"It Takes a Village..."

Does our community expect Librarians and Instructional Technologists to become involved in pedagogy at Hamilton in the present or in the future? Ignoring the fact that I just asked a double-barrelled question, the answer is: “Who knows?!” We have never really asked the community that question. For all of the wonderful progress we have made in our collaboration, members of the community assume the library and IT departments work within traditional frameworks: the IT department keeps data flowing over the wireless and wired networks, the web pages operational, computers in a relatively decent state of repair, and facilitate student and faculty coursework; librarians maintain the media collection, find media for members, answer reference questions, and remind people not to drink or eat in the library. These preconceived notions about our work do my colleagues a disservice. Here is an example: the HILLGroup (Hamilton Information and Learning Liaisons), the IT/Library collaboration to which I belong, has a rich, twelve-year history of supporting pedagogical efforts at Hamilton by “the identification, selection, and use of technologies and content applicable to their teaching or research needs.” Members of this group teach; develop classes with faculty; create incredible projects with students; erase boundaries between librarians and technologists; and wholeheartedly embraces the creation of highly-acclaimed knowledge using digital tools, often publishing the results in a publicly-accessible electronic location. We are having a measurable impact on the process of knowledge creation.

There is one major problem with this model: members of the faculty are not even aware this program exists. Many who are aware of our group’s existence are not fully aware of the breadth and depth of knowledge this group generates. And students? Not even a blip on their academic radars. Carolyn Carpan, the director of library public services, summed the problem up succinctly when I interviewed her for this class: “the library is at the heart of campus but the librarians [and Instructional Technologists] are not.” This is no surprise to anyone that has read a page of The Atlas of New Librarianship: Librarians are still seen as the cogs that make the mechanism of the Library function properly.

Despite the knowledge our collaboration has helped create, I firmly believe that our problem is that we are not considered equal partners in the pedagogy that occurs on our campus. I do not believe any maleficence is inherent in this perspective. I simply know that perspectives of our efforts are grounded firmly in the past. In order to change our community’s notions of what a Librarian and an Instructional Technologist can contribute to knowledge creation, we need first to convince ourselves that we can actually contribute to shaping the way pedagogy occurs on campus. That is where the Experimental Classroom project I mentioned in the last post comes into play: After (hopefully) proving that we can make a meaningful contribution to the pedagogical process in ways other than our traditional model, we would have a concrete example to show members of the community to open their minds to new possibilities for the roles we can play in making the educational experience they want possible. That is our golden opportunity to start asking existential questions and building a new academic "village" in collaboration with and for our community.

Reference

Lankes, R.D. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, London: The MIT Press.