Being a teaching librarian

Karen Marie Øvern shares her thoughts on the organisation of teaching activities.

The impact of information literacy

The 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.  As part of this process I have been looking at a project that is scheduled to take place this autumn.

The university college in Sogn and Fjordane is going to be working on a very interesting project about the impact 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.

I am probably going to give a presentation at a seminar in Sogn and Fjordane in connection with this project.  I have had an interesting conversation with one of the librarians from Sogn and Fjordane in charge of the project, to discuss  the purpose of the project and how we can learn from each other. We also talked about the organisation of teaching activities.

One teacher librarian or many?

The librarian at Sogn and Fjordane seemed very surprised when I said that at Gjøvik University College (GUC) we have one librarian in charge of teaching at all faculties. In Sogn and Fjordane (and probably many other places) liaison librarians teach at their own department or faculty. Here at GUC I am responsible for teaching on all faculties (although I do have great colleagues who help me out a lot, especially with EndNote courses and follow-ups). It may seem a little strange that I teach on all faculties, but actually this has worked well so far. It is 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 the subjects being taught at all faculties.  This is 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 be 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.

Library/Faculty collaboration

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 autumn 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.

This article is an edited version of a post originally published on Karen Marie's blog.  Karen Marie is Librarian at Øvern Gjøvik University College in Norway.