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Monday, October 26, 2015

Riding the Wrecking Ball, Or, Fall Semester: 2015

This semester has been a grueling one--it started with a bang, and is just now beginning to let up. And by 'let up,' I mean it's just now that I can start getting to my long to-do list of things I was hoping to accomplish this semester that fall just outside my primary duties of coordinating and scheduling instruction. That list includes reflecting on my teaching,

Summer 2015

Summer was a wild one, with some rough health issues, then a week away at PhD camp for the Mythological Studies degree, then the first week of August in Seattle for the ACRL Immersion program, then coming back to welcoming the new faculty, developing the syllabus for my new class, and scheduling library instruction.

September: All Information Literacy Instruction, All the Time

In September, I taught 27 instruction sessions across all manner of subjects (including Anthropology, Art, Business, Education, English, Environmental Science & Resource Management, Communication, Psychology, Political Science, Spanish, University Studies). Something I really value about the way our library works is that we are true partners with faculty--for every instruction session I teach, I make personal contact with the faculty member, and we craft the instruction session to be specific to what they want their students to learn in the context of their research assignment. Another policy that existed before I came that I'm happy with is that faculty are required to attend library sessions with their classes; no faculty member, no session. I've broken this policy on a few occasions where a faculty member made a specific request, and every time it has resulted in a poorer session not only because the professor tends to have a moderating effect on student behavior, but because we dig into the details of the assignment and it is always surprising how little the students understand, and how much the professor has to explain that they thought was clear. The value-add of that short conversation and having students articulate their understanding of their information needs (and having the professor see how *un*clear their instructions were) is immense.

I've made some good connections this year in teaching that I've been excited about. I've noticed that something as simple as asking if students are happy with their results, instead of whether they are getting good results, has led to better conversations with students about refinement and articulating their need. When teaching students how to read a full record from one of our databases, I hit on the idea (not novel, probably, but a new connection for me) that the hyperlinked subject terms effectively work like hashtags. It definitely livens up class when we can connect something familiar like #whitepeopleproblems or #bringbackourgirls to translating the pieces of research information in a record, and there's a genuine "aha" moment I see in students' eyes. That has been incredibly rewarding, so I'm using that analogy to death in relevant sessions.

I've had a huge uptick in the number of students emailing me after sessions, stopping me around campus, and coming by to see me at the library. It makes me happy that they come back to ask more questions, and so far (according to informal poll and students coming up to me after sessions and randomly during the day) the students feel that they've learned something new and useful in each of the sessions.

October

Somehow I'm only 8 instruction sessions into October--it feels like more, but they've also been upper-level and more specialized (including one session entirely on using EndNoteWeb for a Chicano Studies class). It's been a blur - the rheumatoid arthritis was a real monkeywrench thrown into things this month with some uncontrollable inflammation, pain and swelling, and I spent the month mostly resting at home during off-time so I could work, hurling myself through the workday, and then heading home to collapse and do it all again. October is a vague blur of steroids, teaching, reference, meetings, and doctor appointments. By the grace of my colleagues who helped me with coverage and offered generous emotional support and cheerleading, and my husband who handles everything so that I can collapse, I'm still here, and if I make it through this week, I get to step into November. Ooh-rah! Next up to end the month (and my to-do right after I finish dashing this off) is setting up and testing Zoom for my first distance-delivered instruction session.

To Come

In the more-to-come for the back end of the semester, I'm getting caught up on grading for the course I'm teaching in Freedom and Justice Studies, working to establish some standards and options for distance information-literacy sessions, working on a gnarly revise-and-resubmit, and during the post-finals dip I'll be getting to the chapters submitted for the edited collection I've contracted with ALA Editions. I'll also be working with our director of the Writing & Multiliteracy Center to develop a new workshop series. I was lucky enough to have a talented friend and author come forward as a co-editor to finish the work on the collected papers on mythology and contemporary women poets that I started a few years ago, and thanks to her energy and talent, the collection is speeding toward publication and should come out in 2016. (More on this in another post where I discuss the difficulty of letting go a project I simply couldn't finish.) So, always more to do, but it's always interesting. Onward!

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