I am on a bibliographic instruction kick lately and I have been obsessing over communicating tech skills to everyone from students to the general public. Having done instruction for both the general public and for a variety of students, I can safely say, as librarians, we should never be done thinking about this topic. Even if we don't do formal instruction, whenever we talk to a patron we are, in a sense, doing bibliographic instruction. As I go through and re-think some of my classes and how I talk to patrons, a few things became crystal clear.
First, remember the learner. What do they want? What do they know? A freshman English composition student is not the same as a over 40 year old commuting grad student. A senior citizen is not the same as a teenager, even if the skill levels are identical. Tailor your conversation and your examples to what would be meaningful for your learner. Process and context are more important than "content".
Second, remember your goals. (If you don't have instructional goals, please get one!) For senior citizens learning technology, my goal is helping them gain confidence to ask additional questions and to not be afraid to try "something". For a college freshman, I want them to think about the library as the first place to go when they have questions. Notice that the my goal was NOT to impart total knowledge of a database or do some kind of "fact dump" on someone.
Regardless of the kind of library, the job of the librarian is to help the user navigate the minefield of knowledge and technology. Be sensitive to our learners and realize that "telling" someone something is not the same as teaching or training.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I have been doing some serious re-thinking of my various bibliographic instruction projects.Often students or faculty think that library instruction is a one-off event or a "knowledge dump" and that once completed, a person is "done" learning about research and the library. We all know it is laughable to think that one is ever "done" with research instruction/help. Librarians, too, need to keep this in mind that personal/professional development is never finished either. Databases come and go, research is constantly moving, and of course everyone's favorite: formats are constantly changing.
Aside from content, think about delivery of instruction. Is a hour long formal presentation complete with slides really the best way to communicate how to research? Think about other ways to explain or teach. Think about using a screen shots or video to explain a process or technique. (I am now a big fan of Wink, Camstudio and Camtasia) Are the examples appropriate and relevant to the particular group? (Masters candidates in nursing are NOT the same as a freshman English composition class!)
My point in this little tirade is that our role in bibliographic instruction is not just help with research for "right now", or a crash course in library science, but to market the library's sources and expertise as an integral part of the education process.This includes not just how to find a peer reviewed article for a basic composition class or specific research for the graduate student; but how to continue the relationship after the specific project is done. As librarians, make sure that in all your bibliographic instruction, the main point to hammer home with our students is "talk to the librarian". It is okay to continue to ask questions and bounce research strategies and ideas off the staff. Bibliographic instruction is an ongoing dialogue with our patrons. We need to make sure that students and faculty are thinking of us for the long haul.
Happy New Year to everyone,