Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Academic Librarians: "Please Love Us!"

I always suspect that those people who become public librarians are the sort of people who have wanted to be librarians since they were children frolicking in their public libraries, the ones who found a home in the library they couldn’t find elsewhere. Likewise, I suspect that a lot of the people who become academic librarians are often the people who were picked last on the playground. That would explain their inferiority complexes and their desperate desire to be liked. This is something of a sweeping generalization, I realize, but as we’re all aware by now, sweeping generalizations are the stuff the Annoyed Librarian is made of.

As I mentioned in the last post, I was at ACRL, attended a number of sessions, talked to a lot of librarians, had some dinners and drinks, and generally hung out and had a good time. At ALA, I pal around with librarians of all types, but obviously at ACRL I was surrounded by other academic librarians, and occasionally found myself thinking of them as an anthropologist might. What’s it like to live in their little world?

Academic librarians feel inferior, and their desperate desire to be liked seems to be centred on a mythical beast called "the faculty." This "faculty" is endowed with impressive qualities. They sit on their Olympian thrones far removed from the daily concerns of librarians, whose earnest efforts they take little notice of. This is a pity, because librarians are always trying to engage the attention of this "faculty." They want to be invited to "faculty meetings." They want the "faculty" to like them, and what’s more, to acknowledge their worth. Academic librarians want this "faculty" to consider them partners and perhaps even equals. (Please, no laughter!) This is especially ironic for those librarians with "faculty status." This status doesn’t seem to help much, but that’s not surprising. Librarians with "faculty status" are neither faculty nor have status. (Discuss amongst yourselves.)

Librarians go out of their way to develop relationships with this "faculty," and the slightest positive relationship or feedback is considered a major victory for the librarians’ side. Oh, a member of this "faculty" spoke to you as you haunted the hallway outside his office? Go team!

These librarians desperately seeking attention and respect from this "faculty" will always be disappointed, though, because it should be clear that the "faculty" for the most part don’t really care that much about librarians, and they certainly don’t consider them equals or even partners. Servants might be a little too lowly. More likely, if they think of librarians at all, their first thought is of "the people over in the library who check out books and keep trying to infest my classroom with something called ‘information literacy,’ whatever that is." The second thought might be, "they should just leave me alone and get on with their job, whatever that is."

Librarians are busy over in the library thinking they’re an essential and important part of the campus. They are, but they always miscalculate and overvalue their importance, especially to the "faculty." Librarians have a job to do, and it’s a job worth doing, but they’re mistaken when they think that the library is the heart of the campus, or that education really has something to do with "information literacy" (thus increasing the importance and centrality of the only group of people annoying enough to use such a phrase, i.e., librarians).

Librarians would probably be happier if they gave up this obsession with the "faculty" and just did their jobs. Since the "faculty" don’t bother much with the librarians now, giving up the obsession wouldn’t change the daily life of the campus very much. The "faculty" would go about their business just as they’ve been doing for the past few hundred years, and the librarians could do their jobs without feeling so inadequate.

Far be it from me to deliver a pep talk, but academic librarians usually have worthwhile jobs to do. It’s just that those jobs have little to do with the job of the "faculty." The "faculty" are busy teaching, not thinking of librarians and their fragile egos. Librarians are busy doing library work. The "faculty" don’t want to be bothered by the librarians; they just want to the library to work properly. If they get what they want from the library, they’re happy. If they want anything from the librarians, they’ll ask; heck, they might even demand. Until then, they just want to be left alone.

But too many academic librarians can’t do that. They are desperate to prove their worth, but they don’t realize their worth isn’t measured by how many of the "faculty" will talk to them or allow them in the classrooms. At least, I hope their worth isn’t measured by that. Otherwise, those academic librarians aren’t worth much.

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Comments

  1. Sarah Beasley says:

    Academic librarians don’t care about an almighty faculty. I don’t think I’ve known anyone to be insecure in their role as a librarian in the midst of any teaching faculty. (Except for that really good looking Dean in the music department—he’s dreamy…)It’s still a job to most academic librarians and we work it just the same as any other college employee. Just because you met a few people who whine about their jobs to total strangers because they haven’t got any proper friends is no cause to make an argument that is so intellectually lazy as this one.

    If you want a real topic to discuss let’s open the bag on the issue of funding and how libraries on college campus are always taking it in the shorts first. Then perhaps you can open up the issue of how a great deal of employees on campuses are struggling over department funds and job security.

    Moreover, anyone who’s worked the job for long enough knows that information literacy is just a blanket term. An issue to get you thinking about more topics while you’re in library school. If it is discussed it is used as a mere thinking exercise and usually within the library resources classes for students.

    It’s insulting to read that my job is being reduced to high school squabbling and that this is endorsed by Library Journal. Seriously, get a clue dear.

  2. Mrs. D. says:

    ‘The “faculty” are busy teaching…’!
    Dear, dear Annoyed Librarian, you are such a hoot!

  3. JCH says:

    A note to the Library Journal, please change the name of this blog from the Annoyed Librarian to the Annoying Librarian.

    Thanks!

  4. ZRX says:

    Wow touched a nerve did she. Public Librarian :)

  5. Rose says:

    Replace “The Faculty” with “The Public” and this pretty much holds true for public librarians, too. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t derive your self-worth from others’ perceptions of you.

  6. tlq says:

    I’m in library school after several years working as a programmer. I’m writing a paper on librarian image for a class, and just extrapolating from the literature, most librarians are narcissistic, delicate flowers with a massive inferiority complex (collective and individual). Children’s librarians may be the exception. Wth? It just seems funny that one would choose this field if status was important to them. Trust me, all those people with “status” are just as schmucky as the rest of the world.

  7. Joe the Librarian says:

    This is the most truthful post you have written.

  8. Commentarius says:

    Right on. The people who take exception to this post are exactly the ones it’s aimed at. And there will be plenty of them. It’s refreshing to see someone brave enough to actually tell the emperor he has no clothes.

  9. Dr. Pepper says:

    I see this in my academic library :-) I’ve seen pages with MLIS and when a job opens up and they become ‘librarians’ they get all high and mighty because now they are “faculty” (pronunciation increasing with a culmination accent on the Y ROFL) and they are not good to hang out with us lowly non faculty. gimme a break :p

  10. O.Z. says:

    Oh, sod off. Your first mistake is hanging around at ACRL when you could be in your library doing useful work. Your second error is not thinking broadly enough about the institutional ecology of academe. ‘Servant’ (as in public servant) is not a bad word, it just fails to encompass the full range of relations in the academic food web. On most campuses, it is not just librarians who closely follow the behaviors of faculty, since they are the dominant species. In my particular case, I am more concerned with the happiness and fulfillment of graduate students, since they do most of the heavy lifting anyway, and by virtue of their dependence on faculty reveal much that is meaningful and rewarding about our little patch of jungle. When you are done whining about being whined at, see if you can do something useful for a student wherever it is you ‘work’.

  11. GYE says:

    You can always tell an academic librarian, but not much, because they are always jetting off to some conference to set standards for the rest of the library world to obey.

    It is good to be the king.

  12. Liz says:

    But what if the public library was a home AND they were the last person picked? *frets*

  13. John Jackson says:

    I’m working on an MLIS centered in academic librarianship. I was usually picked last on the playground. It all makes sense now.

  14. Seriously? says:

    You tell us to shut up and do our jobs, but my job description includes outreach to faculty, teaching classes, and helping with research. Am I supposed to do that in my office with the door closed while I telepathically call the huddled mass yearning to understand the OPAC to my doorstep?

  15. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    OZ I agree with you and also with the Al. I think helping graduate or PHD students to be one of the most important things a librarian can do. I think some students are very lucky to have you. But I also agree with AL that faculty could care less about librarians or actually just dont think about them. I helped one on a non library list serv. I told her all about worldcat and showed her how to use it. Then I left her the numbers of the two librarians that support her dept. She was thrilled with Worldcat and just as thrilled with the librarians she never knew existed. So keep catching those grad/phd students maybe things will work out for you.

  16. meh says:

    As an academic librarian (with “faculty status”), I see a lot of truth to this post. I also don’t blame professors for not considering librarians to be equals (which takes more effort: publishing a dissertation, or getting an MLIS? Thought so).

  17. Dr. Pepper says:

    @Seriously? – all academic librarians that I know close their doors and have themselves segregated from the public. I don’t think they have ESP because then they would really mad at me ROFL

  18. TLQ says:

    True academic librarians are too busy to be interrupted by library matters.

    That is what student workers are for.

  19. VNS says:

    Just curious. Where do archivists fit in this? No one ever mentions them. Do they have image problems, too? Are they out of sight, out of mind?

  20. SKQ says:

    As a city archivists I have lots of image problems. Just found a folder full of images I need to scan and secure. I think we just go about our jobs boxing things up and praying no one comes in and asks for something in the bottom box.

  21. heh says:

    Sounds ideal. No dealing with public, faculty, or humans at all. ;)

  22. Dr. Pepper says:

    With the librarians I mingle, Archivists are not librarians, unless they also have an MLIS

  23. x says:

    Don’t most have an MLIS? Most schools have an archival studies track.

  24. Dr. Pepper says:

    If you happened to go to a History and Archival Studies program for your MA/MS, then no, you won’t get the MLIS background. I’ve known archivists that don’t have an MLIS. What’s really sad is that they think they are somehow deficient because they don’t have an MLIS.

  25. liberrian says:

    Well said, Annoyed Librarian! This is something I’ve noticed over the last few years. If you get your undies in a bunch over what the A.L. is saying, then take a loooong look at yourself. You’ve clearly got your identity wrapped up in being an academic librarian. Let go!

    liberrian

  26. ASY says:

    The best thing I saw on an application for academic librarian position was “Irish need not apply.”

    They need their forms updated.

  27. sidney says:

    The first comment on this post is obviously from a Very Serious Person. I for one don’t want to open any bags to see people taking it in the shorts, whatever that means.

  28. madam librarian says:

    Can’t believe all the “woe is me” out there. The only area in which I’m inferior to a faculty member is that of salary. There are areas in which a librarian has superior knowledge. I’m proud of what I do and what my library has to offer faculty members. If they choose not to participate–it’s their loss.

  29. soontobeacademiclibrarian says:

    Ah, Annoyed Library, you totally rock. Being a support staff person for numerous years at an academic institution, I can tell you that you’ve hit the nail on the head. I laughed all the way through your article, nodding my head the whole time!!!

  30. Arrogant Librarian says:

    I love the AL’s post, but the more important point is the one that tlq made about narcissism. The truly frightening thing about academic librarians whining for attention about information literacy is that so many academic librarians just want the attention–deep down, they don’t care about actual information literacy. Face it–the most effective way to achieve information literacy is to work with the faculty so that the faculty can integrate it into their courses, but that method isn’t likely to catch on because it doesn’t call enough attention to the egotistical academic librarian. Of course, these particular academic librarians tend to have all the charisma of day-old bread, so information literacy initiatives (or any other initiatives) that call attention to them are likely to fail.

  31. Rock Lobster says:

    This is like the whole fixies versus roadies debacle that goes on over the internet in bicycling blogs. Read: Pathetic and lame.

  32. Mr. Kat says:

    Oh pulease, nobody EXCEPT librarians ever gave a damn about the OPAC from the start!! Those fuzzywigs over that and those eggheads over their don’t care how it works, they want their materials NOW and with NO effort on their part! They have to SIT there and LEARN a system??? If it’s THAT complicated, it’s of no interest!!

    But leave it to the first commenter to tell us that our whining is all because we don’t know the right people, and then follow it up with departments dealing with budget cuts. So I believe that person is saying POLITICS is the answer to all of our problems!! So if you have a problem in academia, it’s because you aren’t good at POLITICS!!! If you had Good POLITICS, then everybody would know You are important and praise you all day long!

    I have a different thought: if your work isn’t so obvious that you need political consortiums to legitimize your status, you never had the status in the first place. Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants and Pizza Hut Delivery Drivers all share a similar trait: everybody knows what they do and why what they do is important and rewards them with a equal though proportional level of respect. Librarians? The book people?? ARCHIVISTS??? Who the Heck are they???

    [Ok, I actually LIKE archivists because they are actually doing REAL work by scanning all those pesky images and putting them online with a hundred descriptor taes so I don’t have to drive 500 miles to see if image #47162ABDW entitled “California Damn” is indeed an image of Hetchy Hetch and Not “Some Dam in The Southwest!” If I had my way, I’d fire half the current librarian staff and install another five or ten archivists to keep the boxes flowing and another twenty or forty Work Study students under them to keep the scanners hot!

    Although, you know…I could cut two archivist positions and send a little memo to the MLIS program with a big boldface font title “ARCHIVE YOUR INTERNSHIP!!” and get two to four MLS Students to do the work of those two to four archivists, and the best part is, I get them ALMOST Free!! – Because they are PAYING someone else for the privilege to work for me! Woo Hooo!!!!!

    wooooooooo……

    back to the grind! I have real work now!!!

  33. xpv says:

    Glass of warm milk?

  34. Sue says:

    So we have faculty status at my academic learning place, and what I think is really funny is the inferiority complex this gives our support staff. They actually think librarians have power on campus! Those guys make me laugh.

  35. JBH says:

    Academic librarians — the buggy whip makers of the new millennium.

    They better form a committee to figure out that they are not needed anymore.

  36. jc says:

    I think I finally know who you are. You gave that snarky presentation at ACRL about how instruction is a waste of time, didn’t you? Annoyed, yes. Annoying, most definitely.

  37. SKQ says:

    Instruction is useless.

    The mouth breathing students and professors are too stupid to understand our wonderful intricate and clever systems. I say, let them go Google themselves silly in the corner, so long as they clean up after themselves.

    Academic librarians have committees to go to, meetings to run, papers to write, conferences to go to, martinis to swill.

    They are busy folk.

  38. ready for the snark says:

    “If you happened to go to a History and Archival Studies program for your MA/MS, then no, you won’t get the MLIS background. I’ve known archivists that don’t have an MLIS. What’s really sad is that they think they are somehow deficient because they don’t have an MLIS.”

    The part of this discussion about qualifications to be an archivist and whether or not they’re “librarians” (and therefore what the “real faculty” think of them) is one of the most interesting and constructive I’ve seen on this blog in a while.

    I knew someone who published an article (a real, substantive, well-researched one, not a cheesy-librarified one) on that subject. Up to the early 1980s the archives/manuscripts world was pretty distinct organizationally and professionally from a lot of the academic research library world. Back in card catalog days the “archival” or “manuscripts” catalog would be this entirely separate entity up in the tower or down in the dungeon presided over by someone who would make really really clear he or she (usually he, much to the detriment of anyone who hoped for gender equality) was not a librarian and was superior to such. In fact, up to about the early-mid 1990s, the qualifying credential to be an archivist was a doctorate in the humanities, usually history for most archives, but a Ph.D. in English, Philology, Classical Studies, Modern Languages, etc. would get people a job curating some historical manuscript collections if the subject area made such a degree appropriate. Someone raised the issue of those Master of Archival Studies programs that some History departments nowadays offer. Many of them are quite substantive, even if (or especially because?) they lack on the librarish side of things. But the fact is most of those are programs about 15-20 years old at best (I’ms sure there are some exceptions). In the mid-late 1990s things started to change. Increasingly more institutions who had archivist jobs open and money to hire wanted people with with a library degree, though they also wanted some humanities credential (preferably a doctorate but lots got hired with a nice workaday history M.A. and a MLS. There were still more people than jobs though but you had to at least have the M.A.) I suspect this was largely because of digitization. Call librarians as Luddite as you want, but the fact is when automation came around things changed hugely for the “humanities-credential-only”. Exceedingly few doctoral programs in history taught anything about digitization in the first few important years it was around. This changed by the mid-2000s and nowadays you can some find history doctoral programs that will at least give you an intro. to EAD, TEI and such. But back in the mid/late 90s when all this got going, the library schools – even though many of their other classes were vacuous or worthy of mean jokes at best – were on top of the digitization-related things that archivists were starting to need to know. By the early 2000s there were enough people doing the hiring who were asking for digitization skills that most library schools taught that many job ads started to demand an MLIS and a history/english/whatever M.A. instead of a history/english Ph.D. alone. Eventually, though many history programs caught up and teamed up with library schools. Now a lot of History archival studies programs team with a library school to offer joint classes. For those of you who enjoy bashing library school, you can find some good fodder here. The history programs of which I speak happily farm out their M.A. students to take the archives class or some nifty little class where people happily mark up some nineteenth-century letter in the latest XML schema to end all XML schemas, but that History Department director of graduate studies would die in horror if a history M.A. student tried to take the library school’s “Gaming for the Academic Librarian in the 21st Century” or whatever for credit toward their M.A. degree.

    OK, snarkers have at it.

  39. ASX says:

    ready for the snark

    zzzzz

  40. Mr. Kat says:

    ready for the snark, I love it…

    Mind you, I still think the Metadata language problem belongs between the people who actually use the informaiton and the programmers – and not the librarians.

    The digitization itself is best left to those with undergraduate degrees in graphic design and photography students because they are actually studying the processes of creating images and how to control image scanning. This isn’t a big deal until you realize many pitures are not black and white.

    So the metadata problem will be solved by those outside the library field long before the library field solves it, and your archivists will continue the process of hiring poor college students to do their scanning!

  41. someone says:

    “Mind you, I still think the Metadata language problem belongs between the people who actually use the informaiton and the programmers – and not the librarians.”

    Perhaps, but the metadata *language* is not all that’s needed. The content which you use that language to convey requires people with subject analysis skills, knowledge of ontologies, etc. One could teach programmers or any educated person that stuff, but right now only humaniteis and LIS graduate programs are teaching it.

  42. VOT says:

    Quit talking about things like they really are something.

    If you are working in a library and are not a boomer with a golden parachute, get your burger flippin skills ready.

  43. Mr. Kat says:

    Someone, that’s precisely what I said…those people who acutlaly use the information day to day are already fully aware of the ontologies in place and have experience using them in real scenarios.

    However, the fact that only LIS and humanities programs are teaching metadata should be a pretty clear indicator of how the rest of the world looks at this idea…It really isn’t anything at all..

  44. KCI says:

    metadata

    That term is so outdated. We need a new, flashy 2.0 term for it. That way we can seem hip and cool.

  45. Dr. Pepper says:

    It’s quite interesting. My undergrad was in computer science and the only time we spoke of metadata was in databases. One of my cohort was hired by the humanities related departments to create a database for them. It was a total mess because my classmate did not understand what the client wanted. Metadata is important. Some people in the humanities may be able to do the technical stuff, but generally a specialist should be doing it. What’s really required is the language for both fields to communicate.

    What’s happening now reminds me of an old boss I had. When someone in the department was not performing to her liking she would say “eh skroo it, I will do it myself”. Soon enough she was doing a lot of work herself because she could not communicate what she wanted. Computer people and humanities people can work together constrictively. They just need to know what the heck each other is talking about.

  46. snore says:

    “pulease, nobody EXCEPT librarians ever gave a damn about the OPAC from the start!!”

    Those damn oil people.

  47. BricksMortar says:

    I’m not inclined to worship at the altar of “faculty.” Remember PhD can also mean Piled Higher & Deeper.

    If you can play the game, you can get a BA/BS; MA/MS; and finally, a PhD. Letters after one’s name don’t mean you’re smart, well-read, educated, knowledgeable, able to teach, etc. The dumbest person I ever worked with had a BA, MLS, MBA, MA in English and a PhD in library science. Woman couldn’t find her way out of a paper sack. Couldn’t hold down a job either. Just dumb as rocks.

  48. BricksMortar says:

    I’m not inclined to worship at the altar of “faculty.” Remember PhD can also mean Piled Higher & Deeper.

    If you can play the game, you can get a BA/BS; MA/MS; and finally, a PhD. Letters after one’s name don’t mean you’re smart, well-read, educated, knowledgeable, able to teach, etc. The dumbest person I ever worked with had a BA, MLS, MBA, MA in English and a PhD in library science. Woman couldn’t find her way out of a paper sack. Couldn’t hold down a job either. Just dumb as rocks.

  49. Stephen Denney says:

    “I always suspect that those people who become public librarians are the sort of people who have wanted to be librarians since they were children frolicking in their public libraries, the ones who found a home in the library they couldn’t find elsewhere..” How many people can say that their careers fulfill their childhood dreams?

  50. TwoQatz says:

    Stephen, I dreamed of marrying a rich man so I wouldn’t have to work. Mother set me straight with her “You can only marry who you meet” speech. Darn if she wasn’t right. But being a librarian isn’t a bad way to spend one’s adult life. Far better than being an AIG exec!

  51. annoyed archivist says:

    ‘Those than can do, those that can’t go to library school.’

    Academic librarians are a pretty arrogant lot. The degree is a joke and I think that most of the academic librarians know it. It still does nothing to get them off their high-horse.

  52. Military lib says:

    I am new to the profession (started working in Sep as an academic librarian) and my impression is that librarians at my university care too much about what the faculty think. I believe faculty input and support is vital but that does not mean I have to bow down to their every request (like being asked to teach a class of 600 students with a one day notice). Finally, I really don’t care what other librarians outside of my university think…I just care that I am meeting my users’ needs and providing them the best service possible. Thank gosh I don’t have to present or publish for promotion.

  53. Techserving You says:

    Interesting point, Military lib, and I agree. Most librarians have chips on their shoulders and are desperate to prove that they are as important and needed as the faculty (or real faculty, in the case of librarians with faculty status.) So (and I see this at my library) they are willing to teach a class with no notice… I have even been asked to come in on a Saturday to teach a bibliographic instruction class b/c a prof had a class scheduled and then couldn’t come… so, send ‘em to the library and get a librarian to cover! (Instead of just cancelling it.) But I don’t think that our allowing that shows how important we are – we’re being dumped and and it makes us look pathetic. Here’s my view: I don’t think that we’re as ‘important’ or ‘needed’ as teaching faculty, although of course the library is an important component of the institution. So I would never try to claim to be an equal to the faculty in that way. But at the same time, I AM an equal, in other ways. I don’t like arrogant faculty members (particularly adjuncts who only have masters and not in any particularly difficult subjects) looking down on me. I am very smart, I went to an extremely selective undergraduate college, and my MLIS, though not a particularly ‘difficult’ degree, is from a very prestigious university. I just chose a different life course than these faculty members did. I did not choose to devote my life to a certain subject. But that doesn’t mean that I am less intelligent than they are, or that my choice of career is less valid. I mean, let’s face it – lots of librarians fell into librarianship, but lots of professors just sort of moved along with the school momentum, staying in school for years, avoiding the real world. Many of them are not all that brilliant or deserving of high praise or high status. I would like to at least be viewed as an intelligent person by them, but instead they tend to act as if all of the librarians are just stupid support staff. And our groveling, ‘love us’! does not help. Always hopping to it and being available – when we often DO have plenty of other work to do – is self-defeating, I think.

  54. Military lib says:

    Techserving You,

    Great to see someone who shares a similar view! Luckily, I have be asked to teach some classes well in advance. I must say I really respect faculty in their research efforts and the impact that their research can have. However, I have to say that, for the most part, I do not respect their teaching efforts. In instruction sessions for four different classes from different disciplines, I rewrote professor authored assignments to make them more clear and focused. It was great that the original assignments targeted library research but they needed major revisions (directions were vague, there were no measurable outcomes, no set format like page length etc). The professors accepted my versions. I really do applaud the professors for contacting me in the first place and am happy that they were willing to change things.

    I just can’t conduct instruction for assignments that will easily frustrate students and that will then subsequently cause the students to see library instruction as useless. I am all for challenging our students but I think teachers need to be clear in expectations. Maybe my military background helps me influence others. And it surely has prepared me to handle tons of B.B.S. in academia (bureaucratic bull sh**) :).

  55. Mr. Kat says:

    Military Lib, I have been there and I can tell you precisely why professors write those very ambiguous, unstructured and seemingly frameless assignments.

    The teaching model is called “Active Learning.” Professors want to move beyond the passive learning box and enable students to have very real control over even the most fundamental aspects of their projects.

    The Active Learning model really does favor those students who have a genuine interest in the material. it allows them to go as far or as short as they need to go in order to do the assignment justice by the students’ own cognizance. It has been shown in a number of studies that students really do learn more and for a longer period of time when they are taught using the Active Learning Model – in essence, when they are actively pursuing the knowledge they are supposed to be learning!

    The problem with Active Learning is that the majority of our students are Passive Students. They don’t Want to learn any more than the Bare Minimum. They WANT a very clear box that does 95% of the work for them so they can then rush off and do the assignment between 12:00 AM and 1:00 AM the night before the assignment is due and get an A.

    Passive students get very frustrated when the assignment resembles this:

    Pick a topic in Art and do an research project, poster, paper or a presentation of some type on an aspect of this topic that fascinates you. This project is worth 40% of your final grade in this class.

    The project is due on April 7th. Today is January 20th. You will have a project proposal due on February 20th on the class web interface turned in by 11:59 in which you describe your topic and your project. This proposal is worth 10% of your final grade in this class.

    And That’s IT! That “proposal,” by the way, can be as little as three sentences on a sheet of paper. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and it really does work! It works because it shows the professor those students actually care about the class and deserve extra attention while weeding out those students who really couldn’t give a damn!

    The place where you are stuck, I think, is that you are still hung up on the idea that instruction is professor dictated just as librarianship was once librarian dictated. The professor is supposed to stand at the front of the room and lecture the students; the students are supposed to take notes and pass the exams. But that model has proven that the knowledge only stays in heads until the exam and then quickly subsides back into the nether realms of the human existence.

    Let us revisit that hypothetical assignment; I ask you to identify just how that assignment is frustrating; is it because you have too much freedom, you don’t know how to think independently, or is it because you have spent your whole life in one box and have grown to expect that everything will spoon-fed to you?

    It should be obvious to students in the upper division university level what constitutes a serious research project. How long is a serious research paper? Open up a research Journal!! Papers are long enough to discuss the issue, of course!! How should it be written? Well, how else? Concise, organized, interesting, to the point, and without a whole lot of stuffing!! Should it have spelling and grammatical errors? Do I the professor actually have to tell you, the upper division undergraduate/ graduate student that your papers should NOT have many errors??? How should the work cited page be formatted? And do I need to tell you that the REAL purpose for a works cited section is so that someone else can find these sources and double check your analysis? Do I need to turn on the light bulb for you that it really doesn’t matter WHICH style [APA, MLA, etc.] you format your references, just so long as you do it in a manner that is clean, consistent and contains all the necessary information to FIND that article??? [Many PROFESSORS don’t even get this last one!!]

    What should I do my paper on?? Do I the professor need to hold your hand while we walk through the subject material I have assigned to you, including the readings, the online notes, and the other aids to the materials, or are you capable of reading them yourself and coming to class ready to lead group discussions and class presentations on the material and just perhaps take charge of YOUR education? Do I need to remind you that at this point I have already done the research and I already know the information? Should I also remind you that my lectures are not a place where I get to show off my education, [Although MANY professors DO this!] but rather a place where you are supposed to come together with people who have similar interests to actually discuss the material?

    Do I the professor even need to tell you what to research, especially when the course has a title and a syllabus with all this information in the title and the short synopsis describing the purpose of the course??

    At what point do you become a real research student capable of doing your own research?

    I’ll tell you this much more: professors are sick and tired of reading 150 papers on the same issue, especially when it is clear the majority of the assignments were written in the few wee hours before the assignment was due. There is a very good reason assignments have crumbled from twenty page research papers with every aspect defined to little short 5 page assignments and then the two and three page assignments I experienced in the last year of my undergraduate degree and then my masters. So professors got smart and rewrote the assignment to reflect the way the majority of the students felt about the assignments in the first place.

    The Brilliance of this plan is how covertly this teaching style exposes the sluffers for who they are, and puts a very clear spotlight on those students who are actually engaged in the classroom.


    “That’s Not Fair!” What’s not fair? I gave you an assignment with no boundaries; I gave you the PERFECT assignment that gave you every bit of freedom to show me just how serious you are as a University student about learning about this subject. You took that assignment and did diddlysquat. You had FOUR MONTHS! So now I am giving you a grade that reflects your performance of diddlysquat on this assignment. You wanted to do the bare minimum, and you did the bare minimum, and now you have a grade that reflects a student with the bare minimum level of knowledge. You should be happy, because in the old days your work would have earned an F instead of the C you so diligently earned.

    Military Lib, nothing personal, just a rant; but I highly suggest you do a Google Search on “Active Learning Style” before you restructure

  56. Military Lib says:

    Thanks for the reply. I don’t take anything personal.

    My instruction sessions never consist of me lecturing for extended periods of time. My sessions consist of a short period of instruction followed by either a group activity (based on solving a problem) or independent research for an assignment. I also go around the classroom to have discussions with every group or individual about their research.

    I believe information literacy is mainly skill based and therefore I give students an safe learning environment to try out newly learned skills and to learn ways to overcome obstacles.

    From working in the military and in various levels of education, I feel that teaching is also about leadership.

    You are leading students in their academic development as well as contributing to their personal and professional development. From various leadership roles, I have learned that if your people know your expectations, if you set the example, and you respect and listen to your people, then they will follow you and do almost anything for you. You can set expectations high but you must give them the tools and opportunities for your people to succeed.

    I don’t see how giving them an open assignment at the beginning of a semester will help them especially when other styles of learning (passive learning as you mentioned) have been catered to for several years as I witnessed in K-12 education. Instead it would be better to give them more direct assignments in the beginning of the semester and then lead them into the open assignment at the end (or better yet in the earlier years then moving on to more open assignments in the later years).

    The assignments I changed were focused on library research. If you want to give students open assignments on library research when they have never used one of the library databases, then go ahead. But I am confident that most first year students walk out of my sessions with new skills, a few resources for their assignments or projects, and decrease in the level of anxiety in using library resources.

    Finally, I don’t believe my way is the only way and am always seeking ways to improve my teaching.

  57. Mr. Kat says:

    You are very clearly a more progressive teacher then most – and probably due to your military experience! Strong leadership in the classroom is perhaps one of the most fundamental pieces behind a good solid professor. I have had the experience you speak of regarding leadership; I was in a classroom and I seized the student’s imaginations after the fourth week. At that point I could send them up any hill and they would have ran up it laughing all the way. They were enthusiastic about my lesson plan to the point they no longer wanted her teaching them and they said it; I was only a student teacher and of course this was a very real problem for me, politically and professionally!! But that’s another matter…see, I don’t play politics, because I professionally find politics to be a complete and utter waste of time.

    I have had professors who were truly GOOD at lectures. Their leadership was bar none some of the best and their lectures were fun to attend. But then I had a lot of sleepers in there as well. I’m glad you recognize the main issue, as that makes this so much easier to discuss! The greatest difficulty at this moment in time is not the Active Learning teaching style itself but rather the entire educational system as it is currently rooted in the students, the professors, and even the traditional classrooms.

    Traditional classrooms, for instance, are typically constructed of seats with built-in desks bolted to the floor, all facing the board. This is true whether the room was made for 30 students or 300 students and it is not just in education where you find this arrangement; you find it in most theaters as well. It turns out the most efficient packing method for any room is indeed the “auditorium” style setup.

    We then examine the method of delivery: what is the most efficient way to convey the most information to the highest number of people and ensure they all receive a very similar message? In this case, it turns out that if you have a single person give the talk, you can cram the most information into that period of time. Furthermore, if that professor is given the full allotment on that time, we see that this is the single-most easiest way the professor can throw the information at the students – even if it is painting the wall red by throwing strawberries at it and hoping the strawberries stick!

    And we finally look at the students. It turns out that the most efficient method for them to grasp is the “sit and spin” method; that is, they show up, sit down, and then spin themselves silly on their swivel chairs until the lecture ends. And that’s it. What student would NOT argue against this perfect solution?

    But as we see, this mode merely plays to the laziest of all of us. The model does not encourage universities to pick only the brightest students; nay, you can pack as many into the room as humanly possible and reap Big money!! Professors like the model because they only have to prepare 15 to 18 fifty-minute lectures on the subject material, give three tests [or assign three papers], a final exam, perhaps a short paper and their work is DONE – even better if they have a couple TAs to do the Discussion groups and the grading of all assignments!! And the students…need I even mention the students, who aren’t even showing up and still passing with 3.0 grade point averages????!!! So now the revolution is here and it is actively happening…

    There is indeed a real difficulty weaning people off of the Passive Learning Model. Like you stated, the biggest difficulty is how people have been Actively [!] engaged in the Passive Model for so very, very long, perhaps as long as first grade and Kindergarten. Our current teachers are ill-prepared for the new revolution because they have been submerged in the passive model themselves since the beginning of time. Thankfully classes are becoming increasingly unrestricted, although in some cases it has been pushed to the breaking limit of Absurdity; the classroom is now virtual and the students are all no where to be seen!

    I do not think it is a bad idea to give students a large open-ended project like this; my Preservation professor did this very thing and I found it to be perfect. He did us one better, as this was a week long course; instead of forcing us to finish the paper by a specific set point, he gave us a year from the day he entered the grades to turn in the paper, as he had up until that point to change our grade of I in the computer to a real grade. Now when the rest of our traditional university professors figure this out [along with the students desiring more work in exchange for higher grades, we will see COMPLETE AND UTTER CHAOS in the university grading schematics.

    I disagree with you that a large open-ended assignment is inappropriate at the beginning of the semester. A large project does indeed take that much time conceptually and mentally to do and do well. The project itself may be put together in less than a week or even three days; however, the research and thought that goes into the organization of that information needs time to crystallize into something cohesive.

    You very cleanly introduced the way such a large project works: the first three or four weeks of class [the time before the proposal is due] depend on strong professor leadership to put wind in the sails of students, particularly those who have never even thought of education in this way before. The very first day of class might even be a really good day to do compare/contrast session of passive and active learning where one topic is taught using both methods within one class period so that students are aware of what is happening to them and thus not confused later. The first four weeks should cover sufficient material in a manner that every student has enough gray matter to make a research direction in the fifth week.

    It is exciting to see the revolution in action within the universities at present. The Universities are in store for major changes as the community colleges are doing a VERY good job competing for students at this moment through distance education. The main problem for universities is that they are locked into the passive model and they have maxed it out in terms of the number of students in versus the amount of tuition dollars out of those student’s pockets. The Active Learning Model only really works well when the group sizes [3-4 people] and class sizes are small [under 20-30]. Groups with 5 plus people typically have at least one sleeper; classrooms with more than 30 students become cumbersome and difficult for one professor to handle. The good news is that Universities could start making more classes distance elements and then set all of the face-to-face classes up where students can only be admitted to the class by professor approval.

    Now naturally the s

  58. Mr. Kat says:

    [continued...]

    Now naturally the students in the face-to-face classes will be the ones working on campus in research labs and truly pursuing higher education and getting the really good jobs. And the Passive students who can’t get internships or even in-class positions anymore will lay on their whine about how higher education is such an exclusive egghead club, too high and mighty and egotistical for a common person to join. I contend higher education really ISN’T for EVERYONE. Most people need to graduate and get out of school as soon as possible so they can just get on with life already – in short, going out and getting that dead end job they are going to whine about until they retire in 45 years!

  59. Drew 'Business Lib' says:

    The needy mentality you painted on academic librarians to be part of the “faculty” can also be used to describe a public librarian’s need to be part of a city’s administrative government….especially during the annual budget allocations for libraries….

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  62. Tsk tsk! says:

    For the love of God Annoying Librarian, I mean, Annoyed Librarian. What library school did you attend? It must have been one of those online library schools you see flashing at the side of a Google search as an ad. Did you not learn in elementary school to NOT END A SENTENCE IN A PREPOSITION?? Even more disgraceful, no other librarian or archivist poster mentioned this atrocity. Shameful, and you are my colleagues.

    As for the rest of you – I am a librarian who also holds other graduate degrees and has been one with the snooty faculty. Don’t let them fool you, honestly, they are not gods in Olympia.