Fall break has begun (no classes next Monday and Tuesday) and I look forward to some time to get caught up on work besides teaching and consulting. UNCG LIS student Marla Means continues to impress me as she works on her independent study on academic liaison trends. She blogs on her readings and learnings at http://academicliaisonrolesandtrends.weebly.com/ . Marla’s October 6 post includes an authorized summary of her interview with library liaison Kathy Shields from High Point University, through which Marla gained perspectives on liaison work in small academic libraries. Marla graduates in December and has begun to apply for positions.
Meanwhile, my fellow UNCG business librarian and our current Diversity Resident Librarian Orolando Duffus has already been interviewed by phone for one business librarian position, even though his residency runs through next summer. He might also leave us early like Nataly Blas did, a reflection of what a strong early-career librarian he is. But sad for me too since I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with him. Orolando continues to be embedded with our MBA capstone course, in which the student teams serve as consultants for local companies, and continues to co-teach one-shot instruction with me.
Three months late, our state legislators finally finished the budget. Yesterday the Provost gave us the green light to post our open position that combines first-year instruction with liaisoning to one or maybe two social science departments, depending on the successful candidate’s background. I like this combo because the librarian will get a wider mix of work than a position that focuses exclusively on first-year teaching. (We have a small team that covers all first-year instruction.) I will be chairing this search and while as many of you know search committees are a lot of work, I find it a very interesting process.
Finally, our state library conference, NCLA, comes up in two weeks. Marla (see above), Richard Moniz (head of Charlotte’s Johnson & Wales University Library and author of library science books), and I are almost ready for our program “The Expanding Role of the Academic Liaison: Balancing Subject Versus Functional Skills.” I’m focusing on some organizational models. My main topic is the different organizations that the University of Arizona Library has used through their past teams approach and their current organizational model. The head of their liaison unit kindly gave me 30 minutes of his time on the phone to provide some context that doesn’t show up in the published articles, and to update me on their situation. I’ll compare their model to our current mix of subject teams and functional teams spanning the boundaries of an otherwise traditional departmental structure. Look for a post on that later this semester. Other NCLA friends are presenting about liaison services and business librarianship topics, so I will try to summarize key points of those too.
One morning a few years ago, I walked over to the Graham Building to do a workshop for 90 students in the “Introduction to Consumer Retailing” class, a large freshmen/sophomore class in the CARS department. I got there early to get the computer set up and prepare for the active learning work. At the clock approached 9am, I was surprised that there weren’t more students in the room, and that the ratio of female to male students was 40-50%. Then a youngish professorial type walks in, politely introduced himself, and indicates surprise to see me all prepared to teach his students. Turns out this class was “Abnormal Psychology”. I was in the right room but showed up an hour early!
The professor joked that the students might prefer my subject matter to his. So sheepishly I returned to the library, confirmed the time of the consumer retailing class, and returned to Graham an hour later to teach (where this time the male-female ratio was the expected 90% or so).
My wife finds this tale hilarious and sometimes tells it to linguistics students at Wake Forest University when she visits a class to guest-teach.
Last month I provided one-shot research instruction to two classes for the first time — an MBA class on international business, and a 500-level Economics capstone course – and had very different experiences. I came away lessons learned from each.
The MBA class was taught by a prof who (as when I’ve visited her other classes) didn’t introduce me or link my research workshop to the class research project. I introduced myself of course, but didn’t do much of a job in selling the value of the workshop. First mistake. I should have asked the prof to open the class, instead of assuming she would.
Before having the students work in teams to explore important tools for “doing business in country X” research, I wanted to demonstrate and discuss searching for international company “corporate trees” using OneSource (Infogroup). I had practiced earlier in the week (example, the largest Swedish companies HQed in Sweden, and largest international companies operating in Sweden). But I hadn’t bothered to note my search parameters. Mistake #2, since there are different ways to set up the foreign firms search. The OneSource advanced search is moderately complicated, as it needs to be to handle the complex nature of international business, various types of ownership, etc. So I screwed up the quick demo search based on our discussion.
The assigning of student teams to explore a key resource (ex. the World Bank guides) and summarize its value to the other students was a sound idea, but without having reviewed the nature of the research project, the students didn’t take it as seriously as they should have. (And Euromonitor was really slow that hour, which didn’t help.)
So I ended up a bit bummed about that class. It reminded me not to get overconfident and not to forget some basic best practices of teaching research instruction.
The Economics class was taught by a senior prof who has done a lot of historical research on U.S. public policy using old government documents and other historical sources. So I (and our government document librarians and our ILL staff) know him well. He’s a nice guy but also very intellectual. Like other Econ profs, I have found him a little intimidating to work with (which is not his fault).
For this capstone course on economics aspects of public policy, he told me that the students don’t go beyond Google enough and therefore asked for the first time if I could provide a research workshop. He emailed me about two pages worth of background notes on the nature of the assignment, their information needs and past info seeking behavior, and his desired research competencies for the students to learn. He also told me that he was listing more learning goals than I would have time to cover in one class period.
I spent a lot of time prepping for this class. But I enjoyed having a good reason to explore the ProQuest Congressional database, and enjoyed exploring the six student’s proposed policies, which the prof gave me ahead of time. Examples include the creation of Amtrak and restructuring of the electric utility industry. I could tell that some of the proposed policies were not yet well-defined (ex. “interstate banking”) and would need some work to refine and focus.
Two of the students were already in the computer classroom when I arrived to set up, and immediately told they had already found the LibGuide useful (they had a link to it in Canvas). Being a small class, I was able to shake everyone’s hand before class and pretty much had learned their names by the end of class.
I could tell that students were on the verge of being overwhelmed with research options by the end of the 75 minutes, but the prof told me after class this was exactly what the students needed and he was very thankful.
So unlike after the MBA class, I was feeling very good after this Econ class. But I had spent so much time preparing for it that I was now behind on preparing for my next round of classes. Sigh. So thank goodness for fall break.