Teaching in the Library


I want to talk about librarians as teachers, and I don't mean librarians in schools.  I mean librarians everywhere.

I have encountered many academic librarians who talk about teachable moments at the reference desk.  I have had many teachable moments in the public library, too, and in the prison library.  Teachable moments come in different varieties, just like patrons.  Some of my recent "students" include: 

  • An older gentleman who reminisces about the old card catalog and hasn't a clue how to search and find on the OPAC.
  • A ten year old girl who wants to know if we have more books "like this," as she holds up her latest read.
  • A teenage boy who is watching Under the Dome on TV and wants to know if we have King's novel on CD...and while he is here, what other Stephen King books do we have?
  • An inmate who wants the next book in a Science fiction series.
  • A middle-aged woman who has gone back to school and wants to learn how to use our databases.
  • A homeschooling mom who needs some guidance on choosing appropriate history curriculum materials.
  • A new colleague who needs to learn how to navigate our website from the administrator side.
  • A retired professor who needs to know if I can get an obscure title on inter-library loan.

All these requests were teachable moments, times when instruction in information literacy had the power to connect a reader with his book at that moment but also in the future.  Taking the time to give instruction, not just answers, is the greatest gift we give our patrons.  Even if you don't plan to work in a school or an academic library, you may find yourself doing instruction at the point of need or creating web tutorials or suddenly giving eReader classes.  I can't say enough about the benefits of the User Instruction class I took over the summer.  I thought I knew how to teach my patrons, but now, using what I learned, I can feel the energy as my patrons become empowered.  Excitement in the library!  Who knew?

Libraries | People

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