Monday, October 30, 2006

Hey faculty, how about showing us librarians some love?

I am sure by now that Todd Gilman's column about librarians and academic faculty in The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 3rd, 2006) has made most of the rounds. Gilman's article makes for a good item to send to every faculty member on campus. He does make a bit of an understatement when he writes that librarians "sense they are viewed as second-class cititzens by members of the teaching faculty." Change "sense" to "know," and you will get a more accurate picture. If you don't believe me, I actually have written proof of this from faculty members who view their librarians as nothing more than "those lame ass" people (actual words used by the faculty member. I will be happy to send anyone a copy of the e-mail in question). However, as Gilman points out, this is not news to academic librarians. We pretty much take it as a given and just deal in the best way possible. Gilman's strength in the article is that he manages to maintain a very constructive and positive tone, offering suggestions for ways in which academic librarians and faculty can better collaborate to help their students succeed. A lot of what he says is not new. I have seen it in one form or another in a few articles (here and here for example), but he says it in a way that is accessible and easy to read.

Gilman makes four points about faculty in relation to librarians:

  • Some faculty (I would say a lot of faculty) have no idea of the expertise librarians have. At the academic level, we often have one other masters' degree, some even a PhD as well as the MLS. In addition, some of us actually have teaching background, something that many faculty members may or not have depending on the field of study and whether anyone provided at least a teaching methods class at some point.
  • Professors are territorial. The idea of sharing control of the class is not always welcome.
  • Professors often assume students know the stuff about research already. Again, this is not news. The problem is getting the faculty to admit this. That some faculty may lack some knowledge in regards to research, since things change over time, adds to the problem.
  • Professors don't want to give up "precious" class time to teach research. However, they end up giving i it up anyways when they have to teach basics of research after seeing less than stellar results on student work.

The article is definitely worth a look for both librarians and academic faculty. So, what are some of the suggestions? Gilman writes,

"So, if you are a teaching faculty member, why not respond to that librarian who e-mails you every fall with an offer to meet you and your students for research-education (or 'information literacy') sessions at the library and take him or her up on it?

Better yet, why not work with that librarian to develop one or more assignments for a grade that will enable your students to apply what they have learned while the library is still fresh in their minds? "

And as Gilman concludes, if you are a faculty member, you may learn a thing or two in the process as well. So go ahead, fill out that request for library instruction form, give your subject librarian a call, visit with your instruction librarian. Don't wait. We really can help your students succeed in your class and give them skills they can take with them to other classes as well.


Tricia said...

I was just talking to a faculty member today about the lack of collaboration between librarians and scholars. I am in the unique position of having only faculty as my client base. I am a librarian at an academic "think tank" where post-docs spend a year working on some scholarly project and rely on the library staff to obtain materials for them.

During the particular conversation I had today, the faculty member confessed that there is a perception that the academics are the experts on their subject and shouldn't need to ask for help with research. Their reluctance to consult with librarians stems from a fear that they will be looked down on for it.

My goal is to rock their socks during the year and send them back to their home institutions much more aware of the skills librarians can contribute to their academic work.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Tricia: That is an interesting take, and one I have heard about, about the faculty seeing themselves as the content experts (which they are), and thus not wanting or thinking they need research help. I have found faculty can be a little "frail" when it comes to their egos, so one has to tread gently. We do need to rock their socks as you say. Keep doing that. Best, and keep on blogging.

Martina said...

It is unfortunate that happens at all, I work at a high school and it seems that some teachers do tend to shy away from speaking from the librarian I do not know the exact reason why but they do.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Martina: Back in my days as a school teacher, I barely remember we even had a school librarian. She sure as heck did not really do anything in relation to collaborating with teachers, which meant for me, that I was barely aware she existed. I probably could have reached out to the librarian, but I was young, inexperienced, and I got the impression from my teaching elders that you pretty much sent the kids to the library if need be, or for serious research, took them to the local campus u. library. I am not sure if that culture has changed, but back then, it was more a matter of the librarian barely existed. Unfortunately, it was pretty much not because the teachers ignored her, though I am sure they did that, as she pretty much did nothing past being in the library (or media center as it was called) checking out items and making sure the movies for classrooms got in the player on time.

Best, and keep on blogging.