will blend skills from a mix of disciplines.” (p. 23)
My Thoughts: I can really relate to this quote. It resonates with the profession of
librarianship. Librarianship by its very nature draws from a mix of disciplines. We are
called on to be computer technicians, public servants, programmers, researchers,
scholars, lecturers, etc. That’s why I feel librarians are naturally good design people.
"Recall that design thinking is a thoughtful questioning process that is used to give
shape to services and instructional products. For example, before creating an
information literacy tutorial, how often do librarians determine if their user community
learns well through online instruction products...Is the process of developing a tutorial
informed by what works best to solve the students' learning gap, or is the tutorial simply
a technology solution to the librarian's own lack of time or ability to integrate
instruction into the classroom learning process?" (p. 42)
My Thoughts: Wow, right on! I have been so guilty of doing this i.e. just coming up with
a lesson because it meets my needs and the professor’s needs, not necessarily the
students’ need. I think the problem rests in time and lack of background in instructional
design. In fact, Bell and Shank point out a few paragraphs later that “true instructional
design process is time consuming.” I have become aware from reading this book that
the bulk of work for any successful learning project is the “behind the scenes” planning
and design work not the actual building of the learning experience.
“As blended librarians we…advocate that academic librarians should themselves be
acquiring instructional design and technology skills.” (p. 70)
My Thoughts: I second that motion! The philosophy laid out in this book is the reason I
enrolled in Bloomsburg University’s MSIT program. I am very aware that librarians need
to embrace instructional technology, design, and information technology skills if we
want to remain viable and relevant to the 21st century college student. The focus of the
library has changed from being a collector, organizer, and warehouse of information to
providing students with the tools, experiences, and skills they need to be able to
navigate our high-tech information-based society.
“…academic librarians must shift away from their traditional perception of electronic
library resources as search and retrieval systems and instead recognize and promote
them to faculty as educational and instructional technologies.”
My Thoughts: Wow, what a challenging shift that will be! I have always viewed library
databases in the traditional sense as search and retrieve tools. This shift needs to
happen. Truly library resources are instructional tools. There is a definite learning curve
involved for students (and faculty) to get the best matches for their research. Library
databases are educational tools; they are the backbone of the research process.
“As a profession, rather than arguing how things got to be too complex or
overwhelming, academic librarians must contemplate how we can use design thinking
to establish a manageable balance between simplicity and complexity.” (p. 152)
My Thoughts: This is a debate we are constantly having at various meetings at the
library were I work. We have a group of traditionalists who follow the philosophy that
students should have to learn the complexities of doing library research step by step,
that we should not “dumb down” the research process. The other camp (which I am
part of) advocates the philosophy of “give them what they want.” Students are familiar
with using simple search tools like Google and we should make every effort at the
library to simplify access to library resources or they will go elsewhere. It was very
enlightening to me to see that Bell and Shank espouse a middle road advocating that
librarians need to develop tools and experiences that connect students with library
resources that best meet their needs whether they are complex or simple to use.
5. How can you use or apply the information presented in the book?
This book presents a lot of useful information that I can put to use immediately in the
work that I currently do (I am an academic librarian at a midsized public institution).
Shifting my thinking of the library, its resources, and services towards design
thinking i.e. how can I create library experiences that will meet the educational
needs and outcomes of our students and faculty
Using the ADDIE model to develop more effective learning experiences for
student and faculty users of the library
Following the advice the authors give for developing collaborative relationships
with faculty focusing using the “What is in it for them” approach
Developing relationships with campus instructional technologists and the
department of information technology
Developing LTAs highlighting the ease and convenience of using library electronic
resources to facilitate the successful completion of desired learning outcomes in
Working with the University’s LMS Coordinator, the Dean of Library Services and
my fellow faculty librarians to implement the system-wide approach to
integrating the library into the University’s new course management system,
Working with a faculty in one of my liaison departments to pilot the course-wide
approach to integrating library resources in a specific course in Desire2Learn
Responding to the trends the authors outline in the final chapter with design
6. How well is the material presented and how can it be improved?
Overall the content is very well presented. Each chapter opened with a relevant quote
and was followed by learning objectives for the chapter. Sections were clearly offset
with bold text, and appropriate graphics, charts, and diagrams were incorporated in the
text. They made their points clearly and backed up their assertions with research where
appropriate. The chapters closed with a summary, topics for discussion, and a useful list
of additional resources. The authors incorporated a lot of practical examples and
provided case studies that illustrated how their concepts and ideas have been applied in
Suggestions for improvement:
More informal writing style – the authors employ a dry, academic style. Clark
and Mayer point out the importance of a conversational style in our textbook. I
think this could have been more effectively employed in the text
More visuals – although the authors do employ visuals throughout the text I
think more could have been included
Larger text and more white space – the text is small and compact I often used a
folded piece of paper or my finger to keep track of where I was reading
More case examples – although they include some several chapters did not have
any case examples
More web resources – most of the resources were traditional article and book
7. What information did you find the most useful? Why?
The most useful information I found in the book was the absolute necessity for
academic librarians to shift the focus of our profession from managing library services
and resources to being active participants in the learning and teaching process. This can
be accomplished through blended librarianship – the concept of blending traditional
library work with information technology, instructional technology, and design thinking
with the purpose of designing meaning library experiences for students and faculty that
support their educational goals. As the 2002 report from the Association of College and
Research Libraries succinctly puts it, librarians "must demonstrate to the campus
community that the library remains central to the academic effort.” The authors
respond by saying "what better way to do that than by collaborating with faculty to
...integrate library technologies and resources into the teaching and learning process?"
(p. 100). I am in complete agreement!
8. What information did you find the least useful? Why?
I did not find the chapter on digital learning materials (DLMs) particularly useful. The
authors used a lot of the chapter explaining what they are and the benefits of using
them. Much of the discussion I felt was self-evident. It also included a long discussion
on strategies for searching for DLMs and included a number of recommended sites for
DLMs. The authors are addressing librarians in the book who have excellent searching
and retrieval skills. I think a better use of this chapter would have been a discussion on
the different kinds of DLMs, how to use them, and how to create them.
The Blended Librarian Portal - http://blendedlibrarian.org/