Since the goal of this collaboration was relatively modest — to introduce as many incoming first-year students as possible to IL skills and library services through successful librarian/class instructor collaborations — the number of sessions scheduled for the Fall 2017 semester was heartening. Of the 27 class sections, librarians held 15 IL sessions, or 56% of the sections. The librarians also polled a number of students across multiple sections at the end of that semester. The vast majority of these students reported that the FYW section had been their only experience with a librarian in the classroom up to that point. While this is only a snapshot of undergraduate students, with an admittedly limited methodology, the response reinforced some of the librarians’ assumptions about the number of students who previously had not been getting introduced to library skills and resources in their first year. In the spring semester, librarians were able to hold sessions in 18 of 30 classes, or 60% of the FYW sections. In total, nearly 500 first-year students received library instruction through this partnership alone. This translates to over 40% of first-year students admitted that academic year. The partnership with FYW undoubtedly contributed to the overall rise in the total library instruction number, which grew to 213, a 76% increase from the previous year. In all, more than 4,400 undergraduate and graduate students received IL instruction that year, a number never reached previously at the library and a vast improvement from the recent decline.

Continued success and new challenges

The following fall, the Coordinator of Instruction and the FYW library team again met with the Writing Program Director and instructors, this time to discuss successes from the previous year as well as solicit feedback from those who had collaborated with librarians. With the experience of a year-long partnership, librarians were confident in reaching out to individual instructors with whom they had collaborated to ask if they wished to work together again. Most did, and that fall, the partnerships grew further, with IL sessions from librarians occurring in 21 of 31 classes, 67% of the sections. That semester alone, the collaboration meant nearly 400 of 1,310 incoming first year students received library instruction in the fall. Librarians continued these outreach efforts in spring, hoping to capitalize on the success of the past three semesters. It was also time to evaluate the burgeoning program and any challenges faced.

The challenges of which librarians were already aware going into this project were mainly to do with organizational structure, both within the library and the writing program. At Copley Library, there is a Reference department, of which the Coordinator of Instruction is a member, but the department itself does not make decisions regarding library instruction. Up to this point, the Coordinator of Instruction’s role was to chair instruction-related committees, oversee library credit-class scheduling, organize the student and faculty workshop series, and compile instruction statistics. Duties did not include a mandate to coordinate an instructional team for a given task or program. Now that there was a nascent program for first-year library instruction, the Coordinator had to find librarians willing to assist with the FYW teaching load. Two other librarians gladly took on these additional duties, but the Coordinator had to be mindful of their instruction commitments to their liaison areas and, in the case of one team member, a significant role in another department outside Reference. Without more teaching librarians on the team, issues with respect to scalability were anticipated, perhaps necessitating a restructuring within the library to meet the pedagogical and assessment needs required of more robust programming. One of the organizational challenges with respect to the Writing Program, on the other hand, was that instructors could vary from one semester to the next. Research in higher education shows that disciplines like English employ high numbers of adjunct faculty to meet teaching demands, especially at the introductory level (Morphew et al., 2017). The Writing Program at USD operates within the English department, which conforms to the trend of employing a large number of adjuncts. The department and the Writing Program share the same adjunct faculty, many of whom may teach courses other than FYW in a given semester. These adjuncts are often in temporary positions, and some are quite new to the university and, indeed, the teaching profession. Library literature notes the importance of relationships with adjunct faculty because they often teach a large number of students (Avery, 2013). New instructors may not be familiar with the teaching roles librarians play. Even in the first three semesters of this collaboration, librarians at USD often found themselves working with new instructors or discovering that adjuncts who taught the class one semester were not scheduled to teach it the next. Without a specific directive to incorporate IL instruction into FYW classes, librarians had to continually cultivate relationships with writing instructors. The value of this engagement, of course, was that the library was collaborating with more faculty as it was making gains in reaching students. The next challenge to tackle was considering how best to assess the IL skills taught in FYW.

Other than interacting with them in class and being present while they conducted searches and asked questions, librarians had little way of knowing how much FYW students were retaining in the way of IL skills beyond informal reports of improved assignments from their instructors. Students’ acquisition of IL skills has been assessed in a variety of ways in higher education, from pre-/post-tests to surveys or focus groups of faculty to measure their “perceptions of success” (White-Farnham & Gardner, 2014, p. 282). Since the initial focus of the library’s collaboration with FYW was on building the program and reaching students, librarians did not have the opportunity to devise an assessment tool. Although there was interest from some instructors in a pre-/post-test, creating, testing, and implementing it would require further time and planning. Because IL is assessed at the university level for accreditation purposes, there was an intentional decision, if only temporary, to postpone assessment of IL in FYW so as not to duplicate efforts. Nevertheless, librarians did serve alongside discipline faculty as scorers of student work for university assessment in both CTIL and Writing. The chance to serve in this capacity created yet another opportunity for librarians to engage faculty and administrators in conversations about IL. Serving on university committees was the other opportunity for participating in meaningful discussion about the core curriculum and the role the library might play as IL programming evolves.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >