Faculty: Do This! Working with Your Academic Librarian for Student Success

This has been an tough academic year so far–on students, on faculty, on library staff. At times, I’ve felt like a teacher, therapist, commiserator, coach, and cheerleader all wrapped into one.

We’re getting by–the semester will be over soon. Some of us have been working mostly in-person while others are exclusively doing remote work. Some of us our teaching in-person, some online, others both. We’ve had to scramble, learn new technology, alter assignments, and just…adapt.

In doing so, don’t forget your academic librarian! Here are 8 simple tips to make the relationship successful and how your academic librarian can contribute to your students’ success.

Sharing
Do share research assignments with your librarian. A quick email to your librarian with your assignment will keep us on the lookout for students who might be struggling. Always upload a copy to your LMS course–this is often my first question to a student: “Did your professor upload a copy of the assignment to Canvas?

Research v. Writing
Do understand the difference between research assistance and writing assistance and know where to direct students. It will vary from institution to institution, but generally library staff can help with research assistance and a writing tutor will help with thesis statements, etc. A librarian usually doesn’t do both. I’m great with research, finding sources, and talking about topics–but I direct students to a writing tutor to talk about essay structure, thesis statements, and how to proofread.

Required appointments
Do check with a librarian before requiring students make a research appointment as part of an assignment. Sometimes we get blindsided by requests like “My professor told me you had to approve my research topic.” Well, no. This should be a partnership between the professor and librarian. In a lot of cases, an information literacy session would be a better alternative.

Streaming Content
Do check access/availability when assigning streaming content for students to view. Streaming is the wild west of content. Maybe it’s available through the library? No? How about Netflix, Hulu, Amazon? A bootleg YouTube video? Tsk. Tsk. A lot of time, the content is exclusive to one provider. Do not frustrate your students. Do not expect them to have paid subscriptions to different streaming providers. If it’s not easily accessible, pick something else. Also, a commenter offered this helpful suggestion: “Consider sending your librarian a list of films you’d like to use. Given advance notice, your librarian can research the collection and streaming options to see if they have what you need, and if not, they can offer available alternatives.”

E-Resources
Do understand that different libraries may have different e-content (databases, e-books, etc.)–especially if you are new to teaching at an institution or you adjunct at several institutions, this can be hard to monitor. Just ask your librarian!

Sources
Do be clear about the types of sources you want your students to use. Terminology can differ across subject areas, but students may not necessarily know that. I’ve seen students question if peer-reviewed articles, scholarly articles, and academic articles are different, when they are “roughly” the same. Also, the term primary source is different in history or literature versus biology or chemistry.

Citations
Do be kind about citation requirements. The most important component is simply making sure your students understand WHY they should cite something. Pick a popular citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago). Avoid extremely narrow subject-specific styles (examples: APSA, ASA, CBE) since most of your students are not going directly into graduate research programs in your field of study.

Information Literacy vs. Tech Literacy
Do know that students often overestimate their information literacy skills. Being good with tech doesn’t necessarily carry over to having good info-seeking and evaluative skills. That whole “digital natives” things was not necessarily true anyway.

Ask for help and advice. We would love to partner with you. We want your students to be successful in their courses.

5 thoughts on “Faculty: Do This! Working with Your Academic Librarian for Student Success

  1. Joe – Thank you for this post. I’m a librarian at a community college and all I could think while reading this is, Yes, Yes, and YES! I can speak for all the librarians at my institution when I say we have dealt with all eight scenarios, pre-COVID as well as in our current learning environment. Is it OK for me to post these tips on our faculty LibGuide? I will, of course, provide attribution. Thank you!

  2. Pingback: Faculty: Do This! Working with Your Academic Librarian for Student Success | bluesyemre

  3. Thank you for this! Another community college librarian here who would love for our faculty to utilize library resources more effectively. I wonder if you might have a missed outreach opportunity there under the “Streaming Content” heading. Many college libraries have access to some really amazing and well-known films through various databases like Kanopy or Swank, that faculty might not be aware of because of the requirement to request the access ahead of time. So that section could be a good place to emphasize collaboration. Something along the lines of: “Consider sending your librarian a list of films you’d like to use. Given advance notice, your librarian can research the collection and streaming options to see if they have what you need, and if not, they can offer available alternatives.” (I realize my suggestion doesn’t quite go with the tone of the post; it’s just something that stuck out to me.) Thanks for a nicely consolidated list of FYIs to share with faculty.

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