I taught three sections of the second-semester English students this morning, and I have to admit, despite my now-froggy voice, that this is why I became a librarian. Answering questions also nurtures the nerd in my soul, but teaching people how they can find what they need is my true love.
There are very few ways to make database searching interesting for students, no matter how much I love the Thesaurus or RSS alert options. I am left wondering if this is the spot where the 2.0 folks are relying too much on technology. Tutorials and podcasts are useful for introductory topics and basic training, but eventually, you need to get the students hands-on, with a librarian available for help. An electronic lesson is fine, but having a live person help you brainstorm keywords and re-framing your topic so that you can get the most out of your resources should be a personal experience.
This, of course, helps me keep my job. But it should also inform our practices – before we outsource all of our teaching to brief video clips, podcasts and various other things playable in Quicktime, we should revisit the value of face-to-face time and figure out the best way to apportion our own instruction time accordingly. Here at my library, we are doing just this – the more basic information and simple techniques are the ones where we concentrate our podcasting and video tutorials, and we can make a concerted effort to spend more of our time teaching database skills in-class once the professors have assigned these more basic tutorials as homework before they see us in the library. This also helps free our time to take on more advanced level classes who use more subject-specific databases than we teach at the freshman level. This is a useful way to spend our time, because we are freed from basic “welcome to the library” classes that take from an hour to an hour and a half for each of fifty sections of Freshman Life. (Mind you, this doesn’t detract from having students meet their handy dandy librarians, since we also see every single freshman English student in their first ,and second semesters.) We are freed from not-particularly-useful classroom time to offer instruction in more essential areas.
Social networking is super, though more librarians are finding (much to their chagrin) that students don’t want to be contacted by non-friend entities in their informal space. At some point, librarians need to stop worrying so much about becoming ‘pals’ with students and get back to teaching, and inserting themselves into the learning process. I can have some fun when I teach, but I believe I have much more of an impact on their learning and the skills students will be using throughout their lives when I can get them in a computer lab with me, not by throwing sheep at them in Facebook.