Explaining What I Do to Librarians and Non-Librarians

Having to explain what I do is difficult and helpful, in equal measures. Difficult because I’m still figuring it out but I also feel compelled to justify my existence to random colleagues, in the library and out. Helpful because it forces me to clarify my priorities and market my services to people that might like to collaborate.

There isn’t a job handbook for Instructional Design Librarians. (Maybe I could write one – note to self!). I feel like the “blended librarian” term is outdated, but nothing else has yet solidified or become commonplace for ID-focused positions. I LOVE being an Instructional Design Librarian because the open-endedness of my job title allows me a lot of creativitity, while it’s also challenging because it reflects that my home library wasn’t quite sure what they wanted me to focus on.

I have a nice blurb on my LinkedIn profile that summarizes what I do. These are what I consider my two core duties:

  1. Design and develop reusable learning objects (RLOs) that can be embedded into online learning environments.
  2. Inculcate effective instructional use of educational technology among librarians and campus faculty.

Okay, these sound nice, but I can’t go around reciting these to non-instructional designers or those familiar with ID terms and expect them to understand me.

So, I tell people that there are a limited number of librarians, and a whole lot of students, and I want to enable the library to serve as many students as possible. I can do that by providing reusable learning objects that cut down the time required for in-person instruction. Our current model is one-shot sessions to teach research skills. This is a model that hasn’t changed in a long time, while the courses we target have changed. Thousands of students are enrolled in hybrid or online courses that never see a librarian. They need to be taught IL skills, too!

I see a few ways to do this:

  • embed a librarian into their class to assess students’ needs and provide tutorials/feedback through discussion boards (ideal!);
  • educate faculty on library resources and give them IL learning objects that they can implement into their courses themselves (not the best way to do things, but offering pre-made tools is better than nothing);
  • work closely with curriculum committees across campus to integrate scaffolded IL (time-consuming, political, but oh-so-very-necessary).

I’m only one woman, and my ID time is limited because of librarian duties including ref hours, one-shot sessions, meetings, subject liaison-ing, and tenure-track obligations.

So what do I focus on during my design-time?

In my first year so far, I’ve focused on building our RLO library, which was basically nonexistent. So far I’ve only completed a handful of videos, some informational and some instructive, and I’ve also created/completely revamped a few LibGuides. Free advice here: take screenshots of the LibGuides before  you revamp them so everyone knows what a great job you did. I’ve failed at this so far.

I’ve also been hard at work collaborating with another librarian on designing and developing a flipped model for teaching IL to students in a FYE community. We’re developing a 20-minute online module for them to complete before attending an in-person library instruction session. Our theory is that, since every class has a different research assignment, it’d be nice to standardize the IL basics and then utilize in-person time to get down with database searches customized to their assignments.

This project is fun, but even better, I can reuse the RLOs I create for this projects for other classes. I can even customize, since once they’re created, it won’t take that much time at all.

Meanwhile, I’m also intending to develop edutech workshops for librarians, and library resources workshops for the rest of campus faculty, so I suppose that’s next on my list!


Photo Credit: English: Title: Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham Field, Fort Worth, Tex.

Creator(s): Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer Date Created/Published: 1942 Jan. Medium: 1 slide : color. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-fsac-1a34251 (digital file from original slide) LC-USF351-288 (color film copy slide) Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. Call Number: LC-USF35-288 <P&P> [P&P] Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USAhttp://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

Spring is in Full Swing

My projects are piling up as my schedule is booking up with one-shot sessions for the semester, so I was thrilled to take my first release day last week to finally have some quiet time at home to catch up on reading and work on my article and tenure portfolio. (My university gives “release time” to new faculty in their first semester to allow time for research and portfolio stuff. The library’s practice is to let us use the release time in our second and third semester).

However, it ended up mostly just being another work day! I finished up a subject liaison project I was working on and then dealt with a lot of email, the result being I worked on my article very little and my portfolio not at all. It was really great to be able to work from home, though.

Being new tenure-track faculty is really difficult, especially as I continue to figure out my role in the library. Liaison duties, reference hours, and research/scholarship takes up a lot of my days, leaving not a whole lot for design time.

I haven’t had a whole lot of guidance since I started this position, but I was told I was hired to help librarians improve their instruction and to help improve our LibGuides. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’m planning to give a workshop for librarians on educational technologies. I’ve been meaning to write up a short survey to discover what they want to learn about.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I can help improve our LibGuides. In a literature review, I found that there is not much research on how LibGuides are used by students. I did find one really great thesis by a library school student, though.

I have really limited time, and a lot of instructional design projects, and improving our LibGuides one at a time certainly isn’t the best use of my time. I should also add that user experience/usability isn’t really one of my strengths. However, I had the opportunity to attend two days of training last week on Quality Matters (QM) and QOLT, which is similar to QM. Both QM an QOLT are rubrics that you can use to evaluate online/hybrid course design. Criteria include usability and navigation.

I’m not involved (yet) in evaluating online courses, but I was inspired to think about how I can construct a similar rubric for LibGuides, using what I learned in those workshops and what I can glean from existing research. I also thought that it would make a fantastic research project to work with students one on one and in focus groups to discover how they perceive and use LibGuides at our institution.

Anyways, that project is one of the many on my pile. I’m now in the development stage for creating IL learning objects for a particular program, as well as information videos on our streaming library resources, and a few other things.

I’ve just got to keep all of these projects straight! Getting and staying organized takes time, so I’ve limited my efforts in that area so far. It’s becoming time that organization will be essential to my success.


Photo Credit:

English: Skyhawk at Cedar Point in full swing.
Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/rollercoasterphilosophy/7625572684/in/set-72157630703282266
Author http://www.flickr.com/photos/rollercoasterphilosophy/

Post-Winter Break Update

I enjoyed the heck out of my winter break! I had 12 whole days off from work. I spent it beach camping, hiking, running, swimming, strength-training, reading, and binge-watching TV. I brought home work-related educational books to read, but didn’t even crack them. I really need to stop deluding myself that I’m going to work over breaks.

Once I was back in the office, I became almost instantly overwhelmed. The day before winter break I moved to a new office to be consolidated with the campus’ other instructional designers. I’m the only faculty among them, so that’s kind of weird since my job isn’t ALL instructional design, but the possibilities for collaboration are awesome.

My first week back from winter break just ended up being logistics problems. Took me a couple of days to even get a key for my office, several days for my computer to be connected to the network, more than a week for my phone to follow me. I had two days of training off-site. Meanwhile, the deadlines for grants and conference proposals are suddenly looming. And I needed to meet with staff and librarians to work on various projects.

Today is the end of the second week back – and things are looking up. It’s a three day weekend ahead, two days of which I’ll spend in Arizona for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Monday, I swear, I’m going to get some work done! I have a blog post due for the ACRLog on the 20th. I spent a lot of time working on a post on class in libraries, but dropped it recently after I realized that the post didn’t have enough of a focus, and I didn’t want to be political (just yet). My new post is about becoming an Instructional Design Librarian – not about my background, but how I’m really getting started in this brand new position for my library.

Spoiler – I’m still figuring it out! But my projects are exciting, and the possibilities are endless.


Photo Credit:

Tejon Pass, Southern California Winterwww.californiaphotographyworkshops.com/Home.html

2014 Presentations

posted in: Presentations | 0

One lightning presentation in 2014:

“SALAD: My experience collecting and providing access to Arizona government documents” (blitz presentation). Arizona Library Association Annual Conference, Fort McDowell, Arizona, November 2014

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New Job, New Blog

Now that I’ve been an Instructional Design Librarian for almost five months, it’s time I started blogging more about what I’m up to. I’m a brand new academic librarian in a brand new position at my library, so I’ve spent a lot of my time so far figuring out what it is I’m supposed to do here!

So far:

  • I’ve gotten up to speed on tenure-track related responsibilities,
  • I started blogging for ACRLog as a First Year Academic Librarian,
  • I’ve created a few tutorial videos that revived our YouTube page,
  • I’ve started design work on a new instructional module based on two of the new ACRL IL standards,
  • I’ve finished a (terrible) first draft of a scholarly article.

Whew! I’m ready for winter break now! But first, I’m packing up my office in preparation to move to a new one close to the Faculty Development Center and technology resource centers so that I can grow relationships between myself, faculty, development staff, and the library!


Photo Credit: Pollak Library Flickr

It’s interactive – but is it instruction?

posted in: Blog, Instructing | 0

The Articulate e-Learning blog had a great post about the difference between teaching and informing, and the value of an instructional design degree in the real world.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - do you need an instructional design degree

The blog post opens with a brief discussion of what educators are using instructional media software for. Are we using it to entertain and inform, or are we actually designing effective instructional activities?

Instructional design implies instruction. But much of what’s created with the eLearning applications is less about learning and more about sharing information. It’s really more interactive multimedia content than it is interactive instructional design.

The rest of the e-Learning blog post is worth reading should you have an interest in effective teaching practices.

I thought this was right in line with the theme for my week: a total perspective shift on how I teach!

Are you instructing or are you informing?

posted in: Blog, Instructing | 0

I tell people that I teach library skills to college students. So I thought that I had a good prior knowledge base from which to approach my graduate courses in education. In one of them, we’re assigned to plan a one-hour lesson. I decided to design a lesson for a particular composition class whose instructors want library instruction, but the librarians don’t have time to teach.

I described what I was planning to do on the class discussion board for peer review, and first, my classmates said that what I was planning to teach was too much for one-hour. I said I did it all the time!

Don’t be this guy.

Then, my instructor replied. She said: you’re informing, you’re not instructing. For this assignment, you need to instruct.

I was offended! What do you mean, I don’t instruct?

Talk about a perspective shift. I googled the topic “informing vs. instructing” and was completely enlightened.

The bottom line: information is pushed. Instruction should be pulled by the learner.

This post from the e-learning blog is a better explanation of this concept.

It’s the difference between dumping content on your learner, and having your learner engage with the material to find what she needs.

As another blog puts it, “information informs your learners, instruction changes them.”

While there are many theories that describe how and why this process takes place, one shared characteristic of the learning process is certain: learning creates change. If learning has truly occurred during a training session, the student leaves the program a different person than he or she was upon entering. The learning experience has changed the way the student thinks, feels, or behaves.

So – apparently I’ve got a lot of learning to do on how to actually teach. My job in the next couple of months is to come up with instructional activities that cause my learners to learn, not just lecture at them.

Wish me luck!

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