Being a teaching librarian – a few thoughts on organisation of teaching activities

Student asking questionThe spring term is coming to an end, and I am trying to tie up some loose ends and to reflect a little on what I have done this year.

One of the things I have been doing today is to look at a project that will happen this autumn. The university college in Sogn and Fjordane is going to be working on a very interesting project concerning the effect of the information literacy courses they give. I am very interested in this – it was the main subject for my master`s thesis a few years ago now. I am probably going to give a presentation at a seminar in Sogn and Fjordane in connection with this project, and I had a chat with one of the librarians in charge this morning. We have never met, but we had an interesting little chat on what the purpose of the project is, and on how we can learn from each other. I talked to her about organisation of teaching activities. She seemed very surprised when I said that we (at GUC) have one librarian in charge of teaching at all faculties. In Sogn and Fjordane (and probably many other places) they have liaison librarians who teach at their own department or faculty. Here, I am responsible for teaching on all faculties (but I do have great collegues who help me out a lot, specially with EndNote courses and follow-ups there). It may seem a little strange that I teach on all faculties, but actually this has worked well so far. It`s easier for me to have control over our teaching activities, and to make sure that our teaching models work for all faculties.

Of course, I do not have a deeper understanding of all subjects being taught at all faculties, and this has been the argument most often used against the kind of model that we have, and it is a fair point. Still, even if I only had teaching responsibilities on one faculty I couldn`t possibly have been an expert on all the subjects. If that is what we wanted and/or needed most, we would probably have to be replaced by subject specialists.

The way I see it there are more pros than cons in favour of “our model”. Pros include: having control and making it easier to tailor “cross-faculty” courses (we have a number of those), seeing the need for new teaching models and methods is easier when you see the whole board. Cons include: not being a subject specialist it is harder to tailor courses in e.g. structured literature searching because the academic disciplines have different demands.

I am thinking a lot about library-faculty collaboration these days, and one of the things that I am really happy about is that I have been able to be a part of the tutor groups for the bachelor`s theses in the nursing department, and that I have been able to team-teach with an excellent professor there this year. It has made it much easier for me to see the needs of the department. This fall I will do something of the same in another faculty. The experiences that I take with me from the nursing department may not be directly transferrable to the other faculty, but I think that I will be able to use much of what I have learned. I am not a subject specialist, but I don`t need to be, because I am team-teaching with the professor, and she is the subject specialist. Together, I hope that we`ll be able to give the students our perspectives and to share our experiences.

I don`t think there is a perfect model, and I certainly think that we have to “knead the dough” much more, but I really think that we`re onto something here. I am really looking forward to this autumn, and I can`t wait to hear more from other librarians who have different models. I hope they have lots of thoughts and experiences on the subject.

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