Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Professional Development on a Budget: Facilitating Learning Opportunities for Information Literacy Instructors

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Professional Development on a Budget: Facilitating Learning Opportunities for Information Literacy Instructors

Article excerpt


Working as a library professional in today's current academic library environment involves balancing constantly developing trends and changing initiatives in information literacy (IL) delivery. It is imperative that library professionals stay on top of such trends and initiatives, but keeping up with the shifting landscape is often difficult as professional development (PD) allocations ebb and flow due to the volatile world of public-sector funding and local budgets. MacEwan University Library in Edmonton, Alberta has responded to the challenge by providing various cost-effective in-house PD opportunities to both librarians and library staff. Budget-conscious, practical IL PD offerings at MacEwan University Library include an IL Community, internal Library PD Days, and an IL event open to local library professionals. All of these events are currently organized by a librarian who organizes and promotes PD to the librarian faculty. These facilitation responsibilities are explicitly stated in a formal annual workload document. All PD opportunities take place at MacEwan University and while the first two activities discussed are for MacEwan University Library staff only, the third is open to the wider library community.

IL Community

In the fall of 2013, MacEwan University Library created an IL Community for all library staff who are involved with IL instruction. A need was identified: the chair of the library's Learning and Curriculum Support team requested more PD for librarians and library technicians who teach IL sessions. This mandate thus became a responsibility tied to the librarian coordinating PD offerings. The solution was to create a community of practice. With ties to research on communities of practice and professional learning communities in a post-secondary environment (Belzowski, Ladwig, and Miller; Blankenship and Ruona; Cambridge, Kaplan, and Suter), this in-house IL Community provides opportunities to share information, expertise, and insight by acting as a venue for communication, learning, mentoring, and self-reflection.

The goal of a community of practice is to connect learning to experiencing, doing, sharing, and exploring, all in a safe atmosphere that encourages belonging. Communities of practice develop individual skills and capabilities, but also improve group morale and culture. MacEwan University Library's IL Community strives to be a place where new library staff, as well as experienced staff, can share their knowledge and collaboratively improve their teaching. This community of practice is meant to be informal and completely optional. By encouraging such an atmosphere, it is hoped that library staff feel it is worth their time to participate, and are excited to take part in the offerings.

Terms of Reference were created (see Appendix 1) and lines of communication are maintained via email and the intranet. Any library staff member who teaches IL is invited to participate in various meetings and activities, which typically occur at least once a term.

In its first year, the 2013-2014 academic year, the IL community yielded two PD events: a Teaching Styles Workshop and a term-long round of peer observation in the form of Teaching Triangles. The second year included another round of Teaching Triangles, a curriculum mapping session, and multiple opportunities for learning and discussion surrounding the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education presented by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).

Teaching Styles Workshop

The first activity for the newly formed IL Community was a Teaching Styles Workshop, which was used to jump-start reflection on teaching practice philosophy. The librarian coordinating PD offerings created a ninety-minute workshop session around the Teaching Perspective Inventory (TPI) designed by Pratt and Collins. First, colleagues participated in a think-pair-share activity in which they reflected upon what image best describes them as a teacher: ship's captain, tour guide, soapbox philosopher, or coach. …

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