Educational Librarianship

All teaching is facilitation. I work with the knowledge that it is not possible for me to understand material for someone else. I can explain it, show examples of it, walk another through a particular process, but at the end of the day it is the student who must take on the active role as learner in order to obtain the knowledge they seek. With this understanding, I know that my role as facilitator is a mere sidebar to the main actor, the student. My role can be powerful, yet theirs is central, and essential to the learning process. My job as learning facilitator is to create a learning environment, and scaffold the information literacy skills that are essential to learning. As a librarian, the learning environment that I create is centered in the library. People learn best when they are motivated to learn, invested in the material they are learning, and are able to access the information they need. A library is ideally situated to provide an environment in which these conditions can be met.

Motivation: No one is taken by force to the library. In the academic setting, each learner must take his or her own steps into the library, be that with a class or on their own, in person or online. The academic library is by default a place people come to when they decide that it will help them. They are, in a word, motivated.

Investment: A library is, among other things, a repository of information. In order to access that information, a learner must first look for it. This act, the act of searching, is a process of discovering exactly what it is one is looking for through refinement of the questions asked. The more one learns, the more one narrows down the question, until finally the knowledge sought is found. This search can take anywhere from less than a minute to hours depending on the type of information sought and the skill of the searcher, and invests the learner in the learning process. It is very difficult, after all, to look for something without wanting to have the thing one is looking for.

Access: It is up to me as the librarian not only to make the space as intuitive, accessible, and user friendly as possible, but also to help those researching learn the system. I provide guidance, building learners’ research skills. Access means not only finding the information, but being able to read and comprehend it. If the material found at first is too difficult for the learner to access, I assist them in finding material which they will be able to access, whether this means that it is more simply written, is in the learner’s native language, or simply provides better diagrams.

These learning skills, those required to self-motivate, invest in a topic, search for and access the information to fill the need, are a constant. They remain the same whether the topic is amphibians or art history, curricular or an individual’s interest. Through guided inquiry incorporating both electronic and print resources, students become capable researchers and lifelong learners. Because at the end of the day, my job as librarian and facilitator of learning, is to work myself out of a job, scaffolding information literacy skills until the learner no longer needs me.


What was the last time you worked on a collaborative project? Was it perhaps on a school project? Regardless of what it was, you have likely experienced a group-project gone wrong. Here are some of the most common pitfalls experienced:

Pitfall #1: Some annoying know-it-all takes the whole project and runs with it, doesn’t let you contribute anything, and presents it as a group effort.
Pitfall #2: One person takes one aspect, a second takes another, and you take a third. When you bring those elements together, they clash in style and approach, and don’t form a cohesive unit.
Pitfall #3: No one else wants to do any real work, so you just end up doing it for everyone. (Also known as “you are the know-it-all in pitfall #1.”)

The common theme here is that none of the people falling into these ineffective patterns are actually collaborating. They are all working on the same project, sure, but none are actively participating in the give and take that the collaborative process demands. If the collaborative goal were to draw a shape, her’s what these pitfalls would look like:
Pitfallls #1 & #3: One person does all the work. That person creates a line.
Pitfalls #2: Three individuals do individual work. There are now three lines.

True collaboration looks like this:
One person has an idea. A second adds to it. The third tweaks it a bit. The first, after understanding these changes, alters the original idea to better fit the need at hand. The collaboration is now multi-dimensional. Three individuals each contribute a line connected to the next. This creates a triangle, something that was not possible for one person to create independently.