This has been the longest span between posts for this blog so far. I could blame that on a busy teaching and consulting schedule throughout February, but I’ve posted before in the heart of liaison season. So no excuses. (I do have a bad cold, though, so I will beg tolerance of the likely higher-than-usual rate of typos.)
This week is spring break and while I’ve had some consults and met with two instructors to discuss a new assignment for the fall semester, it’s been a quiet week over all. I’ve been working on writing projects and administrative tasks like the annual report and updated CV for my upcoming 5-year post-tenure review (my first such review). My annual report includes a list of 2013-14 accomplishments. For my first accomplishment, I decided to try to make a point to administrators in my library:
1. Benefited from the publicity for my Coleman Fellowship and teaching a 3-credit class within the Bryan School by expanding my presence and services. For example, I was asked to work with a number of STH and FIN classes for the first time. I also began to get direct requests from the business school dean (as opposed to through one of the Assistant Deans). Also, more faculty asked me to help with research projects, including both new faculty and tenured faculty who had never contacted me before for research support.
Why did I feel the need to justify the value of teaching a credit class?
Micro literature review:
In 2010, Martha Fallahay Loesch wrote “Librarian as Professor: A Dynamic New Role Model” for SLA’s Education Libraries (Vol. 33, No. 1). She makes an impassioned case for librarians to teach credit-classes within subject areas, not just LIB 100/basic information literacy classes:
Think beyond information literacy instruction and collaborative teaching and consider teaching in their own specialty field or perhaps a university core course, thereby joining the ranks of the teaching faculty on campus. (p.31)
Loesch provides a few examples of Seton Hall librarians teaching within academic departments:
Librarians at Seton Hall have also branched out to other realms of teaching credit-bearing courses; teaching in their specialty field based upon their second master’s degree or work experience. A cataloger teaches in the Women and Gender Studies program, part of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Center for Women’s Studies on campus, and a reference librarian serving as the library liaison to the Stillman School of Business, teaches a business course. A science librarian with a doctorate in anthropology was approached by the Anthropology Department in the College of Arts and Sciences to consider teaching in their program. (p.34-5)
The article might go over the top regarding the transformative value of this new role (like writings about embedded librarians that suggest embedded librarianship can solve all problems) but does challenge us to not to get complacent with our teaching roles.
More recent is “Walking a Mile in their Shoes: Librarians as Teaching Faculty” by Arcadia University librarians Adam Balcziunas and Larissa Gordon, in College & Research Library News (April 2012). The authors describe how teaching credit classes
has changed our perceptions of [other] faculty. We have also seen our teaching experience change how faculty members view librarians, and it has helped enhance the perception of librarians as educators throughout the campus community.
So in addition to further justifying the library’s faculty status on campus, the librarians have also gained understanding of the challenges of teaching credit classes, including how precious class time can be.
Workload is the main challenge:
Teaching semester long courses technically falls outside the regular job duties of each librarian, and so we are contracted as adjunct instructors. Therefore, while we receive an additional paycheck, our time spent in class and preparing for class needs to be added to our regular hours working as full-time librarians.
But the Arcadia librarians conclude by connecting the value of teaching classes to the evolving roles of liaisons:
The librarians’ teaching efforts have seemed like very logical extensions of their liaison roles, fostering a greater immersion in the academic life of the university, and increasing collaborative activity with faculty across campus. The library director continues to encourage the librarians to teach because it “helps us to better understand faculty and gives us a broader perspective of the faculty job.” This understanding has permitted us to become active and engaged members of the campus community and to work more strategically with faculty members as we seek to more fully integrate information literacy into the curriculum.
Points of view for hard-core teaching:
I’ve mentioned before that my colleague Lynda Kellam teaches a section of Political Science 240, International System, each semester on her own time (not as part of our library hours). She has a master’s degree in Political Science as well as a MLS. Lynda teaches this class for free.
There has been some sort of UNC system or UNCG rule that “special pay” can only be awarded outside of a faculty member’s 9-month contract. However, the library faculty work 12-months a year and therefore don’t have unpaid months in the summer in which to receive special pay. This is also why my Coleman Fellow stipend is awarded to me as extra travel money, while the 9-month Coleman Fellow professors get their stipend paid as special pay.
A while ago when I taught LIS 613, the Business Information Resources & Services class, I was paid as an instructor. Then for a time we were told librarians couldn’t get paid anymore for teaching credit classes like for the LIS department. But this year my colleagues teaching LIS classes are getting paid once again. Grant-based funding like for Coleman Fellows is still different, though. So the issue of funding is confusing. I wonder how many interviews on campus it would take for me to get to the bottom of all this. But I’m not getting paid to write this blog post, so onward, heh…
Last year some liaisons learned through the library grapevine that library administrators were concerned about our extra teaching work. There was speculation that Lynda’s teaching of PSC 240 was the impetus for that concern. If there had been an open discussion about our new teaching roles, some of us would have presented the benefits to the library of more intensive teaching work with a department, like Lynda’s work with Political Science. Such teaching could be considered another type of embedded librarianship — perhaps the ultimate example of embedded work for an academic librarian.
Last month Nataly Blas led a workshop on embedded librarianship. Several library administrators attended too. Our Diversity Resident Librarian position is extremely important to our administrators. (As positions were getting frozen here this spring, administration put a higher priority on hiring our next Resident Librarian than our next Electronic Resources Librarian). And Nataly is the first of our three resident librarians to leave UNCG for a desired library job. (The first two are now working on PhDs in library science.) Nataly told me that her co-teaching embedded work proved very interesting to all the libraries she interviewed with and was probably a vital aspect of her successful candidacy with Loyola Marymount. I was pleased that the administrators heard from Nataly how interested libraries were in her co-teaching work. Would Nataly now be the business librarian at LMU without her embedded co-teaching? Many of us appreciated Nataly providing our administrators a fresh perspective of the perceived value of intensive classroom engagement in the broader library world.
Last December I heard through the business school that the University’s Deans Council (which includes our library dean) discussed a strategic planning article that advocated recruiting librarians and staff to teach credit classes. Interest in librarians teaching credit classes is not simply a grass roots concern of some liaisons.
Selling the teaching of ENT 530:
I agree the dividends for teaching credit-classes with an academic department can be high. So for my first listed accomplishment in the annual report I finished yesterday, I identified positive developments that I believe can be attributed to teaching ENT 530. Can I prove causality? Well, no, I don’t ask faculty and business school administrators to fill out a pre-survey before I respond to their queries or requests for help. But I’ve been the UNCG business librarian since April 2001 and always prioritized outreach, teaching, and consulting. So a jump in demand for 2013-14 is probably meaningful. Several of us liaisons are hopeful that our administrators are more open about the value of expanded teaching roles on campus.