Library badges go live! Or, what I did this summer.

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.

Illustration of all five badges

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:

Spark tutorials logo

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.

Library Instruction West 2016

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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.

Professional Development for Librarians: Try New “Learning Pathways” from

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Last year LinkedIn purchased, 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 and display their achievement on their LinkedIn profiles.

More and more libraries are adding 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 offers a lot of professional development in these areas. Check your local public library to see if they offer a 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:

  • EduTech
    • 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

What I learned at Library Technology Conference 2016

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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!

Getting Library Badges and eLearning Off the Ground

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!

How to Become an Instructional Design/eLearning Librarian

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.

Required Education/Knowledge

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.

Why I Got My Degree in Instructional Design (And You Should Too!)

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.

Also, learning styles are Not A Thing.

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.

Making It Happen: Second Year Adventures as an Instructional Design Librarian

It’s been exactly one year since I wrote The Making of an Instructional Design Librarian for ACRLog. At the time, I was six months in to my new position. Now I’m a year and a half in! Time flies.

That post seems to be fairly popular on the interwebs as evidenced by readers writing me about ID librarianship, so I thought the timing is right to check back in. Also, I haven’t written a blog post in a bit about my work.

So, here we go – update time!

First Off: Portfolio Update!

I wrote back in September about my glee at turning in my first tenure-track portfolio, which is composed of three sections: Performance as Librarian, Scholarly/Creative and Professional Growth Activities, and Service. It’s still winding its way through the system, but I’ve heard back from the first two stages: the Department Personnel Committee, which is composed of three librarian colleagues that review portfolios, and I’ve heard from the interim University Librarian.

Both responses were very good!

There are four possible outcomes for each of my portfolio’s sections: Outstanding, Good, Fair, or Inadequate. To get inadequate, you’d basically have to be doing nothing at work! I’m not sure if I’m supposed to blog about it or not since I haven’t received official notice that I’ll be around next year, but I got two “Goods” and an “Outstanding.” Outstanding is for my Performance as the ID Librarian, which is terribly gratifying. I especially appreciated the University Librarian’s comment in his review warning me not to “overcommit” myself. TOO LATE, BUDDY!

The Overwhelm is Not So Overwhelming Anymore

Really, I’m not that overcommitted, so I’m not really overwhelmed anymore. As long as you don’t count the occasional panic attack when I realize I forgot to do something.

I’m really happy to say that I’ve found my footing as Cal State Fullerton’s Instructional Design Librarian. This was a brand-new position created at Pollak Library, and when I started, I was basically shown my office and left to myself. Occasionally someone would pop by and ask “HAVE YOU PUBLISHED YET,” sending me into new paroxysms of panic. I did a lot of thinking and exploring and networking and talking and eventually I mostly figured out what my work was. Also, I have an article out for peer review, so that’s awesome.

My line of work is still in reusable learning objects. I’m hellbent on only developing tools that are usable, updatable, and applicable in a variety of situations. eLearning development is a lot of work, and I’m not going to squander it on one-offs! To that end, I’m also really big now into Open Educational Resources. Because – instruction librarians in academia all basically do the same thing. So why don’t we share more?!? I slap a Creative Commons license onto my work, and coerce encourage my colleagues into doing the same.

Furthermore, I’m scaling up our instruction with my fancy learning object repository: Pollak Library eLearning. OK, it’s not really that fancy, since it’s actually based on WordPress. But it is an inexpensive and flexible solution for sharing our work here, and for making online tutorials accessible to our students, our faculty, and anyone in the rest of the world that’s interested! In fact, I’ll be presenting about this repository this year at two different conferences: LibTech and Library Instruction West. So excited!

Academia is Less Weird, Though It’s Still Weird

I’m neck-deep in the tenure-track, that whirlwind of responding to Calls for Proposals for presentations, articles, chapters, what-have-you, and generally justifying my existence to my university the rest of the time. When I get a proposal accepted for something I want to share it with people. Academics are like, Great job! Friends and family are like, Whut.

I feel like I have two selves: the real one and the make-believe one. Academic is kind of the make-believe one. Peer-review, calls for proposals, these aren’t real things! Unless I’m at work and they’re very real and also give me anxiety.

I also still feel out of place in academia since I come from a blue-collar family, which I never knew, until I worked in academia. Everyone here is just so…educated…and sometimes random colleagues around campus say weird classist things. But perhaps this is a post for another time. Meanwhile, I very much enjoy having health insurance, a flexible work schedule, and 4.5 weeks vacation. So awesome.

Coming Up

I’ve been collecting Instructional Design/eLearning Librarian job postings just for kicks. I’m thinking about either analyzing them, or posting them here for reference, or both.

I’m also kicking around the idea of writing a post with advice for people that want to be an Instructional Design Librarian, or an Instructional Designer! I feel like I’ve got a foot in both worlds.

Stay tuned!

The Making of an Instructional Design Librarian

This post was originally published at ACRLog on January 20, 2015.

I’m now in my sixth month and second semester as a tenure-track Instructional Design Librarian, which is a new position at my library. In December I completed my second master’s in Educational Technology (specializing in instructional design) so now I can call myself an instructional designer with confidence. I’m a new academic librarian AND a new instructional designer, and my job is to wear both of those hats, often at the same time.*

I spent a lot of fall semester figuring out exactly how an Instructional Design Librarian should fit in at my institution. Figuring out my role(s) and mastering the intricacies of the tenure-track handbook has been an enormous, time-consuming challenge. (Spoiler: I’m far from having it all figured out).

Instructional Design Librarians, Please Stand Up

As far as I can tell, there aren’t a whole lot of people like me – at least, title and primary responsibility-wise. There are oodles of instruction librarians, lots of emerging technology librarians, many online/distance education librarians – and multitudes of librarians that have taken on instructional design/educational technology as an additional duty or interest. I discovered this last group in the wonderful Blended Librarian Online Learning Community, which offers fantastic webinars. A term coined by Steven J. Bell, the “Blended Librarian”

first combines the traditional aspects of librarianship with the technology skills of an information technologist, someone skilled with software and hardware. Many librarians already demonstrate sound technology skills of this type. To this mix, the Blended Librarian adds the instructional or educational technologist’s skills for curriculum design, and the application of technology for student-centered learning (2003).

My position and skills certainly fall under this definition. I think that a large percentage of academic librarians have at least some of these skills. Sometimes I say I have the librarian job of the future (at least for academia) and I think that more and more librarian jobs will require these skills going forward.

Taking Stock

When I started this job, I realized my new library desperately needed new and innovative ways to reach more students. Only 23** librarians (including me) serve 38,000 students and 2,000 faculty. Our YouTube page hadn’t been updated with fresh content in years, and there were no communal, reusable learning objects*** to speak of. After settling in last fall (truly settling in will take years in this position), I started my work by doing lots of brainstorming. It was clear from the start my time is limited. Since I am wearing “two hats,” I have to carefully manage my time to fully attend to my librarian duties (liaison subjects, instruction, reference hours, tenure-track work) while striving to make enough time for instructional design. I talked about keeping a work diary in my last post, but I use the same online notebook to sketch out loads of ideas. Holy cow, do I have a lot of ideas: badges, learning object repository, an information literacy curriculum customized for our campus, interactive tutorials, design workshops for librarians, instructional videos, assessment plans… I’ve also been instructed to work on improving my library’s existing online resources, namely, LibGuides.

Last semester, I strove to meet everyone that works in our very large library building and to meet the instructional designers on campus. Our campus has an Academic Technology Center (ATC, which falls under IT), the Faculty Development Center (FDC), a resource called Online Academic Strategies and Instructional Support (OASIS), as well as the University Extended Education (UEE) department. Each of these has one or more instructional designers, and confusingly these centers tend to overlap in their offerings. I spent a lot of time tracking down needed software – Camtasia for the videos, Adobe Captivate for interactive tutorials. My office computer died once and had to be replaced. I had to figure out which librarians I had to talk to about getting YouTube access and my own corner of the website for tutorials (still working on my own corner of the site, but I want to have a mini-repository of learning objects like that from University of Arizona libraries).

Jumping In

In my ACRLog posts so far, overwhelm is a prominent theme for me. So I started small. My library is currently suffering through a stacks closure due to an earthquake last spring, so I created a brief video on how to page materials. By consulting with librarians, I came up with a shortlist of other basic videos and developed two more on searching for library materials. I also took a course on Universal Design for Learning, while concurrently taking a course on writing a journal article in twelve weeks, both through our Faculty Development Center. Per my assignment sheet, and my personal interest, I’ve also been working hard collaborating with another librarian to revamp our assessment model (using the draft ACRL IL framework) for the information literacy component of our campus’ First Year Experience (FYE) program.

Partly due to the stacks closure, and partly due to coming re-organization and major renovation, I moved to a new office the day before winter break. I’m now consolidated in the same hallway as all of the other instructional designers on campus – from ATC, FDC, OASIS, and UEE (holy alphabet soup!). I’ve already learned a lot from them and am excited about the possibilities for collaboration and promoting the library and its resources. Under a grant last week, we were all able to attend two days of training on Quality Mattersand our university system’s version, Quality Online Learning and Teaching. I was inspired to think about ways to develop and offer rubrics to allow librarians to self-evaluate learning objects.

Now on to Spring Semester

I continue to work hard on the assessment redesign for our piece of the FYE program (my colleague and I are presenting a poster at SCIL Works, and we submitted a poster proposal for ACRL, look for us if we get accepted! [Edit: Accepted for virtual con]). We’re also working on a grant proposal for release time to assess the pilot once it’s completed. I’m meeting with librarians to talk about developing videos/tutorials for their subject areas. I’m working on developing resources to help students and faculty use library resources like eBooks and streaming video. I’m working with members of our library’s Open Access Team to create presentations on utilizing open educational resources. I want to work with librarians to improve their instruction and their instructional materials, and I’m planning to employ social justice themes in information literacy instruction. I’m also following thecritical librarianship community, as I’m from a blue-collar background and sometimes feel out of place in academia.

I get asked a lot what I do as an Instructional Design Librarian. I am certain that my answer will change as I embark on new projects and as I explore new possibilities, but I have come up with a short-ish answer. My new elevator-length job description/mission statement is that I endeavor to design and develop reusable learning objects that can be embedded into online learning environments, and to inculcate effective instructional use of educational technology among campus faculty.

Yep, that’s a mouthful.

Bell, S. J. (2003). A Passion for Academic Librarianship: Find It, Keep It, Sustain It–A Reflective Inquiryportal: Libraries and the Academy3(4), 633-642.

*I want a button that says “ASK ME about cognitive load!” Because IMHO many, if not most, librarians excel at inflicting cognitive overload in their instructional materials.
**Give or take a few positions in flux.
***At my in-person interview for this position, I was required to teach my audience how to create a reusable learning object (in 20 minutes or less, yikes!). I taught them to make an educational slideshow using myBrainShark and assessed their learning with Poll Everywhere.


See all of my blog posts from ACRLog:

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