I’m now halfway through my third year as an Instructional Design Librarian! This is officially the longest I’ve ever held a single job. This is also the first time I think of my stay here in terms of which year I’m in as a result of the tenure-track process. I had to turn in my 2nd year file in fall 2015, I had to turn in my 3rd year abbreviated file in fall 2016, and in fall 2017 I have to prepare another full portfolio to justify my continued existence. I suspect that, once I get tenure, I’ll miss the progress of the tenure-track even though it’s a lot of work!
Anyhow, I’ve been meaning to take stock of where I am and how I’m doing as a new librarian. I still think of myself as a new librarian. I’m less lost than I was, but still feel inexperienced, young, and naive. I’m still stubbornly maintaining my optimism, though! It’s what keeps me motivated.
Two years ago I wrote The Making of an Instructional Design Librarian over at ACRLog about my experiences as a brand new librarian. I’m surprised and pleased to find that my goals and plans for this position were not only on the right track, but I’ve accomplished most of them. I’ve developed lots of new video tutorials, I’ve developed several interactive tutorials that issue badges (and concurrently advocated for and then built the infrastructure to make the badges happen). I also developed a mini learning object repository that will be transitioned over to our forthcoming institutional repository. I’ve worked with faculty and staff on lowering the cost of textbooks for their students and done several trainings for my colleagues related to instructional design and educational technology.
I have two peer-reviewed articles being published this winter (my minimum tenure requirements are MET!), a book chapter is in the works, I’m working on an article with a colleague in another department, I have three (THREE!) national conference presentations coming up, and also, I’m lecturing part-time for our Master of Instructional Design and Technology program.
Life is good!
Academia is STILL Weird and Will Apparently Always Be
I feel like I’ve written a lot about how I find academia to be a strange cultural experience, since I’m a first-generation college student and I come from a blue-collar family. Seriously, I’m the only one in my family with a college degree, let alone two masters degrees. I identified a lot with a recently published article in the Chronicle, “I Fit in Neither Place,” about a first-gen PhD that doesn’t feel like she fits with her colleagues nor with her family and friends outside of academia.
This is a weird thing that I would like to help other first-gen colleagues with, but to do so, we’d all have to out ourselves as not fitting in. It unfortunately tends to cause sideways glances and awkward silences with my colleagues when I say blue-collar things. On the flip side, my family has no idea what I’m talking about when I talk about publishing in journals and pursuing tenure. They do not share or apparently comprehend my excitement at getting not one but TWO proposals accepted to ACRL!
I am very pleased, though, to work at an institution with an incredibly diverse student body and a very high percentage of first-gen students. If my colleagues don’t get what they’re going through, I do, and I can help students. My family is still proud of me even if they don’t know what I do.
I’m really happy with the success of my Spark Tutorials, which are Storyline courses embedded in our Learning Management System – I’ve issued 2,907 badges so far to students for tutorial completion. This adds up to about 500 hours of library instruction that did not require in-person librarian time. I’m working on developing more tutorials in collaboration with my colleagues and am continuing to market these to faculty. This program will continue to scale up our instruction.
I continue to work with our Faculty Development Center and Online Education and Training department to help faculty find low-cost or free replacements for their courses’ expensive textbooks. I’ve dived deep into navigating Fair Use, Creative Commons licensing, and troubleshooting permalinks. I enjoy all of these things.
I love teaching in our Master of Instructional Design and Technology program! It’s entirely online but I’ve gotten to know my students well. I taught my first class last fall and am teaching another this spring. I’m enjoying the time off, though, from teaching right now until classes resume in two weeks.
I still struggle to balance all of the things I’m supposed to do: Ref Desk, online reference, research consultations, subject liaising, committees, research, publishing, presenting, more committees, service, collection development, instructional coordinating, plus my core duties as an ID librarian. I wish I could devote more time to developing elearning, it’s kind of my favorite thing, but also the most time-consuming!
While I have a full plate, I also want to start my own side business for freelancing in elearning development. Stay tuned!
Presentations in 2017:
- Blended Librarian: Conversations with Blended Librarians Panel
- California State University, Fullerton, College of Education Webinar Series
- Association of College & Research Libraries 2017, Baltimore, MD (See Digital Badges for more)
- Digital badges exposed: Technology behind a library badges program (TechConnect in-person presentation, March 23, 4:00-4:20 pm, BCC 317)
- Digital badges exposed: Technology behind a library badges program (60-minute interactive webcast, March 23, 10:00-11:00 am) [three-part recording available via YouTube]
- Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference 2017, Austin, TX
- Digital badges exposed: Technology behind a library badges program (15-minute presentation, April 4, 2:30-2:45 pm, Room 203) (See Digital Badges for more)
- Panelist. Just in case, just in time: The role of the library in active learning initiatives (45-minute panel, April 4, 3:15-4:00 pm, Salon A/B)
- California State University Library Assessment Symposium, Vallejo, CA
- Invited Speaker. Workshop: Assessing Information Literacy Digital Learning Objects (May 26)
A Place at the Table: Librarians Leading Information Literacy Assessment for WSCUC Re-Accreditation
[Slides and handouts]
- Invited Speaker. Workshop: Assessing Information Literacy Digital Learning Objects (May 26)
- ALA Annual Conference 2017, Chicago, IL
- Panelist. Transforming: E-Books & Collections, ALCTS Collection Development Librarians Interest Group. (60-minute panel, June 24, 3:00-4:00pm, W190a).
- Open Education Conference 2017, Anaheim, CA (October 11-13)
- Connecter, adviser, creator: The role of the Instructional Design Librarian in campus OER initiatives (25-minute roundtable, scheduling TBA)
- The Perfect Opportunity: Transforming a graduate instructional design degree with affordable and open educational resources (Co-presenting with Dr. Cynthia Gautreau, 25-minute presentation, scheduling TBA)
- DevLearn 2017, Las Vegas, NV (October 25-27)
- Badges and microlearning: The perfect match (Co-presenting with Dr. Cynthia Gautreau, scheduling TBA)
Halfway through last year, a directive from the Cal State Fullerton Provost filtered down the ranks to me, the Instructional Design Librarian: Develop a 10-minute library tutorial that all freshmen will be required to complete.
For such a short sentence, it sure turned into a large project. For starters, a 10-minute tutorial could never be enough. And how are librarians supposed to “require” freshmen to do anything? We don’t even teach credit-bearing courses.
I had already been thinking about the possibilities of digital badges since mid-2015. Our library dean thought that an info lit badges program was a terrific idea.
As of August 2016, I now have the first module complete: four interactive Storyline tutorials with integrated assessment are live in our learning management system. Together, the four tutorials comprise a complete orientation to Pollak Library and the basics of library research. Once completed with a 100% score, students earn a digital badge that is visible on their LMS profile, allowing their instructors and peers to see their accomplishment.
See the demo:
You can also try out the full tutorials.
Our First Year Experience program is requiring all of its students to complete all four tutorials this semester – that’s more than 600 students. Many other faculty have indicated interest as well in assigning these tutorials to their students.
This is the start of something big. And my position, Instructional Design Librarian, only came into existence at Pollak Library two years ago, in 2014.
I’m about to start designing the tutorials in the second module – there are four planned modules altogether.
But let’s back up. I want to tell you how we got here.
- August 2014: I start at Cal State Fullerton as Instructional Design Librarian
- Fall 2014: I partner with another librarian on redesigning the library component of our campus’ first year experience program, then called Freshman Programs. We designed a 45-minute Storyline tutorial based on a few learning objectives grounded in the new ACRL Framework, and pilot it with three Freshman Programs instructors as part of a flipped classroom format. We got good feedback.
- January 2015: Our campus is all abuzz about assessment. I apply to ACRL’s Assessment in Action (AiA) program with a proposed project that would explore how librarians can effectively serve in online courses, preferably in a scalable manner.
- June 2015: The AiA project proposal is accepted; I am now part of a cohort enrolled in ACRL’s year-long assessment program. I partner with the Human Services librarian and a faculty member to design another 45-minute library research tutorial for an online junior-level class for fall semester. We also embed the librarian into the course itself.
- Fall 2015: I am asked, along with the librarian I partnered with in fall 2014, to chair a new Information Literacy Taskforce. Our job is to gather librarians to develop information literacy student learning outcomes for all freshmen based on the new ACRL Framework. My librarian partner didn’t want to be a co-chair, so I ended up chairing the task force alone. I also serve as the instructional designer, and the librarians as the Subject Matter Experts.
- December 2015: We get good results in our AiA project, but, obviously, embedding into a course is time-consuming and I can’t develop a custom tutorial for every single class (this one took me about 40 hours, as did the Fall 2014 one).
- Spring 2016: Increased focus at campus level on assessment, WASC accreditation (information literacy requirement), and high-impact practices for students. We have Moodle as our learning management system, and I know that it’s possible to issue badges within Moodle, so I start lobbying hard for adding badges capability. Our campus LMS team acquiesces.
- January 2016: CINDEr completes its work. We did great. Our learning objectives are divided into four sections: Pollak Library, Evaluation, Searching, and Citations. This is just the beginning. These learning objectives, once mastered, will lay a solid foundation for Cal State Fullerton students to become information literate. We focused on freshmen, but the same curriculum would be essential for all students to master.
- February 2016: In February 2016, I was asked by the library dean to present at a library-wide meeting on how I was planning for library instruction to not only scale up, but also meet campus assessment demands and WASC accreditation, and support high-impact practices on campus. This is the 8-minute presentation I gave:
- Summer 2016: Badges go live in the LMS! I go into overdrive developing our learning objectives into tutorials and designing the badges program. It took me about 75 hours to design and develop the tutorials, and figure out how to implement the badges program. This number doesn’t include my colleagues’ feedback on the original storyboards and testing the tutorials.
- Fall 2016: Pollak Library Spark Tutorials are tested, proven, and ready to go!
A digital badges program for completing automated tutorials is the perfect solution that helps us meet all of the pressure on library instruction. Faculty can even mix and match the tutorials they want students to complete, since each is only 10-15 minutes.Furthermore, when this project is fully realized, our badges will show potential employers how amazingly information literate our graduates are.
We are now able to:
- Scale up our instruction, helping us meet WASC’s info lit requirement
- We can also now focus time in one-shots on hands-on practice as part of a flipped classroom format
- Track students that complete the tutorials for assessment purposes
- Allow faculty to confirm that students completed the tutorials
It’s like all of the pressures on myself and library instruction funneled perfectly into this outcome: online tutorials rewarded with digital badges. I’m more than a little intimidated by developing the rest of the modules, let alone maintaining them, but I am very proud of this project.
I attended Library Instruction West last week: June 8-10, 2016 in Salt Lake City! It was a fantastic conference, I had lots of interesting conversations with awesome people.
Here are my biggest takeaways by day and session:
Thursday, June 8
- Keynote: Dr. Donna Lanclos
Dr. Lanclos said that she is an anthropologist that studies higher ed. Great keynote! My biggest takeaway from her talk was that it’s important to show vulnerability in digital spaces, since people go online to connect with other people. I felt very validated by her statement that academic values dehumanized voices and “real” scholars don’t have emotions – not only are we to write in the third person, but we are discouraged from talking about families and feelings at work. Personal life? WHAT personal life? I must pretend I don’t have one, because academia is everything! Anyways. Obviously I had lots of feelings from her talk.
- Walking the path together: creating an instructional design team to elevate learning
This session was about how an Instructional Design Librarian (IDL) and an Instructional Technologies Librarian (ITL) work together at UCSD. LOVED it. Basically, Dominique, the IDL, does the big picture stuff and the politicking and the meeting with library clients, and Amanda develops whatever elearning product was requested. As the only Instructional Design Librarian at my institution, I wish I had someone to help me out with ID stuff, but I have NO idea which of these two roles I would want to play. I do prefer elearning development to the politicking and strategizing, but I also like having a lot of control over picking and choosing my projects according to my own interests/the library needs that I identify. Of course, UCSD probably has a much larger library with more demands.
- Engaging with empathy: Mapping the path to insightful instruction
Great presentation! Kimberly led us attendees through through an activity where we practiced constructing a “persona” that we might encounter in our jobs, and what kinds of needs that person might have. My group constructed the persona of a first-gen college student that attended hybrid classes on a commuter campus, and we imagined the challenges that student might face and how we might create more meaning in our library instruction to help that student feel connected to campus. It was a really great exercise.
- Then I presented on using WordPress as a learning object repository!
I talked about how challenging it is to be a new librarian, and how sharing your instructional materials can help make new librarians’ lives better. I feel like I struck a bit of a nerve – more than one new librarian told me they identified with this description. I got some great questions and had some good conversations. This felt like the best conference presentation I’ve given yet.
Friday, June 9th
- Canvas Commons: Scaling library instruction in the LMS
I already Tweeted it, and I’ll say it again: Francesca is doing great work at Nevada State College as their Instructional Design Librarian! She created a beautiful set of guides that are built directly into her school’s LMS. And now, when instructors create new classes, the appropriate subject guide is automatically built into that new course. Super cool, and her guides really are beautiful. My campus has Moodle, but I almost wish we had Canvas just for the Commons, which is a built in learning object repository where you can access objects from EVERYONE that uses Canvas. Alas, Canvas Commons is not open to the public. You have to have Canvas.
- Digital research notebook: A simple tool for reflective learning at scale
UCLA librarians came up with this nifty little library assignment (longer version) that they are OK with anyone reusing! Basically, they have students copy a Google Doc that walks them through the research process. Librarian Julia assertively tells her faculty to assign the notebook as a *mandatory* pre-assignment to a one-shot (and they do!!). Students are asked to share the completed doc with their instructor and the librarian. Julia does spot-checks to see how well students did. Check this assignment out, it’s a great idea. It forces students to get reflective about the research process and gives librarians insight into where students struggle.
- Addressing cultural humility and implicit bias in information literacy sessions
Another great session! Seriously, this was the best conference. Anyhoo, two librarians from the hosting institution, U of Utah’s Marriott Library, gave us a great overview of recognizing your own bias and some strategies on how to overcome your own biases. We all have biases! If you’d like to discover yours, presenter Twanna recommends completing tests over at Harvard’s Implicit Bias Project. They’re a great way to discover your “implicit” biases, which are those biases you didn’t know you had. They’re also a great way to feel terrible about yourself! In any case, knowledge is power, and you need to know about your biases. Also, AWESOME handouts with TONS of further reading, and a great glossary of related terms.
- Navigating the sea of information: Creating DLOs to empower students to develop their own information literacy compass
CSU Northridge librarians are doing some really great work on developing online materials to teach info lit, more specifically, the Searching as Strategic Exploration frame. Check out the mini-course that is part of Felicia’s info lit toolkit. Students work through a series of videos, readings, and quizzes to get an intro to the research process. Cool stuff! And a great example of how to scale up your instruction.
The conference’s special events were also fantastic – we did an opening reception at Westminster College (we drank booze in an academic library!). And we did a social at Tracey Aviary in Salt Lake – wonderful Mexican food from Red Iguana and beautiful birds! Everyone from Salt Lake professed their love of living in Salt Lake. The moment that someone told me that you’re only 30 minutes from skiing in the winter, I said SIGN ME UP, I’m moving to Salt Lake! Plus, both Westminster College and U of Utah had beautiful libraries.
Last year LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com, the go-to subscription video service that teaches software, design, and more. Since the purchase, LinkedIn has been doing a lot to increase the value to users of both companies by integrating their best features. Now, LinkedIn users can complete one of 53 “Learning Pathways” on Lynda.com and display their achievement on their LinkedIn profiles.
More and more libraries are adding Lynda.com subscriptions to their digital offerings, so this is a great opportunity for librarians to pursue new skills and show off what they learned without adding to their student debt!
EduTech and instructional design skills are a growing demand from library employers, and Lynda.com offers a lot of professional development in these areas. Check your local public library to see if they offer a Lynda.com subscription, I’m lucky to work at a university that offers it to all students and employees!
I browsed through the new Learning Pathways, and pulled those that I think would be most useful to librarians:
- Become a multimedia specialist
- Become a video editor
- Become an ebook publisher
- Become a graphic designer
- Become a digital illustrator
- Become an iOS app developer
- Become a project manager
- Become a project coordinator
- Leverage Those EduTech Skills
- Become a design business owner
- Become a small business owner
- Web Skills
- Become a digital marketer
- Become a user experience designer
- Become a front-end web developer
- Become a programmer
- Become a web designer
- Administrative Skills
- Become a manager
- Become a project manager
- Become a project coordinator
See these courses and more on Lynda.com.
I attended Library Technology Conference last week: March 16-17, 2016 in Saint Paul, Minnesota! The TL;DR: it was SO WORTH flying out from California. I Tweeted (#LTC2016), and talked, and discussed, and I even presented. The company was good, the food was good, the presenters were awesome.
Here are my biggest takeaways by day and session:
Wednesday, March 16
- Keynote: Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble
Takeaways: “We are now turning to algorithms to identify what we need to know,” – Gillespie (2012, see pres). Google is a monoply and threat to democracy (83% of adults use Google by default, and believe that search engines are fair and unbiased!). The consequences of turning over our decision making to Google, and letting Google filter the world for us, is a tragedy. Dr. Noble’s collected search results were horrifying: she searched for the word “beautiful” in Google images and all that came back were white women, she searched for “black girls” and almost all that came back was porn. The results that Google returns on political candidates can swing an election. Are we really OK with this?
Teaching takeaway: Teach students about Google’s algorithmic biases by encouraging them to search for an identity that they care about, and see what results come back. (My own test searches weren’t as bad as Dr. Noble’s, but they are still really bad!)
- Digital Storytelling
Takeaways: Make visible the work of your library! Take pictures at library events, verbal release for photography permission is often OK. Illustrate all stories with stock images if need be (Pixabay was recommended). You can also make simple graphics using Canva (I LOVE Canva) and simple movies using Moovly. Short stories/features are great to assign to students – help them build their portfolios.
- Are You Research Ready? Adding ImagineEasy Academy’s Tutorials to Library Instruction at Hamline
Takeaways: These librarians had students complete a locally customized version of five library tutorials from ImagineEasy before coming into live instruction. Students said the tutorials were boring, but they did recall some information, and it helped them come to in-person instruction with some prior knowledge. Tutorials included multiple choice questions as assessment, but did not embed into LMS.
Teaching takeaway: I’ve been saying this myself for a while, but offload the lower-level learning stuff into online tutorials and save in-person time for higher-level learning.
Personal takeaway: Seriously, commerically available library tutorials are awful. ImagineEasy’s tutorials were like PowerPoint slides from the 80s – a click-through setup with tacky stick figure drawings and speech bubbles. We can do better. (Last time I saw Credo’s tutorials [2013?], they weren’t as bad as these, but they were also pretty bad). A future post awaits on this topic.
- Building a Usable Information Architecture in LibGuides 2
Takeaways: Conduct user testing at your local institution – the best way to layout your LibGuides will depend on your library website (i.e. whether horizontal tabs or vertical side navigation is better depends on your site). Overall, a two-column format was best – most usable and students retained the most information. Furthermore: use icons for database listing – draws the eye and helps label each offering. Create templates for librarians to use (have to be an admin to create templates). Make a style guide for librarians to follow. Finally, get librarian buy-in by having them sit in on user testing so they can see firsthand how students interact with guides.
Teaching takeaway: No more than two columns; use icons for databases; no more than one row of tabs (3-5 tabs is best; create additional guides if needed instead of having an overwhelming number of pages).
- Getting Started with Google Analytics
Takeaways: Use the Chrome plug-in GA Debugger to see if you put the code in right in your websites. Create multiple “Views” to compare different sources of traffic (e.g. only show external traffic, exclude bots). I’m a relative novice to GA, so I have a bit of work to do to get better at using Google Anaytics. Also, URI is the same as URL. AND – you can create custom URLs to track marketing campaign success (add utm+code to web address, set up view to track visitors that arrived via those links).
Thursday, March 17
- Keynote: Andromeda Yelton
Takeaways: It is really super easy to spy on web traffic on the same wi-fi network as you – just use WireShark. Do not create accounts on websites that don’t have https:// at the beginning of their web addresses. Cookies last for two years, and websites know the last time you visited thanks to said cookies. Major library vendors including EBSCO and ProQuest have laughably bad security. Yikes.
- What’s Going On? Educating Staff About Library and Campus Technologies
Takeaways: Presenter does tech workshops for her library. She schedules them a week or two out, picks a topic, and just invites people to come. She doesn’t send an Outlook appointment even. And it works! People show. She keeps it casual, low pressure, and tries to have hands-on activities. These come-as-you-are workshops are a “safe space” for people to admit that they don’t know something, and often people “don’t know what they don’t know.” Workshops are a success, plus a monthly edutech blog is also a success at her library.
Personal takeaway: I really need to do this, I’m supposed to be in charge of training people on technology, but I don’t want to duplicate what’s already offered on campus, but no one from the library goes to those though they would probably come to mine, so I should just do it. Inspiring! I brainstormed a list of topics to teach about.
- Lightning Rounds!
I didn’t take many notes from this – I did notice that the presentation on Lending Technology at the Library inspired a LOT of questions.
Almost forgot to mention: I also presented on Thursday! You can download the slides from my presentation, Scale Up Your Instruction by Sharing Your Resources: Deploy WordPress as a Learning Object Repository! My presentation went pretty well – about 25 attendees and several good questions at the end.
In conclusion, I met tons of awesome librarians, learned lots of new things, and am inspired to try some new things at my library. This was an energizing, rejuvenating conference – it’s so good to get out from my own silo and my own library to see what others are doing!
Learn about our eLearning efforts at Pollak Library, and how we can scale up our instruction and impact without using more librarian time. I originally prepared this presentation for a library meeting.
So – since 2014 I’ve been the Instructional Design Librarian and now Instruction Coordinator at Cal State Fullerton. I’ve been interested in badges and scaling up library instruction with eLearning for a while. I pitched badges last year to our interim university librarian, and he’s super excited about them, but we’re a ways off yet from implementing them in a way that makes them meaningful as micro-credentials to future employers.
However, both the uni librarian and our Provost want us to scale up our Info Lit instruction in response to WASC deeming IL as a core competency, so the Provost directed the library to develop an Info Lit tutorial that all freshmen will be required to complete.
To do this, a group of us first wrote out a basic library research/info lit curriculum that is targeted at the bottom two levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, which we’re going to develop into a suite of online tutorials that faculty can mix and match for their classes as appropriate (because of course there’s no way that a single tutorial for freshmen would cover enough/anything meaningful). While we started from the ground up with our curriculum, we are considering it a living, to-be-continued document with themes and threads that point to eventual mastery of the ACRL IL Framework. The curriculum is licensed CC and available here on Pollak Library eLearning.
This spring and summer, we’re developing this curriculum into online tutorials. Since the curriculum we have so far is at the bottom two Bloom’s levels, I feel A-OK about making the resulting tutorials automatically graded, through quizzes/drag n drops/whatever other graded activities Storyline has. We’ll provide lesson plans for faculty directing them how to implement the tutorials into their courses so that the tutorials are scaffolded and hopefully more learning sticks. Also, if we’re able to implement our tutorials into our LMS (Moodle) and IT is wiling to turn the badges feature on, we’ll be able to track tutorial completion and all faculty will be able to see which tutorials their students have already completed.
I don’t think we’ll be able to get the badges set up yet in a way that makes them truly valuable as micro-credentials for employers in the real world, but I think it’s a good start.
The goal is to scale up our instruction in a sustainable way (no increase in one-shots, big increase in students learning info lit). I’m really impressed by the other libraries that are dumping one-shots all together – my institution isn’t there yet, and maybe that’s not right for us. BUT at least if we have tutorials on hand that address lower-level learning, I hope that our time spent doing one-shots focuses on the higher levels of Bloom’s, so our time spent instructing is more meaningful.
Right now I’m diving into tutorial design/development, so we’ll start finding out this fall if any of this is a Go, but fingers crossed. The timeline I sketched out for development is exceedingly ambitious!
I really, really like instructional design (aka ID). It is a growing field whether in libraries or without. I often get asked about what I do and I like to peruse/collect instructional design-related librarian job postings.
So here goes!
What does an Instructional Design/eLearning Librarian do?
It varies! (Helpful response, I know!). My job is mostly developing library tutorials and teaching other librarians about effective pedagogy. I promote use/development of Open Educational Resources. I developed and maintain a learning object repository. I’m also the Instruction Coordinator for my library and I have regular reference hours and teach one-shot instruction sessions. I am the first-ever Instructional Design Librarian at Cal State Fullerton, so when I started here I had to figure it all out for myself. And I often feel like I’m still figuring it out!
An Instructional Design Librarian’s duties might include: training the trainer, designing learning spaces, evaluating user experience, developing educational tutorials and games, exploring emerging technologies, promoting OER, etc.
Related job titles include: Online Learning Librarian, eLearning Librarian, Instructional Technologies Librarian, Hybrid Learning Librarian, Educational Technology Librarian, or Learning Design Librarian (got another one? Post it in the comments!).
I don’t have to know computer programming languages, though a basic understanding of HTML and CSS has been very helpful in developing elearning delivery and customizing free learning tools.
To get a better idea of the requirements, browse through ID-related library jobs posted over at Designer Librarian.
As an instructional designer and librarian, I have to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. I have to continually embrace a DIY spirit and talking up my projects and why they’re important. I work with librarians, instructional designers, faculty, department heads, and administrators. As #19 and #20 on this silly listicle point out, instructional design is a liminal career and it’s crucial to be at peace with that.
When you’re at the step where you’re formally applying for academic librarian jobs, check out my post on How to Become an Academic Librarian for crucial application writing and formatting tips.
If you want to be an Instructional Design Librarian in title, you will almost definitely have to work in higher education. I’m only able to specialize in instructional design because I work at a large university and we have a lot of librarians. Smaller institutions are often looking for librarians with instructional design/educational technology expertise, but using those skills will only be a small part of your job.
You’ll have to get a masters degree in library/information science, which most academic librarian jobs still require. And which don’t prepare you for teaching. Or instructional design. They just don’t. I did take an instructional design class as part of my program at San Jose State and it was fairly useless.
Technically, you don’t have to get an instructional design certificate/degree to be an ID Librarian, but it really really helps. Many instructional design/elearning librarians are hired without additional education in these areas, but I strongly recommend either formally studying instructional design or doing a lot of self-study. For more on this, see my post Why I Got My Degree in Instructional Design (And You Should Too!).
I’m really glad I got my masters in instructional design. My educational psychology classes completely transformed how I approach teaching. Of course, I’m also really bothered by people that call themselves “instructional designers” but are really just spreading misinformation (e.g., learning styles are NOT A THING!).
Perhaps the most important skill aspiring Instructional Design/eLearning Librarians should work towards is developing the ability to explain to your peers how one instructional strategy is better/worse/different than another, or be able to teach a colleague how to best use a given educational technology, by using explanations based in learning science.
To be able to do this, you will need to know learning science and theory. And to me, at least, it’s crucial to my success at work that I’m able to justify a course of action. It’s how I win over my colleagues and get the resources I need – and also how I push library instruction forward!
Other Career Options in Instructional Design
Like I said at the top, instructional design is very much a growing field. Many academic institutions have a corps of instructional designers that not only support faculty with employing educational technology, but also help move student-centered pedagogical practices forward. Again, instructional design is a liminal field, and many instructional designers complain that faculty view them as merely “tech support.” Part of the problem is that instructional designers can help with a LOT of things, including tech. Arizona State tried to help clear this up a bit with their fabulous infographic: So What Do You Really Mean by “Instructional Designer?”
Instructional Designers are usually considered staff, and the positions can pay well and have great benefits. Keep an eye out for these positions via higher education job boards and listservs.
If you want to be an instructional designer, another way to get there is to get a job in the corporate sector. Many large companies have a large L&D arm (aka Learning and Development*) that is responsible for employee training. A possible career path might involve working your way up from corporate trainer to instructional designer/elearning developer, though a certificate or masters in ID will go a long way to help you out.
To discover instructional design jobs in corporate, sign up for alerts on major job sites like Indeed or Monster. Use the keywords “instructional design,” “elearning/e-learning,” “designer,” “developer,” or search keywords related to software you’re an expert in.
The Final Word
The fact is, in both academia and corporate, know that many people discover they’ve became “accidental instructional designers,” and they just figure it out as they go! In that case, Here Are 12 E-Learning Books to Read This Year.
Blog post coming soon: Crash Course in Instructional Design!
*”L&D” is common shorthand in corporate-land for a training department.
I have a B.A. in English and a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS). Later on I earned a Master of Education in EduTech/Instructional Design.
Every now and then I get asked why I got this second masters, and here’s the answer(s)!
The Short Answer
I spent years applying for librarian positions without having any luck. The jobs I held in the interim didn’t cover my bills. Since I did finally land a library staff position at a university, I was able to go back to school (again) for another degree. On the advice of my mentor, I went the instructional design route for two reasons: 1) to be more marketable as an academic librarian, 2) to be able to pursue ID/eLearning jobs in the corporate sector.
The second degree paid off: I landed a tenure-track Instructional Design Librarian position in southern California that pays my bills, lets me actually save money, and has a ton of vacation time and other awesome benefits, like health insurance(!).* None of the corporate/id staff jobs ever called back.
Beyond my own personal welfare, my instructional design studies did nothing less than completely transform how I see the world, and I really love making a difference, so let’s move on to:
The Long Answer
It is really hard to learn from a lecture. Students are not blank slates inherently capable of absorbing their professors’ brilliance through osmosis.
And yet, professors continue to lecture. Academics continue to spout off about “learning styles.”
Actually I don’t have an answer for this.
However! I feel like a radical working in academia. I know the secrets of student-centered learning. I can tell you why student engagement is key to learning success (hint: if students aren’t engaged, they are not learning!).
I know the basics of neuroscience – the human brain develops back to front, and is 90%-ish done developing in the first five years. A child’s first few years shape her brain for the rest of her life. Yet the brain doesn’t finish developing until a human’s mid-twenties! Do you know what develops last? The front lobe, which is responsible for higher-order executive thinking (i.e. good judgment).
Not coincidentally, rental cars suddenly become much cheaper when you turn 25!
I know that including everything AND the kitchen sink in a given learning experience does not lead to greater learning, it leads to less! The content that is left out of a learning experience is probably more important than what is kept in – the human brain is easily overwhelmed by Too Much Information, plus the extraneous details keep learners from focusing on what’s most important.
I know that experts on a given subject need to receive different instruction than amateurs!
I know that while learning styles are Not A Thing, learning and physical disabilities are, and students also face a number of challenges including often trying to learn something in English when it’s not their native language. Therefore, the principles of Universal Design for Learning are critical to take into account when developing a learning experience. That means: including Closed Captions on videos, presenting material in a variety of formats (e.g. video transcripts!), allowing students to download your PowerPoint slides for review, and ensuring that your materials are completely compatible with screen readers, just to start!
I know that design really really matters, and if you want your design to be successful, it needs to take into account how people actually are, not how you’d like them to be.
My Advice for Librarians Considering This Path
Do you love to teach? Do you want to be better at it? Are you passionate about good design?
First, a primer on design and learning. I highly recommend beginning your journey by reading The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman. After reading this book years ago, I suddenly realized that it’s not my fault if I push instead of pull a badly-designed door.
And then! Move on to Moonwalking With Einstein, by Joshua Foer. You will not believe what each and every human brain is capable of in this fast-paced, real life tale of a journalist that dives into a world he never knew existed, and then accomplishes incredible things.
Next, dive into applied design with Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug. While this slim volume is focused on web usability principles, you’ll get a crash course in how people actually interact with multimedia technologies.
Finally, finish off with Design for How People Learn, by Julie Dirksen. Using simple illustrations, this very accessible text will teach you, ahem, how people learn, and how you can design learning experiences for real people.
Thus ends your crash course in design thinking/instructional design. Still interested?
Then I highly recommend getting a second masters, or a certificate, in instructional design/edutech as a librarian, if it’s free/cheap (i.e., if you’re working as staff at a university that offers discounted tuition as a benefit, or are closely related to someone that is).
Getting my degree completely transformed how I approach teaching and learning. I most value what I learned about educational psychology. Technologies change so quickly, but if you understand how people learn, you’ll understand how to employ edutech as a mere means to designing effective learning experiences.
You’ll also be much more employable/marketable. And if you tire of academia, you can run your own business developing eLearning, or consulting on instructional design. Options are a beautiful thing.
But librarian jobs in general just don’t pay a whole lot, so watch out for taking on too much debt. Just assume it will be difficult to pay back.
Bottom Line: Instructional design is awesome! Change your life, and come be a radical with me, transforming academia from the inside.
*I spent a good chunk of my 20s without health insurance, so this continues to be a big deal for me. As is being able to have my own place with no roommates, and with my own kitchen/bathroom, because Yosemite employee housing has none of those benefits.