Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Iris at Pegasus Librarian sees the light about library research instruction:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, though, it’s been that I am not there to teach the students how to find, evaluate, and use information. I tried that with a couple of courses, and it failed. Miserably.

No, I’m there to do two things: to give the students a couple of skills they need right now, and to spark their imaginations about what could be possible if they decided to make a habit of this research stuff.

When I do presentations for students, I tell them that I will have succeeded if they remember two things. First, that tools exist to uncover the information they want and need. Second, that librarians want to help them learn how to use those tools. I give the example of students who come to see me a week or two later and say, "I know you showed us how to [library thing], but I don't remember how it works," and I tell them how happy I am with that response, and I mean it. And inevitably, during the walk-around-answer-questions-hands-on-student-research part of the presentation, someone will say, "I know you just showed us how to [library thing], but I can't get it to work." And I smile at them and show them how.

It is not only for our own sake that we librarians need to relax about presentations. Students are so ready to feel dumb or ashamed when they don't pick up something right away. Being open about the fact that these tools take practice is a good first step.

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