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Focusing on student learning in the career college library

April 17, 2012

Yeah!  I’m so excited to introduce our first guest blogger Lindsay Harmon.  Lindsay is the librarian at the American Academy of Art, a visual arts college in Chicago. She is new to the blog and I love this post, it really connects the big dots I think we should be focused on.  You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lindsay.d.harmon or contact her via email at harmon.lindsay@gmail.com.

Thanks Lindsay for your post, insights and just dedication to being a great librarian at a career college.

If your interested in posting – just hit me up.  I’m sure we have tons to learn from each other.  And…. heeeerrreeee’sss Lindsay!

My college is gearing up for re-accreditation, and last week we kicked it off with our first-ever assessment conference, intended to spark conversations about student learning.  I was honored not only to be one of two non-faculty members asked to participate, but also to be chosen to lead a roundtable discussion on “Student Learning Beyond the Classroom.”

Like most career college (especially solo) librarians, my day-to-day routine includes such a variety of tasks that my overall job description sounds pretty random: proofreader, student organization advisor, event coordinator. Many of these tasks don’t fit within the stereotypical librarian box, but to me they are all bound by this common thread of student learning. This idea is central to everything I do, and the roundtable was especially gratifying because it validated my efforts to make this clear to every level of my institution, including the administration.

I believe that emphasizing learning outside of the classroom is especially important in the career college because our students are often so focused on the job they’ll get that they often dismiss so-called “academic” skills like writing and research. For many of my visually minded students, an English class is seen more as an obstacle than an opportunity and the instructors of these courses as having less to teach than their studio counterparts.

So in addition to straightforward information literacy instruction during class visits and reference encounters, I try to sneak teachable moments into interactions with students outside the library. My strategy is both to model and to integrate IL skills into the disparate things I do on campus. As a former editor, I make myself available to proofread student essays, often serving as an informal writing coach for students who need a little extra help. As the advisor of the literary magazine, I promote the idea of writing as an art. And just last week, I coordinated a screening and discussion of PBS’ Art21 series to encourage students to learn and think critically about artists beyond their own, often limited, sphere.

Yes, these roles are all volunteer, and they are on top of my librarian duties like cataloging and circulation. However, I prefer to think of them as natural extensions of my “real” job. Focusing on student learning as a common thread helps me to think beyond the library, so that I can encourage learning wherever it may happen.

What’s your common thread?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lee permalink
    April 17, 2012 6:03 pm

    Lindsay: “Like most career college (especially solo) librarians, my day-to-day routine includes such a variety of tasks that my overall job description sounds pretty random: proofreader, student organization advisor, event coordinator. Many of these tasks don’t fit within the stereotypical librarian box, but to me they are all bound by this common thread of student learning.”
    Here’s my common thread contribution: http://thedailyhustle.org/?p=11
    – at least, that’s what your job description kicked off in my head… this is much easier to do in a career college, if you’re willing to get into it.
    Lee

    • April 17, 2012 6:14 pm

      Woot Lee!! Great reference!

  2. lindsayharmon permalink
    April 18, 2012 1:03 pm

    Thanks for this, Lee! So far no one’s asked me to mow their lawn, but I get a lot of random requests–my favorite being the student who asked if I could open her locker. That I physically couldn’t do (they don’t give me access to the lock-cutter), but pretty much everything else, I try to accommodate, my theory being that if students are comfortable asking me for help of any kind, they’ll be more likely to seek me out for “librarian stuff” when the need arises. So far, so good.

    • April 18, 2012 2:45 pm

      I totally agree Lindsay. When I first got started one of my major goals was to make sure I (and by extension the library) was approachable. Thank you again for sharing such a great post!

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