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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Teaching Librarian Versus The Teacher

by Susan Ariew, University of South Florida

As someone who has been both a classroom teacher at the secondary school level and at the college level as well as a teaching librarian, I have observed that the culture of the library as a teaching environment is more complex than the culture of school and university academic departments. The differences between the classroom teaching environment and the library teaching environment as well as the differences in questions of identity that arise for librarians presents unique challenges, opportunities and barriers for those librarians who teach.

The Complexity of the Library Environment
The teaching mission of academic libraries and their librarians is not a given in the same way it is a given in academic teaching departments. In fact, much of what is done with teaching depends on how high a priority library administrators, academic faculty on campus, as well as college and university administrators give to library instruction. Indeed, the entire teaching role of librarians has been challenged by the likes of Stanley Wilder a few who feel that “information literacy” is just bunk created by librarians to make themselves feel more important than they are (see "Information Literacy Makes All the Wrong Assumptions" in the January 7, 2005 Chronicle. It would follow that because the teaching role of the library varies from library to library and institution to institution, the way in which librarians embrace the role of teaching would also fluctuate a great deal. Unlike the classroom teacher who is assigned so many classes, so many students, and so many credit hours a semester, much of what started as traditional BI and then later evolved into information literacy was created not from an internal imperative, but from external demands. Unlike teaching departments on most campuses, much of what has happened with the instructional mission of academic libraries has been defined, shaped and created in response to forces outside the library, forces like academic faculty requests for library instruction and faculty frustration with students who lack skills in evaluating their sources. Thus, the new and changing role of the teaching library and librarian is much less established (or even autonomous) than other traditional library functions such as cataloging, interlibrary loan, circulation, reference, special collections, or collection development.

One of the reasons that the teaching mission of academic libraries might be called into question relates to the multitude of competing roles, responsibilities, and obligations of librarians in academic libraries. How do those non-teaching librarians in academic libraries view those who do teach? Does the teaching mission seem like an important priority to them too? Typically large university library departments become specialized and isolated. Such isolation offers more efficiency in terms of library operations, but it can also result in interdepartmental fragmentation, and with that fragmentation a lack of communication or understanding among personnel across departments. Thus, those who involve themselves in instructional efforts can be isolated from those who do not. Moreover, the importance of teaching and other instructional efforts is not a universally shared value nor is it recognized by everyone in the library.

In contrast, if you are a teaching member of, say, an English Department where everyone teaches some writing or literature classes, the sense of fragmentation and even conflict about priorities and resources isn’t quite as much a problem. There may be lack of understanding about faculty research in academic departments among colleagues, but everyone is pretty much on the same page with regard to understanding teaching responsibilities and the commitment to the mission of instruction. One question that arises from all this is how can the teaching mission of large academic libraries be embraced as a fundamental value in all areas and departments of academic libraries?

Conflicting Identities--Librarian as Teaching Faculty
Along with fragmentation among librarian roles in large university libraries, one also sees a fragmentation among librarians with regard to how they perceive themselves as faculty and as teachers. At one institution where I was employed, several librarians had a different views of what it meant to be “library faculty.” As a teacher-librarian, I saw a faculty role in what I did each day as I taught classes, helped students with their research either at the reference desk or during one-on- one consultations, or worked in my college on committees and special projects. I actively collaborated with academic faculty in the field of education and enjoyed a collegial relationship with them, sometimes even more than with my librarian colleagues within the library. However, there were some librarians who stated flatly that they didn’t see themselves as being like academic faculty at all, “faculty” title or no title, nor did what they do bear any resemblance to faculty. Some of these colleagues were librarians who had never been in the classroom, or who had become librarians long before instruction had been a priority within the library. Still others took the position that librarians shouldn’t be wasting their time engaging in research or scholarly activities. Many of these librarians viewed my collaborative activities with academic faculty as “going native” and did not feel that I stayed within proper boundaries assigned to me. If you explore the literature about librarians, faculty status, and tenure, you still see an identity crisis, one that has yet to be resolved satisfactorily. Who are we? What are we? How do we fit within the context of our institution? These are questions that continually plague academic librarians. They are not the kinds of questions that plague academic faculty

Librarian as Teacher
The identity problems of academic librarians also relate to their teaching roles. Some librarians have resented the onset of the information literacy movement simply because it makes more complicated the instructional challenges presented to them. What once was sufficient as “BI” or “library training” is now no longer considered meaningful. As the information literacy imperative has grown, more and more demand is placed on integrating library instruction into the college and university curriculum and on providing quality instruction in a systematic and programmatic way. This may place demands on librarians who do not have sufficient background in teaching and learning to meet those demands. Moreover, if some librarians do not see themselves as faculty, how can they see themselves as teachers? Are the two identities and roles related to one another and if so in what way? In contrast, those who are classroom teachers have less of an identity problem. Their teaching roles are clear. The role of faculty is defined, though instructors and junior faculty may have concerns about their faculty rank within that role. While academic faculty have a research appointments along with teaching, there is never a question about whether teaching is essential work for them to be doing or whether the support for their roles as teachers is a given. While support for library instruction is now part of most academic library cultures, the extent to which librarians are actually supported in their roles as teachers can vary greatly.

My own duel career as a librarian and as a high school/college level English teacher has led me to reflect upon the contrasts between the teaching librarian and the classroom teacher. There have been times where I have felt like a displaced teacher when working in the library environment and like a librarian out of her element as a classroom teacher. In the end, however, I find that my experiences in both arenas have complemented one other tremendously. Examining the similarities and differences of academic faculty vs library faculty roles and identities might be a way to illuminate the challenges and therefore assist librarians in meeting those challenges proactively. Perhaps, in defining clearly what a “teaching library” is all about, librarians and administrators can integrate the instructional mission of the teaching library beyond the limited boundaries of just the instruction/reference librarians and departmental activities.

Innovative Educators: "Designing Meaningful Assessment to Improve Student Affairs Outcomes and Satisfy Accreditation"

Tuesday, March 9th ~ 3:00-4:30pm EST
Webinar Description

Accreditation is sometimes viewed separately from assessment, with accreditation, having a decidedly summative focus and assessment having more of an improvement, formative focus. This distinction interferes with sending a clear message to student affairs professionals that the formative, improvement purpose is what the institution values. In this workshop, student affairs and assessment professionals will understand how to combine the two purposes to gain both the information needed for accreditation and information needed to improve student outcomes. Clearly defined outcomes, necessary to identify valid measures for either purpose, will be discussed. The importance of designing and aligning programs, delivery methods, and measures to foster these outcomes also will be discussed.

Participants will understand that validity considerations must drive the selection of measures for both summative and formative purposes. They will learn when an external standardized instrument is appropriate to measure learning outcomes. They will learn why surveys are typically inadequate for either purpose and why it is necessary to specifically define outcomes.
Who Should Attend?

Student affairs professionals, those new to assessment, or assessment administrators hoping to select or develop valid measures for assessment purposes.
Who is the Speaker?

Terri Flateby, Ph.D. served as the Director of Assessment at the University of South Florida, prior to her retirement and the formation of her assessment consulting business. Dr. Flateby earned the baccalaureate at CapitalUniversityand her Ph.D. from USF. She was the Director of Evaluation and Testing for fifteen years, during which time she facilitated faculty development workshops on constructing classroom tests to foster deeper learning and began coordinating assessment activities to strengthen learning. During this time, she engaged in assessment of the General Education curriculum. Her work in assessing and developing writing and cognitive levels (Cognitive Level and Quality of Writing Assessment) and extensive work with other institutions on how to assess learning outcomes has been published in a variety of venues. A frequent workshop presenter at national and regional conferences, she has consulted with institutions on writing and thinking assessment and developing institutional capacity to effectively assess and improve learning.
Innovative Educators
3277 Carbon Place
Boulder, Colorado 80301


Faculty Focus Free Report: "Put to the Test: Making Sense of Educational Assessment"

Higher Education Assessment Strategies for Measuring Learning Outcomes Put to the Test: Making Sense of Educational Assessment

Educational assessment is one of the most talked about topics in higher education today. Despite the admirable goal of improving student learning, the trend toward greater accountability through increased academic testing carries with it a diverse range of educational assessment tools, methodologies, perspectives, and stakeholders.

If today’s mandates for educational testing has you searching for answers, you’ll want to download this FREE special report Put to the Test: Making Sense of Educational Assessment, developed to share best practices and current thinking on educational assessment in higher education.

On one side of the educational assessment debate, you have faculty who feel all these new educational assessment requirements stifle their academic freedom without providing truly meaningful data to justify the additional workload it generates.

On the other side of the educational assessment debate are those educators who accept the fact that educational assessment is here to stay and believe that, with careful planning, it’s possible to design exactly the type of assessment systems needed to get an accurate picture of student learning outcomes.

No matter which side you’re on … or somewhere in between … you’ll find Put to the Test: Making Sense of Educational Assessment is a great resource for understanding the best practices and current thinking on educational assessment in higher education.

Here’s just a sample of the insightful articles featured in Put to the Test: Making Sense of Educational Assessment:
•Creating a Sustainable, Faculty-Driven Assessment Initiative
•Assessment for the Millennial Generation
•Rethinking Assessment
•What Is the Role of Student Affairs in Assessment?
•Encouraging Faculty Involvement in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
•Assessing Class Participation: One Useful Strategy
•Outcomes Assessment Is Here to Stay, Get Faculty Buy In
•Assessment Methods Should Match Institutional Goals
•“Assessmania” and “Bureaupathology” in Higher Education
•Manias, Pathologies, and Alternative Approaches to Assessment

Best of all, this 22-page Special Report is absolutely free. It’s yours simply for signing-up to receive e-mail alerts from Faculty Focus.

Whether you’re a new faculty member looking to incorporate assessment into your classes, or an experienced member of a departmental or institutional assessment team, this special report will provide you with valuable strategies and thought-provoking ideas from educators who have successfully implemented assessment programs at their institutions.

Put to the Test: Making Sense of Educational Assessment is yours free when you sign up for Faculty Focus, our new online information resource for faculty in the higher education industry.

Stay on top of your game with Faculty Focus
Faculty Focus contains a wealth of valuable material – not just about educational assessment, but all of today’s hot button issues that are important to faculty and administrators. It’s packed to its electronic rafters with ideas, best practices, analyses and other news you can use on the topics that impact your students, your school and your work, including
Instructional Design
•Faculty Development
•Distance Learning
•Classroom Management
•Educational Assessment
•Faculty Evaluation
•Learning Styles
•Curriculum Development
•Community College Issues
•Trends in Higher Education
•Learning Communities
•And much, much more.
Signing up for news from Faculty Focus is your ticket to this special report Put to the Test: Making Sense of Educational Assessment. It only takes about a minute or so, costs nothing, and requires no commitment on your part. And, of course, you can unsubscribe at anytime.


Monday, February 8
A Checklist for Facilitating Online Courses -
A new research-based tool developed at Humboldt State University, Assessing Online Facilitation (AOF) can serve as a valuable guide to best practices in online teaching. It lists the four main roles of an online facilitator – pedagogical, managerial, social, and technical – and the associated tasks of each role.

Tuesday, February 9
Political Bias in the Classroom: Perception and Reality -
The proper role a faculty member’s personal political ideology should play in the university classroom has been an issue of debate since Buckley published Man and God at Yale in 1951. Some groups feel that a pervasive liberal bias in higher education is threatening the value of students’ education. (Part one of a two-part series.)

Wednesday, February 10
Political Bias in the Classroom: Rethinking the Way You Teach -
While research suggests that professors’ political beliefs have no measurable effect on students, the perception of bias is no less real and may be affecting the credibility of higher education as a whole. Real or imagined, the professoriate needs to take the perception of political bias seriously and make steps to change this perception for the better. (Part two of a two-part series.)

Thursday, February 11
Sloan-C Survey Provides Snapshot of Online Learning -
The Sloan-C Survey reveals that online enrollments rose by nearly 17 percent from the previous year. This annual survey is the leading barometer of online learning in the United States, and seeks to answer some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education.

Friday, February 12
Help Your Students Become More Mindful Editors -
For too many years, I toiled through student papers that were the editing equivalent of a badly scratched record. No more. Since I instituted my policy of not reading papers that don’t adhere to the prescribed checklist, students have uniformly done a much better job of editing.

A new resource for faculty members!

Wouldn't it be great if we all had mentors who could give us their best advice to our most pressing questions? And, wouldn't it be even better if our mentors were highly respected practitioners? Magna’s 20 Minute Mentor program delivers just that.

In just 20 minutes you'll:
• Get specific, actionable advice on key issues related to teaching and learning, classroom management, online teaching, assessment, and student behavior.
• Uncover key ways to help you solve your faculty development problems.
• Gain knowledge from some of the most highly respected practitioners in higher education as they share tips, techniques and insights on a variety of subjects.

Each Magna 20 Minute Mentor cuts to the point, answering a critical question and offering specific strategies you can start using today.

Here are just some of the questions answered by the 20 Minute Mentors:

How Flexible Should I Be With Non-Traditional Students?
In this 20 Minute Mentor, the president-elect of the American College Counseling Association, Dr. Brian Van Brunt, gives us his reasoned–and reasonable–advice on how to support non-traditional students, without becoming either too much of a push-over or too inflexible.

What you will learn

By participating in this 20 minute program, you will learn:
• The kinds of stress and challenges that non-traditional students face day to day.
• How to distinguish between helping non-traditional students and enabling them.
• How to set standards with non-traditional students that require hard work but that are also flexible.
• Various approaches for helping non-traditional students overcome the academic challenges they face in pursuing a college education.
• How to intervene in responding to “red flags” to ensure that your non-traditional students stay on track with their coursework.
• Various campus resources that you can refer non-traditional students to for assistance.
The program also includes supplemental materials that feature suggestions, case studies and recommended resources.

For more information, click here ( or call toll free (800) 433-0499 ext. 2.

What Are My Rubric Results Telling Me?

In this 20 Minute Mentor, the vice president of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Linda Suskie, will walk you through the key essentials of interpreting and summarizing rubric results so you can better understand how to use this important tool to improve your teaching.

What you will learn

During this 20 minute program, you will learn:
• How to interpret and summarize rubric results, and how to present them in a meaningful chart.
• How to share only the information that audiences will find useful.
• When to use complex statistics and when to avoid them.
• How to present results in a short and simple way.
• How to share the story that the results are telling.
The program also includes supplemental materials that feature examples of rubrics and recommended resources.

To see a complete list of all Magna 20 Minute Mentors, descriptions, presenter biographies, and preview clips, click (

Want to make a program available for ongoing training?
Contact us about a Campus Access License to load the CD onto your institution’s internal web site for unlimited, convenient on-demand access to members of the campus community. The Campus Access License is ideal for institutions that want to use the seminar for ongoing group or individual training or to build a library of professional development material for their campus community.

You can trust Magna Publications, a leader in higher education professional development.
Since 1972, Magna has been an industry pacesetter in providing seminars, newsletters and national conferences, as well as other forums and tools, for delivering superior information solutions.

Dillard University Library Black History Press Release Feb 2010

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Dillard University Phi Eta Sigma Spring 2010

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Inside Higher ED...Survival of the Disciplines

Survival of the Disciplines
February 12, 2010
By Meg Worley

First they came for the religious studies scholars and the geologists, and I posted comments on a couple of blogs. Then they came for the film studies people and the comparative littérateurs, and I briefly considered joining a Facebook group in protest. Then they came for the paleographers and computational linguists, and I signed a petition. Hold on, let me see who's banging on the door at this hour...
As long as I've been paddling around in academia -- i.e., since my father got his master's degree -- tenure has been the flagpole on which academic freedom has flown. It was all about protecting individuals from the pressures that the status quo puts on forward-thinking research.
Underlying that approach is the assumption that all areas of study are important, although individual arguments and conclusions may not be. But the recent developments at the University of Florida, the University of Iowa, King's College London, Washington State University, USC, and a host of other institutions reflect a new model of limiting academic inquiry, one that sidesteps the protections of tenure altogether.
The script seems to be the same everywhere. Go after the whole discipline, making sure to pay unctuous lip service to its importance and excellence. Make the point that ITTET (In These Tough Economic Times), colleges now have to be selective about what fields they can (read: deign to) support. Throw gobbets of meat to the angry students. Dodge the faculty as much as possible, and when you can't, turn them against each other by insisting that some program will have to go, and who would they load into the tumbrels instead? Use the word “painful” in every sentence.
I have no issue per se with specialization; most institutions can't have a program in every possible discipline. But over and over again, we're seeing an emphasis on STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The more you read about the STEM initiative, the scarier it gets. "STEM is the indicator of a healthy society"; "STEM is the key to future success"; STEM is the only thing that will keep us from living in refrigerator boxes under the freeway and eating our young. And just look at the signatories: Those are the institutions that have committed to prioritizing the sciences over the humanities and the social sciences. Goodbye, liberal arts – it’s been fun, but now it’s time to get serious.
You will already have noticed that S, T, E, and M are not just the fields that bring in the money but also the fields that prefer to assign as small a role to interpretation as possible. Of course scientific data require human interpretation, but all the STEM-mers I know believe that their fields deal in right and wrong answers. My colleague in the math department informs me that her discipline involves no interpretation whatsoever. And this is just as it should be; the natural world can refute hypotheses with tremendous clarity (see under: phlogiston; blood-letting; group selection).
But right and wrong answers occupy only one side of the academic quad. And this axing of whole fields closely resembles an attack on the humanities and social sciences -- in other words, the interpretive studies. It's not a concerted attack (complex conspiracies almost never succeed), but the effect is the same: promoting black-and-white disciplines and demoting unresolvable ambiguity to the realm of the hobbyist.
The effect on literary studies seems pretty obvious to me. Criticism will disappear quickly, and we'll return to the era of Appreciation. (Can you tell that I've just been teaching my theory students about 19th-century lit crit, to show them what the formalists were reacting to?) That's not a bad thing, except that aesthetic appreciation is generally (I'm inclined to say "necessarily," but I'm not sure I can defend that claim) a very effective means of shushing minority/subaltern groups and reinforcing the dominant ideology. The D.I. sets up opaque standards of appreciation and then measures everything by them -- and anything representing a different ideology (and standard of appreciation) is dismissed. That's exactly what happened to computational linguistics at King's College London.
I'm not sure where this leaves us, aside from up the creek. Perhaps subaltern studies is the last barricade against this broadscale attack on whole classes of disciplines. After all, the subaltern is mad as hell and not going to take it any more. So too might be the medievalists, the linguists, and the rural sociologists, but we don't know jack about organizing and making our voices heard.
The English Department could be the one to turn out the lights when we go. They keep us around because they value something they call "clear writing," and they think that whatever our silly little research is about, at least we teach writing (so they don't have to). Little do they know that we also teach the careful manipulation of metaphor -- better known as propaganda and marketing. But we're obviously not practicing what we teach, or else the interpretive disciplines would be in better shape.
The same can be said for Political Science, to choose just one example in the social sciences. A physicist friend points out with some bitterness that STEM has already come up with a set of solutions (her word, not mine) for global warming. Implementing them is the problem, she notes, and that is a job for the humanities and social sciences. If we gut those areas, every problem is left half-solved.
The thought of a world without Criticism -- a culture where any problem requiring interpretation is either ignored or recast as one with a single right answer -- isn't pretty. All those claims made for STEM fields (healthy society, future success, blah blah blah) are every bit as true for the interpretive studies. I agree that we could all do with more knowledge of S, T, E, & M (I pressure all my advisees to take statistics, for a start), but a society that sees every question in terms of black and white isn't going far. At least not in an upward direction.

Meg Worley is an assistant professor of English at Pomona College.
© Copyright 2010 Inside Higher Ed