July 24, 2012

Hangouts for instruction librarians

Annie, Lauren, and me after a couple others had left the hangout
I've started a group for newer instruction librarians to talk about instruction via Google Hangouts. We don't have regular meetings, but it will probably wind up being 1-2 hangouts per month. Some of the topics we've covered so far include getting respect from students and instructors when looking young, classroom management, assessment, and game mechanics in instruction.

It's nice to talk to other people who also are somewhere on the spectrum of feeling a little unsure of themselves as they gain more confidence in the classroom. And fun to get to see people I miss spending time with between conferences who are scattered across the country.

Some things we discussed worth sharing:

  • Getting respect: I agree with Annie Pho, that if wearing a blazer and high heels (or an equivalent) feels like playing dress up, it's not going to do much for you. Dressing up in that way is just not my style. I think it's not as necessary where I am now, working with mostly undergrads, but in a different setting with maybe older adults it could make a different impression. One thing I suggested that has worked for me (particularly when I was teaching a lot at the community college), was to mention my Master's degree when introducing myself. Not in a gloating sort of way, but just to establish that the librarians went to school for an advanced degree and also that I'm not just a student worker, like I had often been asked. This made an impression on the students I think, but instructors should (I hope) already realize librarians have the MLS. Lauren Bradley pointed out a good thing to do too, is include your degree in your email signature and be sure your signature appears in all communication.

  • Classroom management: this can really depend on the instructor. The instructor will create an atmosphere in the classroom that will carry over to the one-shot, and whether s/he stays or not can also make a difference. I'm still figuring this out myself because I'm not the best at being stern. I think this takes time to get good at.

  • Basic search/instruction tips: when we were talking about our thoughts on the Google Power Searching course (now closed), we got on the topic of how to explain things to students without jargon or overloading them with information. After reading the C&RL News article about teaching the catalog and databases through Facebook last year, I've used analogies for students when necessary. For example, relating databases using keywords rather than full sentences, where you can type a whole question into Google (even though that's really not recommended) it works. Databases don't work that way, so I give the example of when you want to go to your friend's page on Facebook, you type in your friends name, and not "Yo, where is Bob?" The name = keywords. Incorporating some humor and real world examples that exist in the students' life experience helps a lot.
I'll be taking notes as we continue these hangouts and plan to share, so long as no one minds! I'll be doing a ton of orientations for the remainder of the summer (including one to Graduate and Teaching Assistants that will have about 600 people!), so developing a stage presence is another thing I'm going to have to work on and hope to talk about that more next time.