Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Utilizing Active Learning in Library Instruction


Academic Library Instruction has grown dramatically in current times. What was once a card catalog of librarians searching for and delivering specific books to students has become an online experience of self service, utilizing all information formats for research purposes. With reference services changing, the need for accurate instruction of library services and research skill development has changed as well. Instruction librarians use many different teaching methods for their students, both in one-shot instruction and in long-term instruction.
In current times, these different methods have taken a more active role rather than lecture based. Since the late 1800’s, library instructors have noted how lecture-based learning has failed students. “The assumption that library instruction should be lectured based probably has driven the opposition of many academic librarians to library instruction. After all, if lecturing to students about library use does not work, why do it? (Lorenzen, 2001).” Instead, many academic libraries are turning toward active learning in the library classroom for instruction purposes.

What is Active Learning?

            Active learning, in essence, employs instructional methods opposite to that of passive learning. Passive learning teaching style engages a lecture-based learning with heavy note taking and memorization. It relies strictly on a one-way learning from teacher to student (Holderied, 2011). Active learning, on the other hand, “has struck a chord with educators for the way that it enables instructors to accommodate varying learning styles and encourage active participation of students” (Bonwell and Eison, 1991). It takes the student beyond the role of the listener and engages them to be more proactive in their learning. By employing a variety of techniques, including small group discussion, hands-on activity, and role playing, the students become involved in discovering for themselves the answers to their research and library needs. This allows them to have the first-hand knowledge of the necessary skills and the ability to utilize them in their academic careers.
          The push for active learning in the library classroom in modern times have come from three voices. In 1991, David Johnson, Roger Johnson, and Karl Smith wrote a book entitled “Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom” and began their campaign promoting active learning as an essential part of library instruction. Their findings revealed that students have trouble focusing on lectures and that their focus weakens over the time period of the class. They also found that students found lectures, frankly, boring. Lectures might promote the rote memorization of facts but do not utilize a student’s higher functioning such as their analyzing and synthesizing skills (Lorenzen, 2001).

Drueke and the One-Shot Active Instruction

          In 1992, J. Drueke wrote an article entitled “Active Learning in the University
Library Instruction Classroom.” Within the article, he notes four barriers of active learning in the library setting. For one, librarians usually see a group of students only once and are not their usual teachers. This ‘one-shot’ instruction makes it difficult to fit all the necessary ideas into the short time frame without lecturing. Students also find librarians to not be a source of information because they are not their usual teachers. This creates a sort of mental block from forming the information presented to them during the instruction. Another barrier is the sheer lack of time to cover all the material necessary in these ‘one-shot’ instruction. Many librarians feel that an active learning approach will take away precious time that is needed to actually teach the material. Finally, the instruction librarian does not have total control of the class and their material. The primary teacher usually comes into the instruction time with requirements and suggestions of topics to cover, putting the librarian in a more subordinate teaching role. The materials covered would, in theory, be controlled completely by the library instructor. However, any good library instructor would know to structure their teachings to fit the needs of the students.
          Another large obstacle is the instruction librarian’s reluctance to employ active learning in the classroom.
C. E. Mabry said: I found, however, that the instructor's first step in applying cooperative learning techniques involves rethinking his/her role in the classroom. It is not easy to give up lecture time in a 50 minute BI session. But one of the primary tenets of cooperative learning is that, if instructors are prepared to give up some control, students will learn more and retain that knowledge longer. (p 183)

          In order to combat this lack of control and the desire to stay with the lecture-based learning, Drueke came up with nine strategies of active learning for librarians:
I. Talking informally with students as they arrived for class.
2. Expecting that students would participate and acting accordingly.
3. Arranging the classroom to encourage participation including putting chairs in a cluster or circle.
4. Using small group discussion, questioning, and writing to allow for non-threatening methods of student participation.
5. Giving students time to give responses, do not rush them.
6. Rewarding students for participating by praising them or paraphrasing what they say.
7. Reducing anonymity by introducing yourself and asking the students for their names. Ask the class to relate previous library experiences as you do this.
8. Drawing the students into discussions by showing the relevance of the library to their studies.
9. Allowing students time to ask questions at the end of class.
          These strategies, when utilized by the librarian, show that a little effort can turn a one-shot library instruction into an active library experience. Employing these tactics can improve the students’ instruction quality and their learning outcome.


          Active learning can take a student from a role of a listener into that of an initiator in their own learning. This can dramatically affect the amount of information retained from library instruction, particularly in one-shot classes which most academic libraries now employ. With active learning, students are engaged in their own education. With a bit of work to their curriculum and teaching style, librarians can enlist their students to learn further than in lecture-based forums, utilizing the analytic and synesthetic skills in the process.



Bonwell, C.C. and Eison, J.A. (1991). Active learning: creating excitement in the classroom. Washington DC: The George Washington University (Eric Clearinghouse on Higher Education).
Drueke, J. (1992). Active learning in the university library instruction classroom. Research Strategies, 10(Spring), pp. 77-83.
Holderied, A. (2011). Instructional design for the active: Employing interactive technologies and active learning exercises to enhance library instruction. Journal of Information Literacy, 5(1), 23-32.
Johnson, D., Johnson. R. and Smith. K. (1991). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Books.
Lorenzen, Michael. (2001). Active Learning and Library Instruction. Illinois Libraries, 83(2), 19-24.
Mabnv. C. E. (1995). Using cooperative learning principles in BI. Research strategies, 13(Summer),182-185.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Even the Apocalypse Can't Stop These Librarians


There is a whole lot of post-apocalyptic hysteria going through today’s pop-cuture. From the Walking Dead/Last of Us zombie craze all the way to the Divergent/Hunger Games Orwell-did-it-better worlds, for some reason modern viewers want to see what happens next. I don’t know if this is a craze of a fantasy future or is people are really seeing the end times coming.

Naturally, my plans in the post-apocalyptic survival involve a library. That is the only reason I ask: What does happen to all the libraries?

Within the post-apocalyptic literature, there seems to be two different types of future. One has a more fend-for-yourself/everything-is-destroyed/all-your-friends-and-family are gone feel. The other has the 1984 and Big Brother situation. My view of the apocalypse is the first one. If something happens, everyone will panic.

But what happens to the libraries?! What happens to knowledge?! In a world where most of our items are stored in a cloud, what happens when the electronics all run out of charge?

Enter two of my favorite, and extremely unappreciated librarians: 3 and 4 from the animated movie 9.


For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, 9 began as a short film by Shane Aker and was quickly gobbled up by Tim Burton and his crew. Premireing on 9-9-09, the movie begins after the humans have all been destroyed by a toxic gas war. Only the machines remain.
In the final days, a scientist mixed technology and magic to transfer bits of his soul into 9 poppets in order to live on and rebuild humanity…..somehow. The movie is not one for details and has some huge holes. However, its animation and voice acting are sublime. Its typical Tim Burton creepy feel also makes it totally worth watching if at least once!

Talk about a dire situation. There are literally no humans left on the planet. There is no one left to spread the knowledge to. But these two work tirelessly to catalog the apocalypse anyway, using their own system that functions despite the lack of computers and despite the fact that they are the size of a soda bottle. Just take a look at the following clip to get a feel for it:

I find it inspiring that when the scientist transferred his soul into the poppets, he had to use two of them to fill up his thirst for knowledge and preservation of information. If I was to transfer my soul, I too would hope to fill more than one doll with my skillz.

Let’s just say that in a future that looks this bleak, I am glad to know that the twins will be there to make sure that the knowledge of humanity will live on.

Me when I see someone good-looking

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tammy Swanson: Parks and Recreation's Sexy Stereotype

A ruthless sex-fiend, Tammy Swanson (Tammy II) from Parks and Recreation is what every “sexy librarian” would be if they couldn’t turn it off in the real world.
She is a master of sexual seduction that Ron Swanson cannot deny-and she uses his desires to her full advantage. She is as Ron describes, a “manipulative, psychotic, library book peddling, sex crazed, she-demon.” Tammy first appears in "Ron and Tammy", when she lays claims to Lot 48 in order to expand the library to another branch. A bit of trivia: The actress who portrays Tammy 2, Megan Mullally is actually married to Nick Offerman, who portrays Ron Swanson.

Librarian Stereotypes says, “For women working in the field, the ‘sexy librarian’ is perhaps the most demeaning, infuriating stereotype because it degrades the woman from being a normal person doing their job to a sex object that is there only to look pretty. As such, this stereotype seems to be the one hardest to overcome for me personally, but also for the profession overall.”

I actually disagree with this notion. 

Even though Tammy II is an over-sexualized bitch, she shows that librarians have a wide range of personalities. She is also quite a strong and interesting character that watches out for her own interest and the interests of those who work for her.  Her sexualized stereotype is so over done that it is absurd! It takes the stereotype and does not forward the notion but instead pokes fun at the very idea of the “over-sexed” librarian.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Paranormal Series: The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

Paranormal Series: A series of literature reviews of Young Adult Paranormal Romances. 

Curtsy of Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Zoe is having a seriously hard time with her life. Her mom is battling cancer in the hospital, and losing. Her father is overwhelmed with the impending death of his wife, and best friend is moving so far away that they will not be able to see each other very often. In the middle of all this torment, Zoe meets Simon. Simon is a vampire seeking revenge for the death of his mother and his own turning against a most unusual antagonist. Together, will they be able to stop this criminal before he leaves a further string of bodies around Zoe’s town?

curtsy of wildisonmyside

In Annette Curtis Klause’s debut novel, she explores grief and the loss of close family in a pretty paranormal romance wrapping. It goes into some pretty hard details of Zoe’s emotional state during all the events of her life. The book is short and easy to read for younger audiences. There is still some violent descriptions, but not near the graphic detail it could have been. The murder, however, is a young child-be warned.

In ending the book, I wondered how this did so well when it did not go by the typical formula. In fact, they DO NOT end up together in the end. He is not a vampire that has chosen her as a mate and stalks her until she loves him back. In the end, he has finally killed his brother (the young child) and has avenged the death of his mother. His soul is able to move on and be at rest, kind of like a ghost more than a vampire. He moves on (hopefully to a better place) while she returns to her father so they can band together in the slow and painful loss of her mother. It was then that I looked at the copyright date. The Silver Kiss was published in 1992, many years before the Twilight novels. Could this have some effect of it? Is the popularity of Twilight affecting the plot choices of present and future paranormal romances?

My score: