The origin of the idea
The resources available through the CCELL were integral in transforming the LIS 1001 course and in reaching out to the community. Since the instruction in the original course was focused specifically on LSU Libraries’ resources, services, organization, and how to use them, it was identified that lessons would be more beneficial if students experienced working in a library themselves, interacting with people who needed help finding information. Students potentially would benefit even more from service in a public library than in an academic library. The rationale for using a public library setting was once students graduated from the University, they would more likely go to a local public library for information; and there would be public libraries pretty much wherever they might relocate. If they were familiar with one, they would likely be familiar with all. Thus, this service-learning course would include partnership with the Carver Branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Library (Carver), chosen because of its proximity to the University.
The course would have to be radically re-designed, agreement would have to be formalized with Carver, and all this would have to be accomplished before getting approval for the service-learning designation for the course so the students could earn service-learning credit from the University. Once this process was in motion, it took nearly a year to get to the point of actually putting the revised course on the schedule.
Faculty new to the service-learning program took a semester-long course of instruction from the CCELL staff. Teachers learned the basic philosophy of service-learning and heard from faculty and community partners who have participated in the program. Faculty learned about several projects in which other faculty members partnered with community stakeholders for service-learning courses. These include how a Biological Engineering class partnered with an elementary school to build a new playground, a bike shop owner who taught low-income children how to build and maintain bicycles through his partnership with a Mechanical Engineering class. The coordinator of the Volunteers in Public Schools program also spoke of his partnership with an Education class.
which furnished reading tutors for children with learning difficulties. The presenters emphasized two things: (1) the activities in which the students engaged should be mutually beneficial to the community partner and the student and not simply busy work; and (2) the work the students did should be an integral part of their instruction, meaning it should relate directly to what they were being taught in the classroom.
Faculty preparing to teach service-learning courses got a lot of practice creating goals, assignments, and rubrics so they could accurately measure their students’ performance. The final project was a course syllabus, which others in the class critiqued.
The community partner: consultations and needs
CCELL staff made initial contact with Carver. Several discussions with the manager and supporting personnel of the Carver Branch were held. The Branch Head was immediately agreeable to the project and was ready to collaborate. He had had considerable experience working with students from other LSU service-learning classes, but never with students from a Library Science class. This would be the first time Carver had received the benefit of students who were actually studying the organization and function of information and libraries. The public librarians were quite enthusiastic.
Each neighborhood library is a reflection of the unique neighborhood it serves. The Carver Branch serves a lower income, urban neighborhood. The needs of Carver’s patrons, the students would discover, were characteristic of the neighborhood’s socio-economic status. Unlike the usual inquiries for information on humanities or scientific topics that occur in the LSU library, inquiries in Carver were for practical information. Many patrons needed help accessing the Internet in order to complete requirements for government assistance or to submit job applications. Some needed to download and print forms and other documents. Occasionally, neighborhood students needed guidance to information for school projects.
Through direct observation and hours spent at the Information Desk with Carver staff, the patrons’ needs became apparent. Additionally, through email exchanges with the Adult Services Librarian and the Branch Head, the service aspect of the course slowly evolved.
Design of the course: objectives
The overall goals of LIS 1001 have always been for students to be able to recognize when they need information, know where to find it, how to evaluate it, and how to use it effectively. These are the main ideas behind the concept of Information Literacy. In order to achieve these goals, students must have a basic understanding of the research process as well as the organization and retrieval of library materials. The intent of the course has always been to expose students to a variety of print and electronic material and to ingrain in them the knowledge that the library is a repository of useful information to which they have access. Through this new iteration of the course, students would recognize the fact that, though University and Public Libraries serve their particular communities in different ways and with different resources, both do this with information.
The result of discussions with the Carver librarians was a short list of specific things the library needed which they felt the students could do:
- • Students would “shadow” at the Information Desk. Staff did not feel the students should interact with patrons on their own, feeling that librarian supervision was necessary. For the most part, students would see what the patrons needed and how the Carver staff was addressing those needs. Just seeing the range of queries and their nature would be revelatory in terms of how dependent the community is on the library.
- • Students would be allowed to assist patrons with computer problems, with supervision by the library staff. The students had enough general computer skills to allow them to address many of the problems less computer literate patrons would encounter.
- • They could also shelf-read. The purpose of shelf reading is to make sure books are in proper call number order on the shelves, making them findable by the patrons. Having students perform this essential task would give them a solid understanding of the subject categorization that is the basis for the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme and, hopefully, have the side effect of revealing the value of shelf browsing.
- • Students would be allowed to process discarded material, which would require them to become familiar with the library catalog, a fundamental tool when doing library research.
- • Finally, the students would also evaluate the appropriateness of donations to the library of used books and other materials. Students would get further experience using the catalog as well as evaluating material (an essential element in Information Literacy) and they would necessarily become familiar with the Collection Development Policy, giving them some grounding in the decision-making process of the library.
To help students become familiar with the library they would be serving, Carver’s Branch Head agreed to issue library cards to all students in the course.