One good turn deserves another: Arming instruction librarians with the necessary arsenal

Thanks to scheduling and traffic problems, I was only able to attend one session at the 2011 ACRL conference in Philadelphia. Even so, the experience was a useful introduction to the ins and outs of library conferences: lanyards, ribbons, poster sessions and even table discussions were all new to me. The session I chose was one particularly relevant to me at this stage of my career: teaching new librarians how to engage students during information literacy instruction sessions.

SUNY-Geneseo reference and instruction librarians Kim Davies-Hoffman and Michelle Costello, who recently won the ACRL Innovation Award, presented an interactive session on how they have worked to arm librarians with the pedagogical tools they need to effectively instruct students. The goal: to foster active learning in the library setting.

Initially, Davies-Hoffman and Costello spoke about their pedagogical philosophy to groups of librarians all over New York State. The project expanded, however, to “Teaching Tips from the Trenches,” a one-day workshop for librarians with three or less years of experience. The next step was what Costello and Davies-Hoffman called “Teaching it Forward:” in which the students of “Teaching Tips” became the teachers at the  SUNYLA annual conference. Finally, Davies and Costello developed a semester-long course entitled LILAC (Library Instruction Leadership Academy), which offered formalized mentorship and pedagogical theory for any librarians interested in becoming better instructors.

Throughout the presentation, Davies-Hoffman and Costello encouraged attendees to interact with each other and brainstorm. The exercises clearly echoed their interactive approach to instruction.  “We have soft voices,” they joked. “Maybe that’s why we gravitate toward active learning.”

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