What we can learn from each other: Librarians and university faculty

Welcome to the new year! May it be a year of learning from each other.

I spend a lot of my working life in academic libraries talking with university faculty. (At my institution, librarians are faculty as well. But I’m talking about English professors, art professors, engineering professors…you get the idea.) I spend a lot of my commuting & research time reading articles about academic libraries, and about both P-12 and higher education. I spend a lot of time in my doctoral program debating and discussing and binding with teachers and administrators from a wide variety of settings. So you can guess some of the things that I think about.

One of the most pragmatic, given my work is–my gosh, there is so much that academic librarians and university faculty can learn from each other! Another is–why aren’t we talking more about this? That and other connections between the fields of LIS and education–which can so intimately inform each other–is indeed the theme of this blog.

So let’s talk. First, what can academic librarians tell university faculty? Here’s a list to start with:

  • We have a longitudinal view of students’ academic and personal development. We often work closely with a small but meaningful number of students from the first time they choose to connect with the library until they graduate.
  • What do students really know about research? Ask a librarian. For many of us, that’s our life.
  • Students share their challenges, victories, fears, and complaints candidly.
  • Rather profoundly, students often verbalize how they are applying ideas learned in one class, in another class. We see transfer of learning on the large scale.
  • Similarly, students often explain assignments’ requirements to us. We have a good idea what kinds of instructions trip students up, and what supports smooth sailing.
  • Although you could argue that the students we work with may not represent campus demographics accurately, we do work extensively with both high achievers and struggling students. Academic librarians have insights into what students with different academic backgrounds and/or levels of preparation find helpful, struggle with, and so on.

What can librarians learn from university faculty? A few ideas based on my experiences:

  • Faculty know individual students deeply. They have a detailed view of individuals’ performance, needs, and more.
  • Likewise, they often have powerful narratives of individual students’ experiences to share.
  • While we know how assignments pan out on the reference desk or in the library instruction classroom, faculty know how they pan out across the semester. Sometimes my head is so deep in my own work with students that I need that reminder.
  • Faculty are wonderful sources of insight on trends in teaching & learning.
  • No matter how up to date I think I am on trends/requirements/changes/etc. on curriculum at my institution, faculty always have a lot to tell me. This is a favorite topic for a bit of conversation when I run into my favorite faculty members.

How do we find opportunities to connect? Some of my favorite opportunities are before, after, & during instruction; at university symposia; on university-level committees (I’m a committee junkie–I actually enjoy committee work); over coffee (no one says no!); and by offering to write posts for various university blogs & publications.

Whew! Librarians, what else can we share with university faculty? What else have you learned along the way from these interactions? Let’s talk.

Here’s to a vibrant new year! Thanks for being a part of it.

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