Kristen Emmett, graduate student in the McGill School of Information Studies (SIS), writes about some of the intersections between librarianship and teaching in higher education.
University students and faculty may not think of librarians as teachers, but increasingly the role of librarians is shifting from reference and book providers to active educators. In the past, instruction in the library, often referred to as bibliographic instruction, served to orient students and other users to the organization of materials within the library’s collection. Now, the library is refocusing from a collection-centered model to a user-centered model, where instruction is tailored to the needs of the user.
So what does that mean in university libraries? It means that librarians are going out into the classrooms on campus and teaching not only how to use the library’s resources, but how to conduct research, how to sift through information and avoid information overload, how to recognize seminal articles, how to do citation linking, and how to think critically. McGill librarians teach formally and informally every day in classrooms across campus and as well as in the library. For example, check out the MyResearch workshops for arts undergraduates, physical sciences & engineering undergraduates, and graduate students.
Bibliographic instruction still happens, but the 21st century library also emphasizes critical information literacy skills. The Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2000), set out by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), outlines five standards, 22 performance indicators, and outcomes for information literacy instruction. What is information literacy? The ACRL uses the American Library Association (ALA) definition: “a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information”. Librarians teaching information literacy design their instruction around the ACRL standards as well as their own learning outcomes based on the goals of the courses they are visiting. Information literacy instruction is student-centered and meant to be more just-in-time teaching than just-in-case.
Librarians are also getting involved in the digital classroom. MOOCs, or massively open online courses, have librarians across North America thinking about how librarians can play a role in assisting faculty and students. In a recent article in the professional journal Library Journal, Meredith Schwartz presents several ways that librarians can be “embedded” into MOOCs: preserving content, providing access to copyrighted content, and providing instructional support with resources and technology used throughout the course. Libraries are constantly seeking to evolve along with the needs of their users, and librarians are more and more going out of the library to where their users are – in both the physical and virtual classroom – to better improve teaching and learning in higher education.
 Information literacy compentency standards for higher education. (2000). Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved January 9, 2009, from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/standards/standards.pdf
 American Library Association. (1989). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report.(Chicago: American Library Association.)
 Schwartz, M. (May 10, 2013). Massive Open Opportunity: Supporting MOOCs in Public and Academic Libraries. Library Journal. Retrieved from: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/05/library-services/massive-open-opportunity-supporting-moocs/
Associate Director, Learning Environments, Teaching and Learning Services, McGill University. Focused on our physical and digital learning environments and the appropriate and effective use of technology in teaching and learning.