Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Article Note: On Information Literacy and Career Services

Citation for the article:

Hollister, Christopher. "Bringing Information Literacy to Career Services." Reference Services Review 33.1 (2005): 104-111.

I accessed the article via Emerald.

In the introduction to the article, Hollister points out that "to date, student services divisions are an unexplored area for librarian outreach and information literacy instruction" (105). In academia, we often think of outreach in terms of the academic departments and the faculty. I don't recall as much in the literature or from my experiences about outreach to other university areas. At my library school, we were a bit more fortunate. The Information Commons there had a librarian for multicultural diversity initiatives and outreach. I don't recall the exact title, but that was the gist of it; she worked quite a bit with the ethnic organizations on campus. Yet this role seems like an exception rather than a rule, or it seems like a luxury that only big universities with great funding can afford. In most places, much if not all of the outreach activities fall under instructional services, assuming the academic library in question has such a unit (yes, I have seen a place or two that seem to lack an instructional services component. This can mean that it falls to the larger umbrella of reference). At my current place of work, I do a significant amount of outreach work. Don't get me wrong. I would not have it any other way, and I am willing to bet that a lot of instruction librarians out there feel the same way.

When I was hired, one of my long term goals was, and still is, to work on developing and expanding our outreach efforts. I have done a little, but much more remains. If job security were based not only on accomplishments, but on having a large "to do" list, I would probably have enough on the list to enable me to work until retirement. Momentary humor aside, the article caught my eye because of the connection to career services. For one, I am a believer that we should offer some kind of career reference section. We need to put those resume books, college directories, job guides, etc., in a central place for good access and use. In this instance, I am probably very biased because the Information Commons where I used to work had such a section, and it was widely used. In fact, at times the Career Center there would send us students to use our collection. They also had a recreational reading section, but the fact we lack one where I am at is a separate peeve for some other post. It peeves me because I actually do a share of readers' advisory for students in reading classes. Such a section could make some of that work easier for me. At any rate, for two, I think some kind of outreach to the campus Career Services unit would be a good idea. We get a good amount of students looking for such information here, so making it accessible as well as collaborating with Career Services makes sense. Well, to me at least. At the moment, it is an item on the proverbial (and seemingly ever growing) "to do" list. I am hoping this article will spark some ideas for me as I read on.

The article looks at how the University of Buffalo's Libraries established a liaison to the campus's Career Services Office (CSO). The author points out that prior to 2003, the only library collaboration with the CSO was on some workshops and one-shot instructional sessions for a Career Planning course the CSO offers. Some ideas and observations from the article include:
  • One needs to remember that the CSO is not an academic department and that the counselors are not faculty. In addition, the counselors have specific client assignments based on academic departments. This makes counselors similar to subject specialists (105).
    • This is likely accurate for most campuses. What is necessary to note are the similarities between career counselors and faculty. I would argue that there are some similarities as well between the work of these counselors and to the work of reference librarians.
  • The first step for the author: "The author initiated contact with the counselors known to be teaching sections of UBE-202 [the Career Planning course], which resulted in library instruction classes for each of them. The author worked with each of the counselors to integrate the library instruction sessions into their courses through relevant class assignments. Additionally, course-related web pages were created, which were much appreciated by counselors and students alike. For each library instruction session, students were asked to complete anonymous end-of-class evaluations" (106).
    • What I find significant here is starting by contacting the people you teach for already as a start. Also note the element of assessment, which can be used to help determine how effective the instructional work is.
  • The author then described the meetings he had with the CSO. On initial contact, he learned that both organizations needed to learn about the other. In addition to meetings, they had exchange tours as a way for both sides to learn about the other. The author managed to become embedded, so to speak as he became a consultant for the CSO.
  • How information literacy is integrated into the course: "The author works with each counselor individually to incorporate instruction in a relevant and meaningful way. Students learn how to research and explore selected occupations and career paths, how to search through business directories, how to research industries or specific companies, how to conduct effective job searches, and how to evaluate employment resources on the Internet. Students are also reminded that today's college graduates will change careers an average of four to five times during their lifetimes, making a commitment to life-long learning essential" (107).
  • "Being more familiar with the resources that the UB Libraries have to offer, the author believed he could provide a unique and useful service by having reference hours in the career services library" (107).
    • This illustrates the need for librarians who do instruction and outreach to be committed to mobility. The author also notes how he reassured the counselors that he was not poaching on their professional territory. Actually, the counselors were more puzzled as to why a librarian would be willing to provide this service. Hollister's explanation is definitely a great answer: "The author explained that outreach and information literacy instruction are the preferred methods for today's academic libraries to integrate themselves further into educational institutions and the educational process" (107).
  • The author notes that he was provided with a laptop computer, with a wireless card, to access the library resources while working at the CSO, which meant he did not have to take over a computer terminal there. The only thing I can say about this is that it seems nice, and it would seem necessary to any outreach librarian, but could providing such a equipment be supported in other campuses?
  • Some benefits in terms of collection development: "The experience of assisting in the development [of] the career services library collection has provided many benefits. It helped the author learn the collection and its strengths and weaknesses, which bolstered his career services library reference skills. It helped the author to identify more appropriate withdrawn items from the UB Libraries to be donated to the career services library. Also, it helped the author to select more appropriate materials for the UB Libraries career planning collection" (108).
  • On Web development, the author discussed how his library suggested hosting a page for the CSO's library on the library's servers. On this, I can simply say it would not work at my workplace since my library does not have its own servers. However, creating small specific pages dealing with career resources and specific pathfinders placed online might do the job. In addition, lacking a library school, we could not just get a student to do design work on a Web site like the author suggests. Here, it would likely fall to the Web librarian with assistance from me in terms of content and some design.
  • An important idea from Hollister: ". . .having the right contacts and knowing the right people can often bear fruit for the library liaison" (109).
    • This cannot be emphasized enough. As the fairly new kid on the block, this is something I am still working on. I have been here for a year, and yet I still have so much to build in this area. I am working on developing and cultivating the contacts. What I am learning is that it takes time.
  • Hollister summarizes thus: "The literature demonstrates that integration into institutional curricula is the preferred and most effective approach to teaching information literacy skills. As the scope and importance of information literary instruction continues to grow, librarians must strive to improve the methods of integration, and to explore new avenues. This involves proactive librarian outreach" (110).
  • Hollister then wraps up by telling readers what was accomplished: "By reaching out to the university's student affairs division, the libraries have increased their visibility on campus among professional staff, administrators, and students. They have reached a population of students which might not normally view libraries as relevant to their needs outside of academic coursework. Additionally, the UB Libraries have assumed a greater role of educational leadership by reaching out beyond academic deparments, bolstering their status on campus" (110).
What I think I can work on is reaching out to our Career Services people and on developing our collections further. I need to learn more about what they offer, and in the process, show them what we can offer. In terms of collection development, it is a bit trickier. Career-related items are not within a specific subject area. As far as I know, the business librarians pick up some of it, and the education librarian picks up some more. Career resources is not a separate subject area, so it is one of those areas that we are all supposed to keep an eye on, which really usually means "add to it if we remember or see something good." By the way, this is what happens for LIS items, but I am not going there now. As for the career items, I think what happens is since the two mentioned librarians tend to pick up much of it, we just let it be. What I do now and then is pick up books on specific career paths within my subject areas. For instance, I get books on music careers. However, this seems minimal development for me. In the long run, we likely need to address collection development in this area better. In terms of the Web, we have a small but adequate Jobs and Careers page that lists Career Information/Statistics and Job Bank sites. If I recall correctly, the Web librarian maintains it; I say if I recall because on subject specific areas, the name of the subject specialist is on the page as contact. For this page, there is no name, which means it is usually him. It has a good basic selection. What I would consider adding might be some links to some of the electronic books on the topic we have in our collection. Overall, the article did spark some ideas for me. We'll see if I can run with some of those ideas.

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