Teaching and Librarianship

One of the things I never really thought about going into library school was how big a component teaching was to the profession of librarianship.

How naive was I?

I think part of the reason is that it doesn’t feature much in the program. I had a quick look at Dalhousie, McGill, U of T, University of Alberta and UBC’s course descriptions. Teaching barely registers in many of these top schools. When it is mentioned, it’s either couched in library-speak (“Information Literacy” a top offender in my mind) or perhaps sandwiched in with a variety of other topics (“Services for User Group XYZ”). UBC’s School of Library, Archival & Information Studies, the iSchool, and Dalhousie lead the pack with courses that are dedicated to pedagogy, such as Instructional Role of the Librarian and Design and Evaluation of Information Literacy Programs, and Managing Information Literacy Instruction respectively. What I find interesting here (and perhaps will serve as a balm on my ego for not seeing this coming) is that the course lists for these programs aren’t exactly overflowing with classes on how to be a good teacher. Here and there you find an elective, but just as often you might not.

This isn’t to grouse on the education I received – I opted to take other electives, after all – but more of a reflection on what I expected going out into the library workforce, and increasingly it seems, what is expected from librarians based on the job postings. Had I known what I do now, I would have been signing up for every teaching seminar and taking any class I could.

This post has been kicking around in my brain for a while now, ever since I had the opportunity to attend a Manitoba Association of Health Information Providers‘ continuing  education session on incorporating active learning strategies into instruction (above) presented by the lovely Mê-Linh Lê.

It served as a gentle but firm reminder that teaching isn’t a part of librarianship that can be ignored, and that if I want to be a good librarian, I better learn to be a good teacher too.