I Don’t Have Time to Teach That: The Benefits of Faculty-Librarian Collaborations

Community College instructors have a great deal to teach: study skills, a college orientation to education, and the actual course information for their discipline. They also know that their students must be information literate, must know how to find supplementary information for each course, how to use information effectively, and how to credit their sources appropriately. In this regard, Washington State Community and Technical Colleges have been working under an LSTA grant on Information Literacy from 2008-2012 (Washington). Lower Columbia College libraries have been using the grant to integrate librarians or library tutorials into face-to-face and online classes, thereby offering information literacy instruction to students without increasing the teaching load of the discipline instructors. When incorporated with research assignments, this instruction, along with embedded librarians, facilitates both student learning and faculty grading of assignments.

Just as colleges have integrated Reading Across the Curriculum, at Lower Columbia College we integrate Critical Thinking and Information Literacy across the curriculum. This can lead instructors to say: “I have to teach the material of the discipline, how can I also teach the skills of source evaluation, citation, plagiarism, summarization, and formatting – all of which they should have learned as freshmen?”

Librarians to the rescue
There are many reasons students may not have learned evaluation, citation, summarization and formatting skills. Sometimes they have been exposed to these ideas, but have not been able to transfer them from course to course. Sometimes they have skipped pre-requisites. Sometimes they just need additional exposure to the ideas. Whatever the reason, the librarians can help teach or reteach these ideas. We have been integrating information literacy across the curriculum at Lower Columbia College using several different approaches.

One approach brings the librarian into the class where we can lead sessions on topics such as source evaluation. In fact, our first LSTA grant involved working with instructors to create lessons in which students review different types of sources appropriate for the subject at hand, and identify why the material would be more or less appropriate for different types of audiences. Some instructors prefer to have us grade these assignments or discussion forums, others prefer to do it themselves – but either way, it eases the burden on the discipline instructor (Determining).

A second approach involves the preparation of a subject guide for a course or entire department. We use a standardized outline of the research process (overview, keywords, article selections, article evaluation, citation, presentation format), and populate that outline with resources and links for students. One grant allowed us to create our first subject guide. It was on business management and the librarian identified subject encyclopedias and links to various books and other resources available through the college. The business instructor identified specific web resources to help students. We also linked particularly useful databases directly to the subject guide. The preferred citation format for the discipline is identified on the subject guide, as well as links to resources explaining it, and to a citation generator which does it reasonably well. The librarian embedded videos of the research process into the subject guide to make it even clearer for students as they walk through the research process (Business).

Another approach involves the use of a prepared videocast or PowerPoint presentation. Our instructors may say “I’m going to assign an article review in Genetics,” and we will make an instructional screencast showing the students how to access articles, how to compare them, and how to cite them. This third LSTA grant coincided with the development of a new genetics course, and included creating of a subject guide, research tutorials, and online assistance. The instructor asked the librarian to grade the article quality and the accuracy of the citations, allowing the instructor to concentrate on content (GillaspySteinhilper).

Instructors have found these resources helpful to their students in different ways. Some require students to walk through the subject guide tutorials for credit – others offer them as options. Other instructors embed the tutorials into an online class, or ask the librarian to visit the classroom and offer the tutorials for a refresher. And some instructors want quizzes based on the tutorials, some use them as the basis for discussion forums. Our librarians try to accommodate whatever method is most useful to the instructor.

You may not have space in your classroom to teach research skills. However, that is one basis of the library discipline, and we will teach it wherever we can. Just ask us.

Andrea Gillaspy-Steinhilper is a reference librarian at Lower Columbia College.

“Business Administration subject guide.” (rev. 2011) Lower Columbia College Library Services. Retrieved May 2012 from http://lowercolumbia.edu/nr/exeres/9CC35863-7A1D-4F77-88D0-6E2E2F083DC9.

“Determining the level of scholarship, authorship, and audience of an article.” (2011). Lower Columbia College Library Services. Retrieved 29 June 2012 from https://lstahighlights.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/ppt_scholarly_v_popular.pdf.

GillaspySteinhilper, A. (Winter 2012). “Cancer and genetic mutations.” Tegrity Recording. Lower Columbia College Library Services. Retrieved 11 May 2012 from https://tegr.it/y/aom1.

Washington State Community and Technology Colleges LSTA Grant 2008-2012. (25 April 2012). Retrieved 11 May 2012 from http://informationliteracywactc.pbworks.com/w/page/19923193/FrontPage.