Learning to Teach

… and teaching to learn? Ooh, deep.

As many of you may know, I have recently started a new job as a liaison librarian at a university library. I started a week before Fresher’s Week, so you can imagine I was thrown in at the deep end!

Part of this particularly sharp learning curve has involved running information skills sessions for students, and as a result has required a large amount of teaching.

Image credit fxp, Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/fxp/1453202123/

Most of these sessions have been general inductions to the Library and it’s resources, tailored for specific user groups within my liaison remit. However, some have been more in-depth workshops, involving me taking more responsibility as ‘teacher’ – these have been classes, rather than simply presentations.

This is something that, theoretically, I knew I would be involved with, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the responsibility of being an actual teacher. I have actually really enjoyed it though. I have been taken out of my comfort zone, and since I’ve had to just get on with it, I’ve not really had a chance to get scared by it!

I’m sure I’ll be eating my words when, in a few weeks time, I’m delivering a lecture to approximately 200 students. In a way though, this is less scary than teaching in a smaller, interactive workshop – I really have to know my stuff in smaller sessions, because the opportunity for more in-depth discussion is increased.

I have been learning how to teach ‘on-the-job’, so to speak. I don’t feel the content of my Masters has prepared me practically for it. I know a lot about information literacy, learning styles, and changes in pedagogy, but I didn’t learn how to deliver effective workshops or how to plan a session. Fortunately there is a lot of support at my workplace, and my predecessors have many previous sessions’ content I can draw on. Teaching is becoming an increasingly large part of a librarian’s role, and is something that transfers across LIS sectors. I would like to see that correlating in LIS Masters curricula.

Modules covering information literacy have certainly begun this and will help librarians develop effective theoretical teaching knowledge, but something I have discovered since qualifying is that, firstly, students and lecturers don’t necessarily know what information literacy is – and who can blame them, it is a bit jargon-y! They also might not see it as a key objective, even though it is a means to their perceived objectives – they both want the students to be able to do their work better!


  1. You make some interesting points about what should be covered in the LIS masters (or similar) programs. Did you know that CILIP are looking at this, as well as a whole host of other things, as part of their Future Skills project? http://www.cilip.org.uk/about-us/future-skills-project/pages/default.aspx
    Well, at least its a small part of it. I was part of a focus group recently about routes to qualification (e.g. CLIP, chartership, fellowship) but I understand there were previous focus groups which looked at the skills people should have leaving library school. Teaching is definitely one of them – I’ve learnt on the job and through both internal seminars in work and external ones.
    Also, well done on teaching so new into the job! My first professional post involving teaching trainee solicitors about legal resources and Parliamentary process but I had the luxury of not doing it until 6 months or so on the job, and it was still a daunting task (as I also had to learn about all the stuff I was about to teach!).
    Good luck for when you have to present to 200 students!! I don’t envy you on that front!

  2. Hi,
    We didn’t even get anything about pedagogies! The best thing I did with regards to teaching was to do a PTTLs course but even that was more in the context of classroom sessions and suited to my college job not big lectures like you get at the universities . I like the smaller sessions more but have had to do a few big ones recently which are a bit scary. Good luck in your new job and I look forward to sharing stories and tips.

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