There comes a time in every job you have where you are asked to do something that you’re really just not quite sure you can successfully complete. It isn’t something you’re incapable of doing, nor are you conflicted about it…you just can’t see yourself having the wherewithal to actually produce the work necessary. This could be something like designing the prototype for the next iPod, or performing a hand transplant. It could be something more simple, like not falling asleep at your desk or resisting the urge to friend an attractive desk mate on Facebook. For me, it was the preparation of a paper to be submitted and presented to the Learning and Teaching Advisory Group at my university on the subject matter of embedding information literacy into the curriculum.
It can be said that I have not always, okay, never, been an advocate for information literacy. I’ve never been against it, I was just more enamoured with cataloguing and metadata to notice the wide world of library skills and the huge challenge related to teaching those skills to students- especially those moving from secondary school to university. That ended the day I started working at UCS. Because of our small professional librarian staff, the issues associated with academic libraries, such as collection development, information literacy, information-seeking behaviour, etc. have been split amongst us. My predecessor looked after IL, therefore, I was grandfathered into it.
I’ve shared plenty about what IL is and what my feelings are towards it previously, so I will not delve too deeply into it. I will say that I am a definite convert and have started to think that this is going to be an area of specialisation for me now and in the future. It is one thing to be working with the information about books themselves, it’s another to have to build techniques and practices that are to be applied to teaching other human beings who will provide you with their own queries, insights, and often, frustrations.
The problem, when the mention of writing this paper came about, was not that I did not feel passionate about what I was going to propose, it was how I was going to make sense and demonstrate how important embedding information literacy is to a group of people who are not librarians. I often have issues with translating the nonsense in my brain to something that makes sense to the outside world.
Why was it such a daunting task? It is not as though those involved in the Group would be against the idea of working to embed information literacy. I think my greatest hurdle was coming up with actual points and requests that would be made to the group for action. Always the non-confrontational one, I imagined my requests would be viewed as unrealistic and unobtainable. In a nutshell, here’s what I wanted: to be included in the curriculum in a way where I was almost seen as part of the teaching team for each module. I want every student to know who I am and that I’m able to have a job because they have questions. I want the academics to utilise me on a regular basis throughout the year, rather than at the beginning and possibly before the last writing assignment is due. Why do I want these things? Do I really think I’d have time to give one-to-one sessions to every student within my subject areas? Hell to the no. I guess, as narcissistic as this may sound, I want everyone to be happy with the job I’m doing. I don’t want our academic staff to think about the library and associate it with people who don’t or can’t help- I especially don’t want that with the students. I can live with their dissatisfaction that we are unable to provide a copy of every essential book on their reading lists. I CANNOT, however, live with considering the library services to be rubbish. I suppose, in a way, writing this paper meant that I would be trying to prove why I’m important and why my job is important- something I’m not entirely sure is possible to do. I know that students who engage with the library and who see me for sessions are better off than they would be on their own- not based on any actual data, but because it seems impossible otherwise. That is not a commentary on the abilities of the students, I’m simply going by feedback I am given during sessions and afterwards. I understand that I’m not saving lives or fighting for my country, but there is an incredible rush you get when you spend an hour with someone who came to you as a blank slate and left covered in chalk dust.
My proposal went to the Group 19 June. I am now working to revise it to address some of the wonderful feedback given by academic staff, as well as Group members. It feels great to breathe again! So it’s back to the drawing board and then another round of anxiety before it’s presented again!