Librarians as teachers.

While I was in college, I felt that the only way a teacher could be successful is if they first saw themselves as a student.  By approaching each teaching opportunity as an opportunity to learn, the “teacher” would gain a more humble and less threatening attitude and by default and would be more a more effective teacher.

In my Teaching Information Literacy class, we were asked to briefly describe our current teaching philosophy.  Nearly ten years since college, I touched on many of the same issues my college level teaching philosophy tried to resolve:  In a library setting, when the librarian only has one chance (the reference interview) to help someone, how do you make them comfortable enough to trust you, understand their question and help them find the answer in 30-60 minutes or less.  I touched on listening to the patron, understanding the patrons current abilities (do they know how to use a computer, internet, Word, etc) and finding out what their information needs are.

I emphasized how you only get one shot to make a difference in the life of a student.  You only get one chance to help a student learn how to find information on their own and the most important part of that reference interview is in the first 10-15 minutes where you listen to them and try to understand them.

That is true, in part.  There are times when you will only get one shot to teach someone how to access information but that is a small portion of the teaching opportunities.  As a librarian, you get the opportunity to teach every time someone is in your library – even if you aren’t talking to the individual directly.  I have had students ask me for help directly after I assisted someone else with the copy machine – simply because they noticed I was nice at the copy machine.  Other students I have earned the right to help them because they come in the library to study regularly and I learned their names and their majors.

When I was working in auto insurance PIP claims, I dealt with settlements on a daily basis.  My settlement philosophy was to start the negotiation at the beginning of each claim (before the first injury was claimed).  The negotiations started with me being nice, helpful and gaining a positive rapport with my client over a period of several weeks, months, and in some cases – years.  I found that if I had a positive relationship with the client, the settlement process would be easier (if a settlement was needed).  It is the same with teaching information literacy.  I will be more effective, have more opportunities to teach and gain a larger student base if I work to build positive relationships with my patrons before they ask the first question.

I can’t say that my teaching philosophy is drastically different from the beginning of the semester or even since college (ten years ago).  If anything, my teaching philosophy has just been simplified: Be nice to people and genuinely care about their needs.

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