Category Archives: Professional Development

Teaching and Librarianship

One of the things I never really thought about going into library school was how big a component teaching was to the profession of librarianship.

How naive was I?

I think part of the reason is that it doesn’t feature much in the program. I had a quick look at Dalhousie, McGill, U of T, University of Alberta and UBC’s course descriptions. Teaching barely registers in many of these top schools. When it is mentioned, it’s either couched in library-speak (“Information Literacy” a top offender in my mind) or perhaps sandwiched in with a variety of other topics (“Services for User Group XYZ”). UBC’s School of Library, Archival & Information Studies, the iSchool, and Dalhousie lead the pack with courses that are dedicated to pedagogy, such as Instructional Role of the Librarian and Design and Evaluation of Information Literacy Programs, and Managing Information Literacy Instruction respectively. What I find interesting here (and perhaps will serve as a balm on my ego for not seeing this coming) is that the course lists for these programs aren’t exactly overflowing with classes on how to be a good teacher. Here and there you find an elective, but just as often you might not.

This isn’t to grouse on the education I received – I opted to take other electives, after all – but more of a reflection on what I expected going out into the library workforce, and increasingly it seems, what is expected from librarians based on the job postings. Had I known what I do now, I would have been signing up for every teaching seminar and taking any class I could.

This post has been kicking around in my brain for a while now, ever since I had the opportunity to attend a Manitoba Association of Health Information Providers‘ continuing  education session on incorporating active learning strategies into instruction (above) presented by the lovely Mê-Linh Lê.

It served as a gentle but firm reminder that teaching isn’t a part of librarianship that can be ignored, and that if I want to be a good librarian, I better learn to be a good teacher too.

Design in the Library: MLA Webinar “Making Your Library Promotion Pop!”

I attended a great Medical Library Association (MLA) webinar entitled “Making Your Library Promotion Pop! Practical Design Principles and Tools for the Non-Designer” last week by April Aultman Becker, Education Coordinator for the Research Medical Library at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Though originally held in September, it was re-hosted courtesy of Capital Health, Health Sciences Libraries and through the marvels of modern technology. 

I really liked the presentation and thought Aultman Becker did a great job of laying out the design principles, showing some really effective examples, and – my favourite – drawing on design submissions from the September attendees to illustrate the successful use of various principles. It was a great idea to get everyone to submit some work ahead of time, because it served as a showcase of the talent of other librarians, and also boosted everyone’s confidence (if all these other librarians can make cool posters, I can too!). This is why I think her work in Librarian Design Share is so awesome – it’s essentially an inspiration/sharing/discussion blog about design in the library and the ways in which design can help us tackle issues. My favourite so far is this meme graphic explaining boolean operators by Erica DeFrain.

It was funny though, because a lot of the various design principles Aultman Becker discusses seem like such common sense, “Yes – contrast is good, make things stand out!” “Proximity, group things together, I get it.” “Use alignment to connect things visually, of course!” “Use repetition to create consistency, definitely.” but how often have we seen (or worse, made them ourselves) posters and signs that totally flout these principles?

Since attending the webinar, I’ve definitely thought more about what I was doing from a design standpoint, and caught myself thinking, “You know what? This header needs to contrast more from the body of the text,” or “the alignment here is totally messing with the flow of this page”.

I’m definitely going to have to start a Pinterest board just for my design inspiration!