The ACRL Distance Learning Section (DLS) Membership and Event committee started a “Member of the Month” initiative to highlight our diverse members. Here is our highlight on Mike Courtney, Outreach & Engagement Librarian, Indiana University.
If you are interested in being or nominating an ACRL DLS “Member of the Month”, please fill out this brief nomination/sign up form.
Name: Mike Courtney
How long have you been a DLS member?
Where do you work and what do you do there?
I am the Outreach & Engagement Librarian at Indiana University. I am also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information and Library Science, School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University where I teach Education of Information Users (information literacy instruction pedagogy and practice) as well as User Services and Tools (reference).
What is unique about your institution, and how does your work as a distance services librarian support the mission?
Indiana University has long offered instruction at a distance through many modes of course content delivery, yet this only became more centralized in recent years. This has helped the Libraries improve its services and support for distance learners as well as expanding our reach to programs and curricula across the multi-campus system. I have a particular focus on our campus mission’s commitment to culturally diverse and international educational programs and communities and to meaningful experiences outside the classroom by actively engaging with service learning courses, collaborating with global and community engagement projects, and supporting overseas study and research.
How do you bridge the distance with online learners? What’s one way you create community for your distance learners?
Being available and accessible through as many channels as possible really helps student engagement. I am often embedded in online courses where students can reach out to me virtually in several roles I might occupy: librarian, instructor, mentor, and collaborator. Synchronous engagement via video/voice applications or even simple text/SMS is so convenient for both the librarian and the student and can alleviate lengthy email exchanges for otherwise quick problem solving. As trite as it sounds, technology has vastly reduced (and continues to do so) the geographic limitations of distance learner engagement.
How do you recharge your knowledge of distance library services?
Short answer: my DLS colleagues. I learn so much from working with so many of our expert colleagues in DLS as well as other ALA/ACRL units and sections. Many of those same colleagues contribute to the scholarship that I routinely consume. I continue to be impressed and heartened by the culture of sharing that permeates our section.
What’s something fun that you’re doing now (outside of your work as a distance librarian)?
I’m building a library in northern Rwanda! Since late 2014, I’ve been at the helm of a project I initiated to create a library at a very rural, underfunded primary school. This connects so many of my personal and professional interests in global community engagement, service learning, and cross-cultural information literacy. l developed and taught a multi-day workshop on the fundamentals of library science and information literacy for school teachers this summer while I was in Rwanda and this Fall I am developing a formal credit-bearing internship for MLS students to keep the project moving forward. I’ll return to Rwanda next summer to continue my work.
What are you reading right now?
Mrs. Teal, my Year 4 primary school teacher in Suffolk, England, insisted we read at least 5 books at a time. To that end, I am currently reading: David Arnold’s The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik (YA); Jay Coles’ Tyler Johnson Was Here (YA); Sheila Turnage’s The Law of Finders Keepers (CYA); Jorma Kaukonen’s Been So Long (Autobiography); and, John Lewis’s March series (Graphic Novel).
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