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Teaching Librarians or librarians who teach? Exploring aspects of teacher identity among academic librarians. McGuinness


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Presented at LILAC 2010

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Teaching Librarians or librarians who teach? Exploring aspects of teacher identity among academic librarians. McGuinness

  1. 1. Claire McGuinness LILAC 2010 School of Information & Library Studies, UCD
  2. 2.  Research question  Context – Professional Identity, changing times  Focus on the teaching role  Why should we be concerned with librarians’ conceptions and experiences of teaching?  How can teacher identity be explored?  Previous studies on teacher identity in librarians  Present study  Teacher identity themes in my studies  Frameworks for fostering teacher identity
  3. 3.  What is the librarian’s actual, lived experience of teaching?  Not the “prescribed” teacher identity (skills, competences, knowledge) that is articulated in the literature, but the reality of day-to-day instruction  “Simple mastery of basic instructional competencies, however, will not help librarians to develop the sort of teacher identity that research in teacher education suggests is important to their ongoing professional development” (Walter, 2008, p.60)
  4. 4.  Librarianship experiencing an “identity crisis”?  “A lack of professional self-understanding and self-definition has contributed to an inability to communicate to the academic community what it is we do, and what we stand for” (Doskatch, 2003, p.113-4).  What threats do librarians face, and what opportunities are open to them?
  5. 5.  “The empowerment of the end-user has brought into question the age-old concepts of libraries and librarianship, traditional structures and skills are no longer adequate for the future we face [...] We live in a post- modern environment in which the traditional concept of an academic library is increasingly becoming something of an anachronism” (Biddiscombe, 2002, p.228-9)
  6. 6.  Pervasiveness of digital resources  Operational convergence and growth of the hybrid library  Shift away from traditional focus on the physical collection  Shift in service orientation from just-in-case to just-in- time to just-for-you  New information sectors and users  Move towards collaborative learning and research  Distance and flexible learners  Increased demand for teaching by librarians (Fourie, 2004)
  7. 7.  Can librarians lay claim to a teacher identity?  An “Organization fiction” (Wilson, 1979)  “The fiction is that librarians are teachers. It is an organization fiction disguising the truth, and it has contributed to the difficulty librarians have had in explaining their work and developing an understandable and believable professional identity” (p.149)
  8. 8.  Wilson (1979)  Not recognised as teachers by academics– unequal educational achievement, no requirement to publish, different socialisation process to the profession. Laying claim to the role, in order to enhance status  Eadie (1990), Gorman (1991), Pacey (1995)  Libraries are too complex; focus should be on making them easier to use, and instruction would not be needed  Wilder (2005)  Internet “threat” has been exaggerated by librarians, who wish to create a new role for themselves – “Simply put, information literacy perceives a problem that does not exist”
  9. 9. Saia, 1995 – some librarians oppose the teaching role:  They are overworked  Most are not trained as educators  Some believe ILI to be ineffective  Some want minimal contact with the public  Not everyone wants to teach  For some, ILI is a threatening situation.
  10. 10.  Librarians understand the importance of IL  Librarians understand how students seek information, and what difficulties they experience in the process  Librarians have a long history of teaching (19th Century)  Librarians are information experts  Other stakeholders (e.g. Academics) are not in a position to teach IL  Librarians who teach can develop a better relationship with students/users, with all-round benefits  Librarians’ involvement with teaching can lead to greater insight into academic life, and better collegial relationships  Librarians’ status in institution enhanced
  11. 11. “Lack of a consistent teacher identity among academic librarians may hinder their effectiveness in meeting these expanding instructional responsibilities in a changing organisational environment” (Walter, 2008, p.65)  Motivation - Confidence, sense of purpose  Identify professional training needs  Communicate role to outsiders, opportunities to collaborate  Identify areas requiring improvement, and take action  Contributes to overall professional identity of librarians, stronger sense of the profession and the discipline (LIS)  Ambivalence about role can affect performance negatively
  12. 12. Conceptual Map – how is teacher identity constituted and understood?  Expert-defined standards and guidelines (e.g. ACRL)  Curriculum content in professional education  Professional “apprenticeship” – learning on the job through observation & modelling  Interaction with colleagues - socialisation  LIS literature – analysing the discourse  Empirical research – studies about librarians’ experiences of teaching
  13. 13. ACRL Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators (2008)  Administrative skills  Assessment and evaluation skills  Communication skills  Curriculum knowledge  Information literacy integration skills  Instructional design skills  Leadership skills  Planning skills  Presentation skills  Promotion skills  Subject expertise  Teaching skills
  14. 14.  “Teacher identity” among librarians is a relatively unexplored phenomenon – accounts have been primarily anecdotal  Two recent empirical studies:  Walter, 2008 – semi-structured interviews with 6 librarians  Julien & Pecoskie, 2009 – semi-structured interviews with 48 librarians
  15. 15. Walter’s findings (2008) – five key themes:  Centrality of Teaching  Importance of Collegial and Administrative Support  Stress of Multiple Demands  Problems with Professional Education  Stereotypes and misperceptions
  16. 16. Julien & Pecoskie(2009) “the faculty/librarian relationship is so critical that sometimes instructional “success” was defined... as successful faculty negotiation and relations, rather than in terms of students’ learning”  “Gift of time” – faculty giving librarians teaching time in the classroom  Deference to faculty (revealed through participants’ language in describing collaborations)  Incidences of disrespect
  17. 17. Uses data from two previous empirical studies:  1) Qualitative study of academic-librarian collaboration for information literacy instruction (2005) – 9 in-depth interviews with subject librarians (Sociology & Civil Engineering)  2) Quantitative survey of Information Skills Training practices in Ireland (2007) – survey of librarians in all public institutions of higher education, 77 responses out of 154.
  18. 18.  Qualitative, thematic analysis  Identifying and coding emerging themes, transcript- by-transcript  Comparing themes across transcripts  Collating data according to themes  Examining quantitative survey findings for corroboration of themes
  19. 19.  Are you involved directly with the academic teaching programmes?  [If yes] what is the nature of your involvement?  To what extent, if at all, do you keep yourself informed about theories of teaching and learning?  To what extent, if any, do you see yourself as having a teaching role?  To what extent, if at all, do you think subject librarians should receive training in how to teach?  Have you received any such training?  How frequently would you be in contact with academic staff?  What would you say is the principle mode of contact between parties?  Generally, what is the direction of the contact – who contacts whom mainly?  Are there any formal structures in place, within which academic and library staff meet?  Do you meet academic staff socially?  What are the kinds of matters about which generally academic staff contact you?  About what kinds of matters would you, as subject librarian, contact academic staff?  Are you involved with any aspects of curriculum planning in your institution?  [If yes], what is the nature and extent of your involvement?  Are there any troublesome issues that arise in your relationship with academic staff?
  20. 20. 1. Difference between library instruction and discipline- based education 2. Playing it down - reluctant to assume mantle of teacher 3. Positive contribution to student development 4. Being visible - importance of being approachable 5. Poorly trained and self-taught 6. Outsiders – perception of enforced passivity 7. Power deficit – no input to decision-making 8. Teaching in the dark – no opportunity to evaluate impact 9. Relationships with academics collection-focused 10. Self-efficacy – positive perception by academics, but personality dependent
  21. 21. Difference between library instruction and discipline based education -sharp distinction between library based instruction, and teaching within academic programmes “I really strongly feel that in terms of learning and perception, acceptance of the learning context, that the student must see a person with core authority, that is a lecturer, delivering information skills and programmes and modules to them.” I mean, we’re here to teach them about library resources, tell them about library resources if you like – I don’t see myself as a lecturer as such, you know, going over to a department and giving a lecture on something… just personally, I don’t feel it’s part of a librarian’s job”
  22. 22. Playing it down – reluctance to assume the mantle of “teacher”, even though it is a significant aspect of the job, in terms of time spent “Well, I mean, I have a teaching role, but I would never class myself like a lecturer, you know?” “I’m not the teacher, as such, I am there to answer questions, or whatever” “You know, we have very specific skills with which we can teach people about the information products, and we can top it and tail it in a particular way – but that’s it. There’s no evidence that we’ve ever been able to do anything more than that... and anybody, you know, would have to prove to the contrary, that in fact, user education has ever done anything other that given people specific skills with respect to specific information products”
  23. 23. Contribution to student development – perception that information literacy is important in education “Well, I would say it’s a major factor in [undergraduate education], I would imagine that if they don’t know how to use the technology… they’re going to be quite lost, so they need it, it’s very important” “I mean, increasingly, I think they’re being asked to do the projects, and things like that, so it’s very important that they know how… it’s not learning things out of a book, it’s not Leaving Certificate” “Well, it’s principally to be able to find information in your area in your subject area. If they think about it, they will be able to see that they will able to apply the same skills to any subject area.”
  24. 24. Poorly trained & Self-taught – very little formal training In how to teach “What I would try and keep up to date with would be, if there are any training courses in presentation skills, communication, that type of thing. But as regarding reading about bibliographic instruction, not really.” ““I’m sure there are much better ways, really [to teach]… but I haven’t had any training myself.” “I would try and attend maybe one or two seminars a year on teaching skills… but I wouldn’t have time at work to do it. I usually keep track of SCONUL publications… maybe the INNALS conference, a lot of it would be through professional contacts”
  25. 25. Being visible – the importance of being approachable “So, even if I’ve only got as far as getting my name to them, that they see me as being the person in the library that they need to contact, I would feel well, I’ve three-quarters succeeded, because I’ll be contacted about things” “I always make clear to the new students that as far as I’m concerned the arrangement with the students is, they can stop me and ask me a questions at any time, it doesn’t matter if I’m out doing Christmas shopping or whatever… they can stop me and ask me” “What I mostly try to engender is a welcome, that people are welcomed, and we appear to have time to listen to them, and interpret their needs”
  26. 26. Outsiders – perception of enforced passivity “Not being part of the faculty is a real barrier here … you’re certainly outside, yeah, certainly outside. And you’re therefore not equipped with all of the necessary information” “[I’m] their library person. Their library slave. I’m a slave – when we have a problem, she might know the answer!” “I contact them, and say I am available, at their disposal, and they say ‘oh, that’s a great idea’, and that’s all I ever hear about it. And you don’t like to sort of go and push your own boat out…so, you just do it each year, and that’s about all you can do ” “I think when they realise the value of something they are quite enthusiastic about it, but I think a lot of it comes from us.”
  27. 27. Power deficit – no influence on institutional decision making “That’s always been quite a crucial gap in [university] in particular, that observer status on the faculty meeting hasn’t been granted, and it is – I know from [subject area] it is actually quite crucial to everybody in a support role, that only at faculty do you get a proper overview” “The library is right adjacent to the department, there’s much more interpersonal communication, but nonetheless, if you didn’t actively exploit the availability of those channels, you would hear nothing. And so therefore, it is actually incumbent on me and anybody in this role to actively dig out…” “Most of my committees would be library-based, you know”
  28. 28. Teaching in the dark – little opportunity to evaluate impact of IL instruction “I think that we would try as much as possible to provide the service that we feel people need… I suppose it comes down then to our interpretation of the information we get from other people” “Well, I mean, I’m eternally optimistic, and I therefore say, I hope [students] get something from it – what that something is, I have no idea, because I can’t evaluate it, I have no context in which to evaluate it… I cannot pin down… because there’s no evaluation of their learning, except in so far as it results in a particular grade” “I think” “I suppose” “I would say”
  29. 29. Relationship with academics – focused on collection matters (acquisitions, etc) “Generally, yeah, they’re resource supply side things… they’re not curricular or educational support things… generally speaking the dominant issues discussed are resource provision and really now it comes down to, very much, the purchase, joint or shared as it were within the faculty, and with ancillary faculties, of new information products” “Reading lists, reading list problems, new reading lists, new courses perhaps, you know, that they are going to do, and do we have the books, and where do we think we’re going… book orders, obviously” “Budget concerns would probably be up there, and that might be in relation to getting a new journal, whether they can afford it, what’s the state of the budget…. recommendations for book purchases...”
  30. 30. Self-efficacy - positive perception of library by academics, but personality dependent “The perception is that library staff are extremely helpful, relatively knowledgeable, supportive… they’re there on time, delivering what we want, there’s good feedback and interaction… but only when we ask it” “If you’ve known them as researchers and students and postgraduate researchers, they regard you as a human being, and somebody who’s been helpful” “And I suppose as well when the academic staff become more familiar with the workings of the library, they distinguish between the people involved in the information end of things and the people who are in cataloguing and acquisitions”
  31. 31. 1. Socialisation to the profession – opportunities for “teaching apprenticeship,” mentoring 2. Establishing “Communities of Practice” – physical and virtual 3. Using Standards and Guidelines as a checklist for skills development – setting goals 4. Cultivating “reflective practice”, e.g. through use of teaching portfolios among librarians
  32. 32. Definition: A group of people who “share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, cited in Ng & Tan, 2009, p.38).
  33. 33.  Biddiscombe, R. (2002). Learning support professionals: The changing role of subject specialists in UK academic libraries. Program: Electronic library and information systems, 36(4), pp.228-235  Doskatsch, I. (2003). Perceptions and perplexities of the faculty- librarian partnership: An Australian perspective. Reference Services Review, 31(2), pp. 111-121.  Eadie, T. (1990). Immodest Proposals: user instruction for students does not work. Library Journal, 115, pp. 42-45.  Fourie, I. (2004). Librarians and the claiming of new roles: How can we make a difference? Aslib Proceedings, 56(1), pp.62-74.
  34. 34.  Gorman, M. (1991). Send for a child of four! Or creating the BI-less academic library. Library Trends, 39(3), 354-362.    Julien, H. & Pecoskie, J. (2009). Librarians’ experiences of the teaching role: Grounded in campus relationships. Library & Information Science Research, 31, pp.149-154  Ng, P.T. & Tan, C. (2009). Community of practice for teachers: sense-making or critical reflective learning. Reflective Practice, 10(1), pp.37-44  Pacey, P. (1995). Teaching user education, learning information skills: or, towards the self-explanatory library. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 1, pp.95-103
  35. 35.  Saia, D. (1995). Advocacy for bibliographic instruction: A challenge for the future. Katherine Sharp Review, No.1, Summer 1995. Online. Available 9th March 2010 from  Walter, S. (2008). Librarians as teachers: A qualitative inquiry into professional identity. College & Research Libraries, 69(1), pp.51-71.  Wilder, S. (2005). Information literacy makes all the wrong assumptions. Chronicle of Higher Education, 51(18), pB13-B13  Wilson. P. (1979). Librarians as teachers: the study of an organization fiction. Library Quarterly, 49(2), pp.146-162.