Librarians as Teachers

Are librarians teachers? This has long been a topic that is up for debate in the library world.  Despite the fact that teaching has increasingly become something librarians do at both the public and academic levels, sometimes it seems as though we still live in a gray area.  Working in a two-year college, there are many unique opportunities to instruct students, but sometimes it can be hard to convince faculty, staff, and even ourselves that teaching is an integral part of our profession.

What keeps faculty and students from viewing us as teachers?  Lucky two-year college librarians might get to teach semester long Information Literacy classes, but many others are only given one-shot sessions in which we have a short amount of time to convince students that information literacy is important.  Without a classroom and with a non-traditional teaching setup, it can be hard for students and faculty to recognize that we are here to teach.  The issue was covered by Scott Walter in an article for College & Research Libraries.  His review of literature showed that “a lack of understanding across campus of the academic librarian’s professional role and responsibilities can have significant implications for issues…Certainly, they can have a direct effect on the degree to which a librarian is able to pursue his or her work as a teacher.” (Walter, 2008) In short, If we are not seen as teachers, it will be hard for us to get the resources we need to do our jobs.

Given the challenges of students and faculty to recognize librarians in a teaching role, it falls upon us to be advocates for defining our professional identity as that of a teacher. While many of us know all about advocacy, this particular task can be a challenging one.  My own career journey has taught me that teaching is one of the things I love most about our profession and I especially like working with a two-year college demographic.  However, like many librarians (Walter, 2008), teaching is not something that was covered when I went to library school.  This means that I’ve had to do my fair share of figuring out how to work a classroom without any help.  I’m not afraid to admit that this lack of formal training made me doubt my effectiveness as a teacher when I first started.  These days I have gained more confidence, and I have no trouble explaining to students that my job is to teach them how to find information. Usually this conversation follows a student who doesn’t understand why I won’t just give them the answer to his or her homework.

I embrace my role as a teacher, but recognize that this can be a controversial position. What do you think?

  • Are librarians teachers?
  • What can we do to promote ourselves as teachers?
  • What should our professional identity look like?

Resources:

Walter, S. (2008). Librarians as Teachers: A Qualitative Inquiry into Professional Identity. College & Research Libraries, 69:1, 51-71.

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6 thoughts on “Librarians as Teachers

  1. Of course we are teachers. My teaching credentials are as good as most of the instructors and it seems like I have been at this forever. I have had instructors question why I attend faculty meetings. My answer is so I know what is going on and how the library can help the faculty. I don’t attend because they are fun, entertaining sometimes but not fun.

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  2. As I’ve moved into my role as head at a two year campus, I’ve found myself becoming less of a teacher and more of an administrator, which makes me sad. I also struggle with the lack of a dedicated library space for teaching as mentioned above. However, I still see myself as a teacher primarily and the library’s mission as instruction rather than student support. It’s a fine line, though.

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  3. Instruction is at the heart of librarianship, for sure. I totally agree that being recognized as instructors is an uphill battle for many librarians. My passion for instruction led me to pursue a Master’s in Education with a focus on Online Teaching and Learning. Online access to resources–and teaching students how to do this….there’s a lot of pedagogy to learn about!

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    • Julie, Did you know you were passionate about teaching before you became a librarian? For me, I knew I was passionate about helping people, but didn’t realize how much teaching was a part of what I loved about helping people. Finally one day I had a realization and said, “Hmmm, I think I really like teaching.”

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  4. Pingback: A Bridge Across the Divide: The Role of Libraries in the Digital Skills Gap by Bobbi Newman, Speaker / Writer at Librarian by Day on Oct 30, 2013 | Stephanie L. Gross, MSLIS

  5. Pingback: How to reinvent librarians: five top tips from around the world | Public Leaders Network | Guardian Professional | New York Library Club, Inc.

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