P.M. at TPS Unconference

I finished out my time at the unconference with a great discussion about the opportunities and barriers to collaborating with subject librarians when designing and teaching instruction sessions.

I’m a big proponent of collaboration with library colleagues (see previous posts about a processing pilot project that paired catalogers with reference librarians, etc.) In 2013 I initiated a co-teaching model at the University of Rochester that encourages and provides a framework for joint teaching efforts.

So first for the barriers…. 

1. Not enough of an understanding about what archival instruction can be.

2. Instiutional silos, or long histories of not working across departments.

3. Differences in reporting streams, some within the library, and some external, who report to a Provost, etc.

4. Subject librarians often have broad disciplinary responsibilities.

5. Faculty don’t always see the value in presenting both primary and secondary resources.

Now for the opportunities…

In my experience, these partnerships require a few ingrediants to get things started:

A. Clear understanding of each partner’s value in the instruction process.

B. Positive attitudes, and clear and frequent communication among partners.

C. A willingness to experiment with one new class or faculty member each semester (maybe swapping collaborative partners at the same time to find out who you work best with).

How does this work in practice?

Around this time each Auguest I review the course descriptions for the fall. I identify and make a list of the faculty who I plan to reach out (even if they haven’t said yes in the past!) Then I share the list with the appropriate subject librarian to see if she or he would like to partner. Next I send short (3-4 sentance) emails to the faculty, and cc the subject librarian. The emails introduce the idea of a joint session or two sessions that build on one another and if applicable, a link to a finding aid or two of collections that fit with the course content.

Now for the important part- if the faculty member, or the subject special don’t want to work with me, I move on to the next one and will try again the following semester. I don’t take it personally, and more importantly, I don’t give up. 

The subject librarian and I plan the session(s) together and loop back to the faculty to be sure that what we’re planning helps to meet course objectives. We each actively participate in the sessions and review the assessment data together to consider changes for the future. 

Collaborating with colleagues is one of my favorite topics, so feel free to reach out if you have questions or ideas and I’m happy to talk more with you!

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