Reinventing the Academic Library: Clinical Teaching Environment

[The following program proposal is part of an ongoing series on Reinventing the Academic Library. It is intended as an example of the kinds of things librarians supporting a research-intensive university can do.]


Integrating Students Across the Campus in Library Service

Students in different disciplines can gain invaluable real world experience applying their classroom learning to real problems in a functioning library. Students will work shoulder by shoulder with library professionals in exploring how information changes industries and disciplines.

Rather than checking out a book; faculty, students, and staff can check out engineers, coders, illustrators, and the range of university expertise.

Further Talking Points

Learning theory and advances in instruction have shown us the importance of fusing research and practice. The ideal courses are combinations of practica and symposia. However, where can university bound students get access to real problems – particularly the most meaningful problems that cut across the boundaries of classes, schools, and disciplines? The short answer can be the library.

Through internships, independent studies, work-study, hourly positions, and class projects, teams of students can work with production librarians. Faculty needs a website? A production team takes control. Not only do they produce code, images, designs, and such, but the librarian works across the library, IT services, and home departments to ensure that projects meet quality standards, and can be sustained and preserved over time.

Student/librarian/specialist teams will work hand in hand with a revitalized and expanded publisher of the university to make sure projects have impact. Students learn, faculty excel, librarians facilitates. Authentic learning takes place that is measurable.

4 Replies to “Reinventing the Academic Library: Clinical Teaching Environment”

  1. Again, an interesting idea with many examples from practice (and ones that might be more in line with a future I might desire than “faculty need a Web site”). Some initial thoughts:

    1) reform begins at home – there are still relatively few academic libraries providing systematic clinical teaching experiences for LIS students, and many examples found through the literature may not have been sustained. Teaching experience and the ability to assess student learning in the library and to contribute to campus-level student learning assessment activities is a critical competency for academic librarians and we still do not do a great job of taking advantage of the potential partnerships between LIS programs and academic libraries to make this happen. UIUC stands out in my experience as one where the possibility is there. Those of us in libraries without an LIS program on campus can still provide sites for clinical teaching experience by making connection with distance education students who may be matriculating afar but living near.

    2) community engagement can provide connections – while many academic libraries provide some services to K-12 schools, there are few who have made a routine commitment to those programs or have identified them as a strategic priority. Kent State (at least a few years ago) stands out as one that has. The challenge is always scalability and impact on core instructional services. At Washington State, I addressed this through collaboration with the College of Education in that the College allowed pre-service teachers to log clinical hours by working with the K-12 groups that came to the library. This allowed the library to provide services to K-12 students and allowed the College to have another outlet for required service hours that were sometimes otherwise difficult to meet in a locale with a large education program and a limited number of local schools. Service learning programs can provide similar opportunities for mutual benefit.

    3) emerging service programs may allow for new partnerships – data services programs may require workshops in data analysis tools, data curation, etc.; digital humanities programs may require instruction in textual analysis, image creation, metadata schema, etc., and the library can provide a perfect venue to provide such services to a broad spectrum of users. UIUC’s Scholarly Commons and Media Commons both took the tack of engaging campus colleagues (including, potentially students) in providing workshops relevant to their service programs (providing a site for clinical experience without adding to the library payroll, in some cases); I can’t say if that is still part of the model, but it was part of the original thinking. At DePaul, we have explored providing these sorts of experiences to graduate students in the humanities who would not otherwise have them as part of their more traditional assistantship responsibilities.

    These are all opportunities to view the library as a site for clinical teaching experience that may include, but also transcend, what we have traditionally thought of as instructional opportunities for students (and I haven’t even mentioned some of the very cool peer-educator opportunities that allow the library to become part of broader peer educator and peer leadership programs on campus, not have I mentioned opportunities to bring information skills instruction into co-curricular education programs). Each may promote core information literacy learning outcomes or strategic initiatives at the library or university level (K-12 outreach, community engagement, service learning, digital citizenship, etc.), and some may promote the integration of information literacy, media literacy, and information technology skills that prepare faculty and students to move into new areas of teaching and research (and, collaboratively, especially in a smaller library where there is no “Data Services Librarian” or “Digital Humanities Librarian” position coming anytime soon).

    If faculty need a Web site, there are plenty of tools that will let them do that out of the box, and often IT support staff with that very mandate. Let’s aim higher!

  2. Love it!

    On faculty needing a website and aiming higher, I see this as a valuable connection point for faculty and librarians. Having a web presence i more than a few HTML pages, but it needs to be tied into maintenance and archiving processes. I find a lot of my faculty colleagues get stuck in creating an effective web and social media presence either out of fear, lack of knowledge, or a clear understanding how it can push forward their career goals (research agenda, teaching agenda, etc.).

    And might I point out Scott…you are awesome.

  3. So, “need a Web site” may actually be short-hand for a possible need for faculty professional development related to emergent platforms for disseminating research, establishing a network of colleagues who might become collaborators or peer reviewers, increasing the “reach” of one’s work (as in community engagement or public scholarship), etc. Could also become a component of our continued development of instructional programs for graduate students, e.g., through Preparing Future Faculty programs (something a colleague and I wrote about in a different vein several years ago). Again, that strikes me as a potentially exciting approach to bringing library expertise (and support) into a broader program of graduate student and faculty development (and one that could be tiered, if you will, for relevance to graduate students, pre-tenure faculty, mid-career faculty, etc.). Policy issues around social media involvement (see Kansas, Illinois) could also be of interest to those audiences and bring an information policy aspect to the discussion germane to LIS faculty work.

    1. Absolutely. We tie instruction into supporting their research while increasing their impact based on our own scholarship.

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