A Librarian who Lectures, Part Two

A few months back, I gave my first lecture to roughly 200 undergraduate students. It was terrifying and thrilling speaking in front of such a large audience, and I count it as quite an achievement. Last week I gave a second lecture to this class, and since I blogged about the first, this post is a reflection on how it compared.

This lecture covered a brief introduction to using databases for research, and citing and referencing. I used my predecessor’s slides, which I updated and amended to my own style.

In my original post, I advised the following:

  • Don’t let them know you’re afraid. 

This time round, I was a lot less anxious – I knew what to expect, and I knew I could handle it.

  • Don’t underestimate how long it takes for people to settle down

I started at five minutes past the hour, and didn’t acknowledge those who came in late (rather than letting them disrupt my flow).

  • Balance making the session as interactive as possible without it descending into chaos. 

There wasn’t much scope for discussion in this lecture, but it is something I tried to bear in mind during the quiz questions.

  • Make it personal to their course

The content of the lecture – primarily referencing – can very easily become generic. By using examples that are key texts they have likely encountered can trigger recognition and makes it more relevant. I also tried to emphasise the benefits of referencing correctly – you’ll get better marks!

I felt a lot more confident giving this lecture, having done the experience before. Which just goes to show that practice really does make public speaking easier. The audience was also a bit smaller this time, as not everyone turned up – I won’t take this personally!

A Librarian who Lectures

Yesterday I delivered a lecture to 200 students. It was kind of terrifying, but also completely new to me and thrilling!

In the content of the session I covered: What is information and how to evaluate it; The benefits of using the Library to find information; Why the Library is a quality alternative to Google and Wikipedia; How to use the Library to find things from reading lists; What we can do for you, and what you can do for us.

I used my predecessor’s slides from the previous year, but updated and altered, to guide the content of the session. I was glad to have enough time beforehand to really make it my own. The students didn’t seem to find my lame jokes all that funny though – unsurprisingly!

I was worried I would speak too fast, but actually I was a bit slow, and nearly overran. It’s hard to judge it when you’re just practising at your desk.

Don’t let them know you’re afraid. My mantra was that I know more than them, even if I do still feel new. I also told myself that to them I am a lecturer – I’m standing at the front, giving a lecture, therefore I am the lecturer. They don’t know that only six months ago I was in their seat.

Don’t underestimate how long it takes for people to settle down, take their coats off, and finish conversations. I started almost 10 minutes late because people were still filing in.

They wanted to chat, so I had to balance making the session as interactive as possible without it descending into chaos. An overstatement perhaps, but it’s something to bear in mind, particularly with undergraduates. I did this by mainly using show of hands for some questions, as discussion is hard to regulate in such a large class.

Make it personal to their course. I tried whenever possible to emphasise that *I* am the History librarian, and that’s why *I* have come to see them. I tried to emphasise the resources that are particularly useful for History students, and relate the benefits of using the Library for assignments (read: better marks!). At one point I referred to the students as ‘Historians’. This is something that stuck with me when I was an undergraduate, when a lecturer on my course did the same. It made me feel much more a researcher and stakeholder in the university.

Overall, despite being scary, I’m so glad I did it. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to such a large audience before, and it’s an experience not many get to have.

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.

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!