Read If Organizing Work Things Sparks Joy

Image of assorted color markers in a glass jar next to a blank notebookPhoto by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

I couldn’t help the Marie Kondo reference. (I really enjoyed Season 1 of “Tidying Up.” I go through purging periods every so often, so I am here for it.)

The longer I am at my job, the better I am getting at figuring out a system to keep track of what I work on. Who knew that some simple templates and a planner could help me feel better during those moments of one-shot instruction fatigue? As I’m not involved with meaningful assessment, it’s challenging for me to see the long-term effects of the work I do, so documenting my activities helps keep me motivated.

After I received the final documentation for my first review, I created a template in Google Docs for the documentation that I am responsible for turning in (visit “UC Librarian Review Process“), and I’ll be in much better shape for my next review in January 2020 as I have been filling it out with more significant projects and partnerships as I go along.

For instruction, I typically put all of my classes into Outlook because our research appointment calendar syncs with Outlook, but I learned that it is miserable to go back into your calendar to figure out how many classes and workshops you taught during a particular semester. Our research instruction request forms are also connected to the system we use for submitting post-class statistics. The library’s programmer was able to enhance our system so that we can see which classes have not had statistics submitted, but once you submit, it’s clunky to run a query.

I created yet another template to help me out in Google Sheets: bit.ly/class_stats_template It has a tab for classes and a tab for workshops. The Guide column is the URL to the class LibGuide. Students refers to the number of students. The Stats Recorded column is just a note for myself as I submit statistics into our system because I sometimes let it pile up. The Google Folder column is the key to what I actually did in class, as it links to a folder in Google Drive that contains the class syllabus, research assignment, and my lesson plan. In Google Drive, I have a 2018-2019 folder with subfolders for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. My basic folder structure looks like the following: Semester > Instructor Name > Course. It’s now super simple for me to find all the corresponding documentation for each class I taught. If you’re interested, I also started using a new lesson plan template that I adapted from another librarian: bit.ly/lesson_plan_template I’m bummed to say that I don’t remember who shared it, but I need to comb through some librarian listserv archives to find out because I really need to thank them!

Seeing some of my work reflected in my Classes & Workshops spreadsheet this past semester has made me feel a lot better.

When I worked at the community college, one of my librarian mentors suggested that I get a paper planner that has both a monthly and weekly format, so that I take brief notes about what I work on within the planner. This semester, I’m going to utilize a planner to reflect on my teaching. While I print my lesson plans and write on them during class, they can look pretty cruddy. I need to do a better job about writing down what worked, what didn’t, observations, etc. (On that note, I do plan to finally finish reading char booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literature for Library Educators, though I think char is working on a new edition.)

I also feel like this could be a fun workshop at conference–sharing instructional planning materials and tools and methods for keeping track of work. Like New Year library programming but for academic librarians.

Thankful

Thankful

“Thankful note on tree” by Jessica Castro on Unsplash

The day before Thanksgiving, I got an email from the Chancellor’s Office letting me know that a student who graduated in the spring (AKA my worst semester) indicated in an exit survey that I was one of three staff or faculty members who made a memorable impact during their time at UC Merced.

This recognition means a great deal to me.

As a non-faculty librarian (we’re academic appointees at the University of California) who teaches one-shot research lessons, the only student feedback I receive, besides formative assessment, is through post-lesson satisfaction surveys. While the librarians have been involved with projects to assess student learning, I, personally, haven’t yet had opportunities to see the impact of my and my colleagues’ work over time. (I am hopeful through liaison work and some other contacts I’ve made this fall that this can change somewhat, and we might be in a good position due to campus growth, a new general education curriculum, and a new department structure.) Outside of classes and workshops, my other source of student engagement is through research consultations.

I sometimes feel disconnected from my purpose in this kind of library environment. In my previous position, if I wasn’t teaching, I was at the desk, which proved to have its own challenges, but I really enjoyed knowing students’ names and about their lives. I may not feel as connected to students as I did before, but I’m very thankful to know that I really am helping students on their path to earn a degree and accomplish their life goals.

This is something I needed to hear. I go back to work tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to the two research consultations I have scheduled in the afternoon.

Language

I’m a member of the California chapter of ACRL, CARL, but I’m not very active, mostly because I got involved with National first. I’ve really been impressed with Talitha Matlin‘s leadership. The Fall CARL Newsletter was just released, and her presidential message really hit home with me.

In the message, she asks:

What are some words or phrases you’ve been trying to change in your vocabulary?

As a large state with almost 400 institutes of higher education, we play a large role in shaping the discourse surrounding libraries and library work. I realize that some people may roll their eyes at the idea of spending so much time agonizing over language choice. However, using words that demonstrate confidence and do not diminish the important roles we play in our institutions is one step we can all take. We may not all arrive at the same words, but I hope we are all able to speak about our work in ways that feel authentic and affirming.

Her message left me with my mouth hanging open.

I have been doing this lately when it comes to my work as an instruction librarian. It really started with the day a well-meaning writing instructor commented, in reference to my handwriting, that I should have been a teacher as I was writing the URL to the class research guide and the learning outcomes! Ever since then, when someone says presentation, I offer lesson. I don’t correct people outright, but, rather, I use the adjusted language somewhere in my response. When accepting research instruction requests, I’ll write or say, “Let’s meet to discuss learning outcomes…” or “What learning outcomes would you like for me to design my lesson around? In looking at the assignment…[offer my two cents].”

Sometimes instructors also realize the inherent problem of calling research instruction “presentations” or “lectures” on their own. Recently, I was discussing a class with an instructor over the phone, and she hesitated using the word presentation.

Anytime I find myself wanting to write or say library instruction session, I revise it to research instruction or research lesson.

Now that I’m also more organized–and I admit that I mostly got my act together to prove a point–I have been sending a Google Doc with the lesson plan, titled as such, in advance. (It’s not that I didn’t have plans before; I just rarely shared them after getting in touch with instructors about their upcoming classes.) I don’t actually think folks take a look at my plans, but, if they do, it shows evidence that I plan for checks for understanding and learning activities. Even if things change up in the classroom, it shows that I have been thinking about how to teach both concepts and procedures in a way that maximizes the tiny amount of time I have with students.

Making these changes with language and involving the instructor into my process (it’s not always as collaborative as one might like) has helped my confidence. I am more honest about what can and can’t be done in a single lesson, and I’m a bit more bold in offering suggestions. It’s as though I believe that I’m a real educator now!

I haven’t implemented this yet, but, in September, there was a post on JoVE’s librarian blog called “How Librarians Can Really Explain What Their Jobs Are Like” that advises that when you are asked what you do for a living, resist the urge to use the word librarian at the beginning of your response. Brandy King writes:

These days, instead of starting with “I’m a librarian,” I first talk about the difference my work makes and then end by saying “I’m a librarian.”

How smart is this? This has forever changed how I will be addressing this question.

Thing 22: Online Teaching

On Friday, my colleagues and I shared what we learned from the Things in the Pedagogy track of the 23 Framework Things. I was assigned Thing 22: Online Teaching. I selected to complete Option 3, though I didn’t do the activity:

Post a brief comment below describing the outline for an online learning object (lesson) using the steps in the book to guide you. What part of the Framework will you focus on? Create an outcome statement, and select one of the common instructional design program activities (p.29) to assess the student’s competency.

However, I do think that I’d be interested in developing something that helps students learn how to approach selecting a database. I imagine including research problem scenarios in which students would need to match up the problem to an appropriate database based on the description. In the notes I posted to my colleagues (see below), I refer to this briefly as we are working on developing content for a new GE course.

Here are my notes.

This module was presented by the steering committee of the New Literacies Alliance, which is a group of librarians from a variety of institutions working to design a common research instruction curriculum based on the ACRL Framework. The lessons they have created tie to particular knowledge practices and dispositions and are licensed under Creative Commons. Many appear in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox. If you have looked at the Sandbox, many of the SoftChalk online modules, such as the Citations tutorial, were designed by librarians involved with the NLA.

For this module, I read Chapter 3 and Appendix E of Creating and Sharing Online Library Instruction: A How to Do it Manual for Librarians (2017) written by three NLA librarians, Joelle Pitts, Sara K. Kearns, and Heather Collins. The chapter outlines how to create learning objects using McTighe’s and Wiggins’ backward design curriculum planning model.

  1. Identify desired results.
    • What should students be able to do at the end of the instruction?
      • Select components of the Framework to teach.
  2. Determine assessment evidence.
    • How will we know if students have achieved the desired result?
      • Choose a Bloom’s Taxonomy level and verb
      • Outline an activity the students will complete to demonstrate desired results
      • Write a learning outcome.
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.
    • How can we support learners as they come to understand important ideas and processes?
      • Create redundant digital learning objects to support the learning outcome.
      • Create assessment activity.

Identify Desired Results

  • Learning objects should be kept to 8-15 minutes.
  • The knowledge dispositions or practices you select will need to be modified because many of them are “too big” to cover in one object.
  • Highlight one major frame in the outcome, even though there may be practices from different though related frames at play.
  • Choose a level of expertise [novice, beginner, competent, proficient, expert (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1980)].

Determine Assessment Evidence

  • Choose a Bloom’s Taxonomy level and verb
    • “The higher the Bloom’s Taxonomy level, the more difficult it is to design online learning objects and activities, especially if automated grading is desired” (p. 26).
      • This makes me feel a lot better about what can be achieved for modules we develop that are intended for instructors to assign to their students (WRI 01); these would be good for more concrete skills, such as selecting an appropriate/relevant database, etc. It does make me think about the SPRK courses, as well, mostly because two out of my three areas involve databases.
    • Write an outcome
      • The student will + Bloom’s Taxonomy verb + evidence + in order to + desired results = outcome
      • Bloom’s Taxonomy list on p. 27
      • Learning outcome formula checklist on p. 28
      • Common types of instructional design program activities on p. 29

 Plan Learning Experiences

  • NLA has a storyboard template to serve as a guide for developing online learning objects (see Appendix D in the book as this was not included in the PDFs)
    • Introduction, background info
    • Relevancy to students’ lives
    • State the problem and possible solutions
    • Lesson climax activity
    • Assessment
  • Have a peer review your learning object (see the Learning Object Rubric, Appendix E, p. 119)

23 Framework Things

This summer has been busy, and I’m almost in disbelief that it’s July. Due to our busyness, my colleagues I are splitting up the 23 Framework Things for professional development during the summer and fall. (To earn the certificate, however, I would have to complete all 23 modules by the site deadline, which is August 31. I won’t be able to finish by that time, but I do plan to do them all eventually.) My supervisor graciously put together a schedule for us, and our first assignment is due this Friday.  I’ll be sharing my progress here.

If you’re curious, below is how we’re dividing the Things. I’m including my initials only next to the sections I have been assigned; we’re to complete all the Things in the Assessment track. We’ll be meeting to discuss as a group during our semi-monthly Instruction Brown Bags, which is a working lunch meeting to talk pedagogy and teaching in a more casual setting.

Have you completed the 23 Things Framework? Are you working on it right now? Has your library instruction team done these as a group?

Approach

  • Complete Pedagogy Tracks & @ Your Institutions Tracks this summer
    • see assignments
  • Complete Frame Focus Track this summer
    • see assignments
  • Complete Assessment Track over the fall
    • complete all

Pedagogy Track

Instruction Brown Bag

  • Discuss some aspect of the Pedagogy Track.
  • What was your biggest take-away from these readings/activities?  What could you see applying to your instruction practice?
  • Meet to discuss on Friday, July 13

@ Your Institution Track

Instruction Brown Bag

  • Discuss some aspect of the @Your Intitution Track.
  • What was your biggest take-away from these readings/activities?  What could you see applying to your instruction practice?
  • Meet to discuss on Wednesday, August 8

Frame Focus Track (complete 1 or 2 only)

Instruction Brown Bag

  • Summarize article(s) for colleagues based on the Thing(s) you were assigned.  Share what you found to be of most value.
  • Meet to discuss on Wednesday, August 15

Assessment Track (complete all)

Instruction Brown Bags

  • Meet to discuss Things 4 & 11 in September
  • Meet to discuss Things 12 & 17 in October
  • Meet to discuss Things 20 & 23 in November

UC Librarian Review Process

On June 1st, I celebrated my two-year anniversary at UC Merced. Almost a week later, I also received the final packet for my first review.

While librarians in the California State University and California Community College systems are faculty, librarians in the University of California system are not faculty but are academic personnel. Our review process and criteria for advancement do highlight the academic nature of our positions. You can read more about UC librarians’ performance criteria and the review and appraisal process in the Academic Personnel Manual (APM), sections 360-10 and 210-4e.

We are evaluated in a peer review process every two years for those who are in the assistant and associate range or every three years for those who are full librarians. I was hired as an associate librarian with potential for career status. Because I started on June 1, 2016, it meant that I could have a review at 1.5 or 2.5 years as the process is based on calendar years (January-December). I was really worried about my output with the shortened time frame, but I was able to add a note that my review reflected 18 months of work. My supervisor also encouraged me to go through with the earlier review, so that’s, ultimately, why I decided to go ahead. But I was really nervous when I received my review notice at the end of November.

I was asked to provide the contact information of three people who could write letters of evaluation based on some aspect of my work in the last 18 months. For the letters, I asked the chair of a committee I served on from the Librarians Association of the University of California (LAUC); a colleague from an Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) committee I serve on; and a writing faculty member at UC Merced whose classes I have taught for a few times. While I didn’t see these letters until the very end of the review process, it helped to know I picked folks I trust.

In early February, I also submitted my current curriculum vitae, current and former job descriptions (an adjustment was made from Instruction Librarian to Instruction and Outreach Librarian in March 2017), goal statements, organizational chart, and my self-review. The self-review:

…consist[s] of a concise, vita-style enumeration of accomplishments keyed to the criteria […] specified by APM 360-10, followed by a narrative discussion of three of the most significant items within APM 360-10 b. (1) and three of the most significant items within APM 360-10 b. (2), (3), and (4).

I listed key accomplishments related to my professional competence and service within the library (A), professional growth and continuing professional education (B), university and library-related public service (C), and research/creative works (D). In the narrative, I also had to discuss three major items related to A, which signals my main job duties. I also had to discuss three other major items related to any combination of B, C, or D.

I was really pleased and a bit taken aback by my supervisor’s response to the documentation I turned in. It wasn’t so much her recommendation that I receive a merit increase and career status but what she wrote about my work. I and so many others in the library and on campus deeply respect her, and a colleague and I half-joke that we feel like we constantly fail her. She wrote five single-sided pages and included this:

It is already evident, from her liaison and outreach work, that Lindsay has made the library, its people, services, and resources more visible to some of our campus constituents. She has successfully started some collaborations and set the groundwork for future partnerships. Overall, I have been impressed with Lindsay’s initiative in reaching out to a variety of campus individuals and believe her endeavors directly support the library’s strategic focus (2017-2020) to engage the community.

[She and I both discovered that I’m not actually eligible for career status because my review came before I was employed for 24 months. Our Associate University Librarian (AUL) pulled me into a quick meeting to explain the error, but all it means is that I will receive career status during my review in 2020. (I still got the merit increase, though. Huzzah!)]

After signing off the initial recommendation, my supervisor submitted all of my documentation, including her narrative and my letters of evaluation, to the Committee on Appointment, Promotion, and Advancement (CAPA). The CAPA consists of my librarian colleagues at UC Merced, minus my supervisor, AUL, Deputy University Librarian (DUL), and University Librarian (UL). The CAPA then looks over all of the documentation and decides whether to agree or disagree with the recommendation, and the chair writes a letter to the UL with the committee’s decision. The UL then writes a letter with his recommendation to the Provost. The Provost then writes a letter back to me with the final decision. I received my letter in the final packet, which the UL went over with me.

This was also the first time I read the letters of evaluation, CAPA letter, and the UL’s letter. I have so much self-doubt, especially since I started my career in an isolated branch campus of a community college, but reading their feedback has made me feel really good and inspired me to continue to do good work for our students, campus, and profession.

I also learned something new about myself from the review: I’m quite relational. The CAPA letter specifically notes, “…[These activities] all speak to her collegiality, collaboration, and support for the success of others that characterize her professional endeavors.” I don’t think I had ever realized this, at least to this degree. Just like I do with thank you cards, I’ll be keeping this review packet near when I need a boost.

I also learned that I am pretty old-school when it comes to keeping track of my work. I have tried a variety of apps and online programs, and, ultimately, what works for me is to look at my color-coded Outlook calendar at the end of every month for classes and workshops I’ve given and webinars I have attended and note them down in Word / Google Docs. I also keep track of major projects in a planner, so I can see what I worked on every week, though I am not always good about filling it out. Last month, I realized that I could just simply start the document that I will be turning in for my review in 2020. I set it up with the headings I will eventually need, and it’s been going well so far, especially for the sections related to professional development and research/creative works. If you’re a UC librarian, here’s the basic template I am using, which can be downloaded and adjusted to fit your needs: bit.ly/uclib_review_template

If you are new to the UC librarian review process, don’t panic. Your colleagues who have been through the process will be happy to share tips. And when you get back your successful review, please celebrate and take joy in what your colleagues within and outside the library and your campus had to say about your work.

Combating One-Shot Fatigue

This semester, we geared up to teach quite a few mini workshops. Previously, most of our workshops focused on RefWorks, and attendance has always been low (it’s hard for students to come to something that is voluntary when their schedules are jam-packed!), but we decided to try something new. While most of the workshops were 20-minutes each, a few were 50 minutes.

The 20-minute workshops were my boss’ brainchild. Last fall, we tried to do a Research Starters series, and while we didn’t an uptick right before finals, we opted to try them again in the spring but throughout the term, both before and after spring recess. While I’m not saying we had sky-high attendance this semester, it did help that a few writing professors gave students some extra credit for attending up to three workshops.

In addition to teaching a few of the Research Starter workshops, I had planned to teach a whole slew of other workshops. I was very excited at the beginning of the semester, but after some mental health issues, I had to take a step back and reduce my load. I am going to try to teach the LGBTQ+, women’s, and race/ethnicity research workshops I had wanted to teach in the coming fall (I plan to team up with the apropos Student Services programs for these.) I did, however, teach two additional workshops, including one on Google Scholar and online consumer health information (the latter one needs a little more work; I did run out of time when planning for it).

When I worked at a community college library, I read Green’s “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path” in C&RL News, and it really stuck with me. I know that not everyone loves GS, but, let’s face it, we all use it. Like Wikipedia, I use it before almost every research consultation. I also like to help students understand a tool that they will encounter if they haven’t already. The Google Scholar workshop I designed was 50 minutes, but I plan to adapt it to a 20-minute workshop in the fall. The students who came to the workshop had never used it before but the name recognition made them curious! I loved that. One of the students who attended had actually emailed me a few minutes before asking me if there was still room–of course!–and she literally threw on her shoes and walked over from the dorms. *praise hands*

I know it can be frustrating to create workshops that are not highly attended, but I love working with undergraduate students and getting more face-to-face time with them. And, sometimes, one-shot instruction can get old and feel limiting when working within predominantly faculty-led outcomes. I felt so much freedom when reading Nicholson’s “‘Taking Back’ Information Literacy: Time and the One-Shot in the Neoliberal University” in volume 1 of Pegowsky and McElroy’s The Critical Library Pedagogy (2016):

Information literacy allows the library to demonstrate return on investment to stakeholders in the form of outputs and impacts; the one-shot is important because numbers on spreadsheets make our work visible. Information literacy is, in no small part, a matter of fiscal survival. [Johnson cites Drabinski’s “Toward a Kairos of Library Instruction,” which I have read; read it for an overview of how info lit fits into the curricular changes in the 1980s. It is behind a paywall.] Nevertheless, moving away from an exclusive or predominant focus on teaching within the curriculum to explore ways to engage students and faculty outside of it–even when these activities aren’t seen to count as much as minutes in the classroom–would alleviate frustrations and stress.

I’m not saying I’m engaging in #critlib with Google Scholar, but I am definitely addressing the limitations I feel with my teaching by planning and giving workshops on a variety of topics.