28 July 2008

On the way to Immersion

The Sheck is en route to ACRL’s Information Literacy Immersion program in San Diego. For the next five days, I will be reading, studying, developing, and practicing ways to improve Champlain’s Information Literacy Program. Immersion comes in a few different flavors: Teacher Track, Program Track, Intentional Teaching, and Assessment. I am hitting the Program track this year as that is perhaps the most daunting part of my job at this point: designing a program for all students for all four years.

Part of getting ready for this program was reading an awful lot of articles about pedagogical theory, learning outcomes, and assessment. Some of it was a bit hard for me to digest. But a few were truly extraordinary. Particularly this piece by Dane Ward at Illinois State. The idea that we are truly trying to do more than just introduce students to library resources is vital, I think, as librarians try to engage students and faculty and prove themselves relevant and necessary in the age of Google, Wikipedia, and changing landscapes at institutions of higher ed.

Part of our preparatory assignment for Immersion was to create case studies of our institutions that include SWOT analyses. I have been astonished by how few programs have the opportunities to engage students in information lit rather than traditional library instruction. It’s no wonder that Stanley Wilder was so poorly received. Librarians at many institutions seem stuck trying to get a few key IL concepts, which they are really excited about, in to the few sessions faculty ask them to give. It makes me realize how incredibly fortunate I am at Champlain to have a Core curriculum that embraces IL as key component to the inquiry method and to creating well rounded students. And while I attribute most of it to progressive thinking on the part of my director and colleagues at Champlain, I have to shout out props to Jeff Rutenbeck. When Jeff first came to Champlain, he asked how we can inject information literacy into our students daily lives. THAT has been my modus operandi when I took on this new role at Champlain. THAT is what drives me to think creatively about what the library should offer students. THAT is what I am doing as I design a program for students for all four years. I am thinking beyond those four years. I am thinking about how to reach students for a lifetime.

As I sit on the plane, I am more excited than I thought about Immersion. I hope I can find some solutions to the problems we are facing as we head into year two of the program. I hope I can find more resources to draw on, both in terms of academic writing but also the ever-essential human capital component. This trip has great potential.

Post Script: For anyone who knows me personally, I am a freak about flying and being on time for flights. So, I just have to share what happened to me on the way here. Leaving Burlington’s airport is one of the true joys of living in Vermont. The entire airport could fit in the Food Court at Philadelphia’s Airport, where I was raised. So, it’s no big thing to get there a little late. I walked in with my bag and boarding pass and saw on the board that we were leaving from gate 6. I go upstairs, go through security, and sit down to enjoy the NYT Book Review. Time goes by and I start to think, “Hm…I should have boarded by now.” I decide to stand up to look and walk by the short short corridor that leads to gates 7 & 8 when I hear, faintly…oh so faintly, MY NAME! I dash over there, only to be the absolute last person on the flight. Why? Because the light was burned out on the departure board…it said 6 but was supposed to be 8. So much for trusting even the most basic information. How fitting that I was on my way to an Info Lit Immersion. You can bet I will share that one with students when I get back.

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