Class Week One: My Thoughts

One of my favorite examples from class of how libraries are changing, and how we’re staying relevant, was that in the past, you could check out a cookbook from the collection and bring it home with you to read and try some recipes. Now, many libraries will offer cooking classes–right in the library! Of course, you can still check out a cookbook (many, many different cookbooks! They comprise at least half of my checked-out material at any given time). But that’s an example of how librarians are innovating and and striving to serve communities as technology develops, as the Internet continues to change people’s lives and expectations. We all know the cliche of the prim librarian who would simply point you in the direction of the book you ask for, or perhaps reprimand you for talking too loudly. Now, public libraries are instituting new programs like the aforementioned cooking class, health talks, and hosting crafting projects; they’re even adding items to their collections like telescopes, home energy monitors, and art prints for people to experience and take delight in their library in constantly evolving ways.

Something that was emphasized in class, and that resonates deeply with me, is that libraries are learning institutions after people finish their formal education (to paraphrase Dewey). That means that teaching matters. I’ve always pushed back against the idea of being a teacher, maybe because of my experiences in public school; I had several good teachers, but I never wanted that job for myself. However, while an undergraduate, I worked as a peer tutor and discovered that I really enjoyed that kind of learning situation. The methods I was taught were similar to our discussion in class, such as using metacognition and

  • narrating what you’re doing while you’re doing it. In fact, we were told to always have the student read their paper out loud, or read it aloud ourselves if they didn’t want to. Because of my good experiences as a tutor, and as a student in library workshops after my education, I feel hopeful and confident that I’ll enjoy an instructional role as a librarian.

Two days after our first class, I attended an inspiring talk given by Josie Parker, the director of the AADL. She embodied so many of the values we talked about in class, and more. One thing she emphasized was a “culture of generosity” that she tries to create in all of the AADL branches. This means perhaps forgiving someone’s late fees if they accidentally lost an item, as well as being welcoming, tolerant, and kind to all people who come into the library. She also talked about the importance of public space in the library and making it look as inviting as possible, pushing back against the idea of libraries as “book warehouses.” I can only hope to be as great of a librarian as Josie is!

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2 thoughts on “Class Week One: My Thoughts

  1. I’ve had a similar change in my opinion of teaching through librarianship. All the way through my undergraduate degree, I had little interest in teaching. Like you, I had several teachers that I respected and learned a lot from, but did not see the appeal of teaching. At the same time, even when I was applying to SI, I was aware of how librarians in high school and college had actually taught me. I think it’s a different kind of teaching, though. Librarians teach students and patrons how to do things and learn practical concepts, rather than huge subjects. It’s no less important, but I think there is less pressure on the librarian to teach. No one is going to demand that we be in charge of molding children’s minds, but we do get to help people make better decisions and work with new technologies.

    I’m glad to hear that librarians are inspiring outside of SI as well. There is a lot of discussion about how students in SI are particularly motivated, which makes for excellent learning experiences, but is disheartening to think about getting a job outside of the SI cocoon. Libraries mean a lot to us as a group and it’s always nice to hear about practical librarians placing just as much importance in libraries. It makes reading the negative news articles that exclaim, “libraries are dying!” less irritating.

  2. I think you both bring up a good point about the differences in teaching in a classroom and teaching at a library. I am personally interested in public libraries and their role informal or continuing education but as you both stated as well, I am not or ever was devoted to becoming a teacher. Perhaps it is because of my experiences with teachers as opposed to the learning experiences I’ have had in libraries, but I have always felt that my learning in a library was focused around me as opposed to the progress of the class as a whole or the outcomes at the end of the year. For me this distinction helps bring clarity to the topics we discussed in class about student centered learning. The patrons participating in programs and coming into the library are coming in for their own interests and for the purpose of their personal and educational growth. Working with learners that are personally invested is much different than learners who are required to complete assignments and lessons. As librarians, I think it is part of our job to create opportunities for non-library users to develop interests in the library and then provide a learning centered program or workshop for them to participate in. This is much more easily said then done, I think it is important to think about what makes learning in libraries different than in schools and figure out how to make that style of learning accessible to more people.

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