Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Posted by Lindsey at 11:00 AM
Because I am in the school library program at Pitt, instructors constantly tell my classmates and I that we must be teacher librarians. They proclaim that students will be floating in and out of the library, and it will be our responsibility to teach them the skills they need to succeed in selecting print resources for research and online search strategies, to name a few. We are required to take 5 education courses, and learn the various instructional theories that schools might use. I feel like I have written enough lesson plans for a lifetime! The bonus to all of this, of course, is that we earn our teaching certificate as well.
But what about public librarians? The students in the youth services track at Pitt are not required to take any additional education courses. Most of their courses are centered on library management, collection development, knowledge of special library services, and library trends. Unless the student was previously a teacher or earned a teaching certificate as an undergraduate, they do not receive any instruction in the art of teaching. But teaching has become a large part of library services. Public librarians are being required to teach just as much as school librarians. They teach workshops as well as special programs, and must write lesson plans or outlines for these programs. Even story times usually require some type of lesson structure, with games and crafts.
A recent article in American Libraries highlights this need for education skills. In "Build you own Instructional Literacy" Char Booth explains why educational skills are important for public librarians, but that they are often neglected in the MLIS degree. She gives some great tips on how librarians can be teachers, and discusses four main topics: reflective practice, educational theory, teaching technologies, and instructional design.
How do you feel about this new role of the public librarian, that of teacher? How much teaching do you do in your position in a public library? Should MLIS programs include education courses in the public librarian's list of required courses? Possibly, if significant research is done on the topic and enough public librarians argue for the need of instruction in teaching techniques, library schools will begin to alter their course requirements to address this developing need.