As you might know from previous posts, even my most recent post, I love conferences. I thrive in hearing about projects at other institutions and thinking about ways they will work at my own library. I get inspired by librarians and I also come to recognize how special as place my own library and campus can be. My trip to ALA Midwinter is no exception.
As part of our travel, my Director asks us to think about “trends, highlights, ideas you think might work (or not) here.” In reading other blog posts this week, there seem to be a lot of ideas around technology trends. But most of the sessions I attended were not geared towards technology. Especially since I was travelling with Andy, who is the Emerging Technologies head honcho. No, I tried to focus my attention on instruction. What I learned, though, is that the way I am developing are instruction program at Champlain is not easily aligned with instruction at a lot of other institutions. That gives me pause for thought.
One of the sessions I attended discussed the role of experiential research in information literacy. Our students are taking on ethnography projects this spring so that felt like the right place to be. However, as I listened to librarians share their strategies and techniques for preparing students for experiential research, I found myself conflicted with this “student as scholar” model. Are we truly setting our students up for success by asking them to behave as scholars? Is that model appropriate to today’s climate or economy?
Thinking back on the Education Life section of the NY Times I read a few weeks ago, I wonder if scholars are really what students should be trained to be? I think back to this TED video by Sir Kenneth Robinson as well. Are we serving students well by asking them to behave as mini-scholars? Maybe. Maybe if we are making it clear what these scholarship projects can do for them out in the “real world”. Maybe if we can make clear connections between the methodologies we are teaching them and the work they will encounter in their cubicles, classrooms, studios, labs. What are students getting from a particular research method that will matter to them after college?
That’s where my head is and has been for a while. I look back at my thinking about seeing Ken Robinson’s video and I still asking the same question when I attend conferences: what is Information Literacy instruction for? From listening to librarians speak, I think we can answer that question to ourselves and maybe to administrators. But I’m not convinced we can answer that question for students.