Post- Class Post: Learning

First classes are always awkward at SI because SI classes are by default three hours long which is way longer than any classes really can undertake when students are still learning really what the class is supposed to be.

For me, it was interesting hearing about how instruction affects libraries and where they may or may not be rising to the occasion. Certainly, in my own library experience I feel like I have been in teaching role in many different situations, going back to being a circulation worker helping students find books. I think it is interesting how in libraries (public libraries especially) that the teacher role has been specifically given to Librarians. I can think of several occasions where I have  gotten an earful for answering questions I should have directed to the reference desk simply because I was not a librarian.

With all that emphasis on the role of the librarian as reference expert, it is often puzzling how little of our professional training has been spent in learning how to actually teach people. Now a reference assistant in two different libraries, I am often surprised how much time is spent teaching people where the books are, where the databases are, what to do when people ask certain questions, who to refer people to. But very little time was spent on how people actually learn.

There could be two reasons for this. First, those are relatively translatable skills, and perhaps they assume we have already learned them in some other context. Or, perhaps more likely, the librarians and managers do not know themselves the mechanisms of how teacher works, and so could tell us how to teach as well. Since we as librarians perceive it as so mysterious, we therefore think it can be trained and can only be learned through other means (databases, answering questions etc).


About Ilana the Librarian

I am an aspiring librarian at the University of Michigan.
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3 Responses to Post- Class Post: Learning

  1. Megganggan says:

    I have been warned in numerous library jobs that I was not supposed to be answering any patron questions because I was not a librarian. I think this is incredibly bad form because in most libraries the most visible people are the least “librarian-y.” This is bad for employee moral (my boss does not trust me to answer any patron questions because I am not a valued contributor to my workplace) and it is bad for patrons (why should they be directed through a string of people in order to have a simple question answered? why should I trust a place whose employees aren’t allowed to tell me where to find a book?) If a library is supposed to be a place where people go to ask questions, why are the most visible people warned to have limited patron interaction? Maybe we should spend more time teaching library employees instead of warning them off.

  2. Mary Buchner says:

    Oh my goodness. Your quip about getting yelled at for answering too many questions reminds me of this webcomic from Questionable Content.

    I love it so much.

  3. cherriv says:

    I also feel the need to chime in on being reprimanded for answering questions. I worked for many years in the children’s dept. of a public library and patrons often approached me for questions. I knew I was supposed to refer them to the librarian for any question other than “Where’s the bathroom?” as this was drilled into those of us who weren’t librarians by our supervisors. Don’t answer questions–the librarians will be angry! However, I found that there were several librarians who were not very helpful to patrons, including one who I observed many times simply pointing to the direction of something instead of walking the patron over or asking more in-depth questions. These poor patrons probably never learned a thing because some of the librarians did not take the time to try to teach them about how certain things in a library work. I know that these lazy librarians I worked with may be exceptions (I hope!), but as an observer and someone who was told that answering questions was stepping on the toes of librarians, I often wondered why I couldn’t answer patron questions when I probably would have done a better job than some of the librarians.

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