In 1999, I was selected to participate in the first Information Literacy Institute (now called the Immersion Program) which was held at SUNY Plattsburgh where one of the architects of the program, Cerise Oberman, was Dean of Libraries & IT. It was exciting to be in the first cohort in the Program Coordinator Track (I think that’s what it was called). During that week in late July in upstate New York, I met other instruction librarians like me, idealistic, energetic, and committed to our role in promoting and delivering information literacy instruction on our campuses.
We each left the institute having completed a project that we hoped to implement upon our return home. After seven years of bibliographic instruction experiences, I was ready to step up our game. The plan included proposals for collaborating with department faculty over the course of a few years, identifying places in the curriculum for instruction in order to avoid repetition, identifying scaffolded outcomes (I am sure I did not call them that).
Why, you may ask, do I still remember so much of that proposal? At our March meeting of the New Hampshire College & University Council Library Committee during our regular news sharing roundtable, several of the deans and directors were excited to report on initiatives to collaborate with faculty to integrate information literacy outcomes in disciplines, or approaches to using the Framework, or plans for changes coming with revised general education requirements.
On the drive back to my campus, I tried to shake the Groundhog Day feeling I had. At my previous library we had celebrated a huge success when information literacy became one of the four “core liberal arts skills.” Each first-year seminar had a liaison in the library. And eight years later, our Assessment in Action research told us what we already knew. Our collaborative work was really more like those other “c” words. Time to rethink.
When I arrived at Keene State College the library faculty were months away from receiving approval to offer a minor in Information Studies. Much of the structure around conventional information literacy was being deconstructed. We still offer consultations, our undergraduate student research fellows staff the Research Help Desk and assist in classes (sometimes even teaching on their own), and the library faculty are focusing on giving faculty in the other disciplines tools to work in their departments on outcomes and skills. Frustrated with repeated and unsuccessful efforts at true collaboration, the library faculty offer opportunities to collaborate and learn, not pleas to be friends on the playground.
I have come to believe that one of the most important ways librarians and other educators in higher education have overcome challenges of collaboration is through our shared commitment to Open Education. The critical and open pedagogy and critical librarianship communities are raising consciousness about privilege, status, and agency inside and outside the classroom. Robin DeRosa, Mike Caulfield, Chris Bourg, Karen Cangialosi, Maha Bali, Ronnie Arellano Douglas, and so many more people whose mostly virtual presence in my professional life has been transformative.
The idealist in me is still convinced that librarians are critical partners in envisioning our teaching and learning work together with faculty, staff, and students. And that some of the skills we teach are similar to the language, lab, and physical skills taught in other disciplines. Perhaps a difference is that we have always viewed these as integrative. Then again, I have always thought librarians were a little bit ahead of our time.