Monday, May 09, 2005

Public Speaking Skills are Important for Librarians

Stephen Cohen's blog, Library Stuff, posts an item about the importance of public speaking skills for librarians. He bases his note on the note from Caveat Lector blog, which has a nice little commentary on why public speaking skills are important. Both bloggers emphasize the importance of this skill to librarians and those aspiring to become librarians. I could not emphasize this more as well. However, I will add a couple of thoughts from my experience. As the Caveat Lector writes, having libraries provide a prompt for a presentation is a very common thing to do. It is particularly a given if you are applying for a position as an Instruction or Information Literacy Librarian, but for any public services job, it is not uncommon. During my time interviewing, I had all sorts of presentation requests. A common one was simply to deliver a mock lesson plan: basically demonstrate how I would run a BI session for a Freshman Composition class. Freshman Composition being often a big client of BI programs, this is a very common request. In this case, I had at least two demonstrations prepared: one for a literary based class doing research on literary criticism and the other for a current events or argumentative based class. I also had specific topic requests. For one interview, they wanted me to give a presentation on Developing Collaboration between Faculty and Librarians. On another, I had to do a presentation on philosophy of undergraduate education, and another one I had to discuss the link between reference services and instruction. I had a couple of other topics I don't recall at the moment, but I did manage to build up a set of powerpoints I could modify at a moment's notice. For some of the topics, some research was involved because the topics pretty much boiled down to the equivalent of giving a conference paper presentation, only without actually writing the paper. For others, the ones based on lessons, it was more easy to me since I am very comfortable with teaching. Overall, this was not difficult for me since I am very comfortable with publc speaking and presenting. But it still requires preparation on the part of the candidates. If anyone wants to know about specifics of some of my presentations, let me know, I would be happy to share the knowledge.

Caveat Lector makes a brief point that publishing is widely addressed for librarians. I have to disagree with that point. Nowhere in library school was it addressed when I went through the program, and other than the faculty librarians at the library I worked at while I went to library school mentioning something about working on an article to make sure they met tenure, the topic was not brought up. The only time you see publishing addressed is when you go to interviews at jobs where the librarians are classified as faculty. In those, they often do sit you down with the tenure committee (P&T, it has other names), and they literally go over the requirements. In some places, they are more condescending than others, but their intentions for the most part seemed sincere (except for one place I went to that shall remain nameless). However, for the average candidate, finding out about this during an interview may be too late. I mentioned this issue previously when I wrote about the librarian shortage myth since it is a concern of mine. For me, publishing was not an issue since I did graduate work in English, so writing for conferences and publications was a given anyhow. But for others without such background, it may come as a suprise, and the little research I have done on curricula shows coursework addressing this is minimal. I would be interested to see what others out there say about it.

In the meantime, do hone those public speaking skills.

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