Explaining What I Do to Librarians and Non-Librarians

Having to explain what I do is difficult and helpful, in equal measures. Difficult because I’m still figuring it out but I also feel compelled to justify my existence to random colleagues, in the library and out. Helpful because it forces me to clarify my priorities and market my services to people that might like to collaborate.

There isn’t a job handbook for Instructional Design Librarians. (Maybe I could write one – note to self!). I feel like the “blended librarian” term is outdated, but nothing else has yet solidified or become commonplace for ID-focused positions. I LOVE being an Instructional Design Librarian because the open-endedness of my job title allows me a lot of creativitity, while it’s also challenging because it reflects that my home library wasn’t quite sure what they wanted me to focus on.

I have a nice blurb on my LinkedIn profile that summarizes what I do. These are what I consider my two core duties:

  1. Design and develop reusable learning objects (RLOs) that can be embedded into online learning environments.
  2. Inculcate effective instructional use of educational technology among librarians and campus faculty.

Okay, these sound nice, but I can’t go around reciting these to non-instructional designers or those familiar with ID terms and expect them to understand me.

So, I tell people that there are a limited number of librarians, and a whole lot of students, and I want to enable the library to serve as many students as possible. I can do that by providing reusable learning objects that cut down the time required for in-person instruction. Our current model is one-shot sessions to teach research skills. This is a model that hasn’t changed in a long time, while the courses we target have changed. Thousands of students are enrolled in hybrid or online courses that never see a librarian. They need to be taught IL skills, too!

I see a few ways to do this:

  • embed a librarian into their class to assess students’ needs and provide tutorials/feedback through discussion boards (ideal!);
  • educate faculty on library resources and give them IL learning objects that they can implement into their courses themselves (not the best way to do things, but offering pre-made tools is better than nothing);
  • work closely with curriculum committees across campus to integrate scaffolded IL (time-consuming, political, but oh-so-very-necessary).

I’m only one woman, and my ID time is limited because of librarian duties including ref hours, one-shot sessions, meetings, subject liaison-ing, and tenure-track obligations.

So what do I focus on during my design-time?

In my first year so far, I’ve focused on building our RLO library, which was basically nonexistent. So far I’ve only completed a handful of videos, some informational and some instructive, and I’ve also created/completely revamped a few LibGuides. Free advice here: take screenshots of the LibGuides before  you revamp them so everyone knows what a great job you did. I’ve failed at this so far.

I’ve also been hard at work collaborating with another librarian on designing and developing a flipped model for teaching IL to students in a FYE community. We’re developing a 20-minute online module for them to complete before attending an in-person library instruction session. Our theory is that, since every class has a different research assignment, it’d be nice to standardize the IL basics and then utilize in-person time to get down with database searches customized to their assignments.

This project is fun, but even better, I can reuse the RLOs I create for this projects for other classes. I can even customize, since once they’re created, it won’t take that much time at all.

Meanwhile, I’m also intending to develop edutech workshops for librarians, and library resources workshops for the rest of campus faculty, so I suppose that’s next on my list!


Photo Credit: English: Title: Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham Field, Fort Worth, Tex.

Creator(s): Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer Date Created/Published: 1942 Jan. Medium: 1 slide : color. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-fsac-1a34251 (digital file from original slide) LC-USF351-288 (color film copy slide) Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. Call Number: LC-USF35-288 <P&P> [P&P] Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USAhttp://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print