Though most of these blog postings relate more directly to my standing as a candidate for ALA President, as I talk with people at conferences and online, I’m often asked “and, what do you do as a librarian at the university?”
Since 2002, I’ve been the Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library at the Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Along the way, I’ve also served concurrently in a number of other positions: the Acting Head of the University High School Library (one year), Head of the Undergraduate Library (three years), Acting Coordinator for Staff Development and Training (one year), and Coordinator for Strategic Planning (one year). The librarians at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are faculty. I first had the title Associate Professor and a few years ago was promoted to full Professor. I’m also affiliated faculty in the campus Graduate School of Library and Information Science. It has been an amazing place to work with wonderful colleagues and I look forward to the years to come. Previously, I had been the Library Instruction Coordinator at Illinois State University and Reference Librarian at Parkland (Community) College.
Let me also share a bit more about my information literacy work specifically; however, since that has been my focus and passion as a librarian.
I discovered my interest in library instruction/information literacy in library school through a course taught by Mary Jane Petrowski and Beth Woodard. It is a great joy of my professional life that I have worked with both of these amazing librarians on different information literacy projects, publications, etc. since then – they are wonderful mentors!
In my role as Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction at Illinois, I provide overall leadership for the Library’s instructional programs and our impact on student learning and success. The Office of Information Literacy is quite small – myself, Crystal Sheu (eLearning Specialist), and Anna Lapp (graduate assistant) – but in any given year 100-150 people are teaching in our instruction programs from across our library system and so information literacy is a larger operation than it might appear! I am fortunate to have a strong advisory committee of library faculty and staff, the User Education Committee, which works with me in setting our programmatic direction and monitoring our progress.
Having the information literacy coordinator job in our very decentralized and geographically dispersed research library system means that much of my effort is focused on creating and extending infrastructure. Infrastructure is one of those things we don’t think much about until it isn’t there or is not longer a match to the needs of the organization. Though his work is in a different area (research communications rather than information literacy), I find Cameron Neylon’s writings on infrastructures very informative and thought-provoking as I identify ways in which our instructional infrastructures need to be developed and strengthened.
My focus is on ensuring that our library has reliable and robust instructional infrastructures: the tools, resources, communications, workflows, campus collaborations, information sharing mechanisms, etc. that my colleagues need in order to create information literacy programs for their user communities.
We are guided by a strong Statement on Learning Goals, which was collaboratively created and received the endorsement of our Library’s Executive Committee. We have begun conversations about how the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education might be best incorporated with our historic use of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education as well as the ideas we had incorporated from the ACRL Model Statement of Objectives for Academic Bibliographic Instruction. We are also working on revising our approach to tracking our instructional work to better document virtual and online instruction as well as enhance our assessment data and analysis.
Providing onsite training and professional development opportunities is also important as well as advocating for resources so that librarians and staff can attend state and national programs. We have many people participate in the annual Illinois Information Literacy Summit each year. (It has been an honor to keynote this conference twice in the past and I’m looking forward to presenting “Can a Constellation Be Critical? The Position(s) of the ACRL Framework and ACRL Standards for Information Literacy” as a breakout session this spring.) A shout-out to the organizers for a high-quality, low-cost local program that is inexpensive for participants and does not charge any fee at all for LIS students to attend! My colleague Beth Woodard and I both teach in the ACRL Immersion Program and we typically have one or more librarians attend at least one of the programs each year. Since that is not an inexpensive program, though it is high-value, this signals that our library administration is very supportive of the information literacy program.
As Coordinator I am also involved with a number of library-wide projects where my role is to bring the lens of teaching and learning to the work at hand. As examples:
- What are the teaching and learning considerations as we develop our discovery systems?
- How does the website design impact our instruction programs and what re-design would enable better student learning?
- How should we be educating our users about the privacy and security of their library records?
- What are the implications of open licensing our instructional materials?
I also track trends, best practices, and initiatives in information literacy internationally and in the literature and share that information with my colleagues in the Library and on campus. Though I have highlighted my work within the University Library in this summary, I also collaborate with many campus units and professionals. Many of these partners and projects are in the Office of the Provost (e.g., the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and the Grand Challenge Learning Initiative). I am also leading the Library’s work with the Graduate College to implement the Ithaka S+R Graduate/Professional Student Survey and serve as chair of the Faculty Liaison Committee for the Illini Union Bookstore.
This turned out to be longer than I expected and even still I feel like there is so much more I could share because I truly love the work that I do. I hope this has given a sense of me as a librarian but as always I welcome questions and comments. Please – contact me!
P.S. I’ve said it in a number of times but let me repeat here how grateful I am to have the support and encouragement of my library administration in accepting the nomination to be a candidate for the ALA President position.