The months of August, September, and October are some of the busiest of the year for academic librarians on the public services side of the house. We teach, you see, and this is the busiest of the busy teaching season.
If you had told me while I was in library school that teaching would be such a huge part of my job, I’m not sure I would have believed it; which makes it no surprise to find that my faculty colleagues, and indeed my family and friends, are usually surprised that teaching is really what I do (for a goodly portion of each semester). The conversation goes something like this:
- Friend/Family/Faculty: What are you up to?
- Me: Getting ready to teach a class (or two or three) tomorrow.
- F/F/F: Really? What are you teaching?
- Me: A composition class, and then a sociology class, and then…
- F/F/F: Wait…what?! You teach sociology?
- Me: Oh, no, I am doing a “one-shot” to teach the students how to find and use research resources.
- F/F/F: Oh, you’re showing students how to use the library…how to check out books, tour, etc. Oh…right.
- Me: Well, sort of…
And then I usually leave it at that, because yes…I am teaching students how to use the library, but also how to think through their topics, how to generate research questions, how to discover and use keywords that will work in library databases that don’t function like Google and why students need to think about those keywords because they could play a major role in why certain topics seem to only have articles on “one side” of the issue and why there really isn’t “one side” and the “other side” to most issues and…you get the picture. So, no, I’m not just showing students how to use the library, but I’m helping them learn how to learn, think about how to think, and give themselves the power and control that they need to find and use information that is going to help them create knowledge in order to help them build a better world. Amen!
Librarians teach, and we teach important stuff that is not just about how to check out a book…(which is still kind of important depending on who you’re talking to). If you’d like an idea of what librarians teach, please take a look at one of our fundamental documents, The ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. You’ll get the idea.
If I seem a little excited about this, well, that’s because I am. Teaching has become my favorite part of my job, and if you had told me that when I was in library school, I *really* wouldn’t have believed you. Here’s someone else who is excited to teach, and if you haven’t seen this before, please let it inspire you…(and please be warned that there is a little colorful language):
Taylor Mali, “What Teachers Make”
…and the illustrated version from Zen Pencils