Reflections on NCLA

Last Thursday and Friday I went to the North Carolina Library Association Conference (NCLA).  There were a lot of great sessions, but my two favorites were about embedded librarianship and online information literacy tutorials.  In the session on embedded librarianship there were four librarians who each were embedded in very different ways:

  • Online courses through Blackboard (community college)
  • Upper-level psych research course, gives four class sessions a year and is available for one-on-one sessions
  • Co-teaching upper-level business course
  • Teaching required, for-credit course on research for philosophy majors

One of the things I like about embedded librarianship is that there are so many different ways to enact it, as these four presenters made clear.  A running theme for all of these scenarios was that students felt they had a real connection to the library, and to varying degrees felt they had a librarian that was “theirs.” 

I was especially interested in the online embedded model at the community college.  At this library, they serve all the online English and communications classes, as well as additional classes as varied as business, welding, and fire protection.  Last year I taught an online English class (at a different community college), and it was frustrating that I couldn’t have the students do a library instruction class because there was no way to get them all on campus together at the same time.  Since community colleges are doing a lot of online instruction, I think an embedded librarian model is an excellent fit for this learning environment.  Not only does it connect students to the library, it gives online courses another level of human interaction.  Students are able to communicate through a “your librarian” button on Blackboard, which connects them to a lib guide created for their class with a picture and contact information for the librarian.  This presenter said that she got a lot of emails from students through this interface, that instructors appreciated it and continued to request services, and that she gets a lot of positive feedback from students at the end of the semester.

The other three presenters had closer contact with a fewer number of students, which is another good example of how embedded librarianship can be successful.  For most of these classes, it seemed like professors had approached the library because they were frustrated with their students’ lack of research skills, and that extensive contact with a librarian had definitely improved them.  Two of the librarians who were embedded in these classes said that they also felt they gave students a different kind of academic support than instructors, since they don’t assign grades and can have more of a non-judgmental, coaching interaction with students. 

The session on online tutorials was closely related to this one, and gave good advice about how to supplement one-shot instruction with online materials.  The presenters discussed how they had been frustrated with feeling like the 50-minute sessions went in one ear and out the other, which is certainly something I’ve noticed in my practicum so far.  Their tutorial is called QUILT and is a required component of the curriculum for freshmen.  It can be used to orient students to the library before their instruction session, and then continues to serve as a touchstone for them to return to for research needs throughout the year.