Friday, June 29, 2012

Article Note: On becoming an andragogical librarian

Citation for the article:

Cooke, Nicole A., "Becoming an Andragogical Librarian: Using Library Instruction as a Tool to Combat Library Anxiety and Empower Adult Learners."  New Review Academic Librarianship 16 (2010): 208-227.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

The article looks at library instruction through the lens of andragogy. Andragogy is the theory of teaching adults. The author argues that andragogical theory is compatible and relevant to instruction and reference librarians. Given that my experiences as an instruction librarian have included working with adult learners, I definitely concur with the author's view. Why are both fields compatible? Cooke cites Terrence Brennan's dissertation where it states the following:

"Both fields have a historically educational function, both promote personal and societal lifelong learning, and both fields represent a continuum of learning, from self-directed/informal learning to other-directed/formal learning" (208-209). 

Both adult educators and librarians share the goal of empowering learners. These are good reasons to learn from each other and work together.

The article has a good literature review that provides a good overview of andragogy, its critics, and where it stands today as a model for adult education. The review sets up the discussion of how adult learners in college can gain benefit from library instruction. The article also includes a good discussion of library anxiety and how to address it. And while I am pondering, I think this would make a good article to add to the list of readings for the ACRL Immersion programs, probably for the teacher track.

Some notes from the article:

  • Why is this significant? One, adult learners are a growing demographic on our campuses. Two, many librarians lack the knowledge and expertise for working with adult learners. 
  • "Adult learners 'return to campus with special needs and often under stressful circumstances; they have strengths and deficits as learners that set them apart from traditional-aged students (Darkenwald 1992, 31)" (qtd. in 211). 
  • Graduate students are different than adult learners: "Graduate students comprise a slightly different demographic to adult learner as they are already versed in their academic content and the culture of higher education. However, that is not to claim that they know how to use the library and conduct higher level research" (217).
  • "Adult learners are multi-taskers, with responsibilities of work, family, and school, and, consequently, they want pertinent information and assistance from the library and have little time to experiment" (220). I would take that with a bit of a grain of salt. I think a danger in this article can be some over-generalization of adult learners, much like there is generalization of the millenials. 
The list of references in this article may be worth a look as well. 

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