2018 Rockman Award Winner Interview: Jennifer Nutefall

Jennifer Nutefall won the 2018 Ilene F. Rockman Award.  She is the editor of the book Service Learning, Information Literacy, and Libraries.  The 2017/2018 Awards Committee conducted an interview with Jennifer after she received her award.

What was the source of inspiration for this book?
This book grew from my interest and passion for service learning and my goal to continue to advance the conversation and awareness of service learning and the partnerships librarians can build at their institutions and within the community.

My interest and involvement in service learning began in 2006 while I was Instruction Coordination at George Washington University. I was partnered with a faculty member in the University Writing Program and she had redesigned her first-year writing themed course to have students work with one of six Washington, DC nonprofit organizations. Over the next three years, I saw the impact service learning courses have on students and found myself changed by the experience. I changed as I learned more about Washington, D.C., the needs of the communities, the focus of the nonprofit organizations, and the students’ experiences with the organizations and their clients. The experience activated my own interest in serving the community particularly around issues of homelessness and food insecurity.

To help advance the conversation on service learning and libraries, in 2014 I founded the Colloquium on Libraries & Service Learning. Our inaugural conference was held at Santa Clara University with the theme “Extending our reach.” The Colloquium attracted over 70 participants and offered an excellent range of sessions.

After the Colloquium I was approached by an editor from Libraries Unlimited who asked me if I would be interested in putting together an edited book on libraries and service learning. This opportunity matched with my goal of expanding librarians’ awareness of service learning. I was able to ask some of the presenters from the conference if they were interested in writing a chapter based on their work and I also approached colleagues I knew doing work with service learning to contribute chapters.

How do you believe academic libraries are positioned to promote service learning on college campuses?
Academic librarians are well positioned to support service learning, specifically through our core services such as instruction and outreach. Three short examples:

  • At Santa Clara University a librarian is partnering with a Sociology faculty member incorporating community data to prepare students before they begin their service in the community.
  • A partnership that was built between the Sociology department and the Library at Xavier University on a community-based research study related to food insecurity. That work was then leveraged into a partnership with the Office of the Dean of Students to research food insecurity among Xavier students and recommend new services and programs.
  • At Carleton College, librarians partnered with a Biology faculty member to work on a student-curated exhibit based on research projects for a public health course. This provided students the opportunity to translate their learning into a compelling visual story and text for non-experts.

While there are more examples of the wonderful partnerships librarians are developing, there is still a disconnect between librarians, faculty, and service learning offices not fully understanding what librarians can contribute.

What advice would you give to a librarian who wants to incorporate service learning into their instruction practice?
My first piece of advice would be for librarians to learn about service learning on their campus. What is the local terminology? Is there a requirement for students to participate in a service learning course as part of the core curriculum? Is there a specific community the university partners with? If so, what are the focus areas of that partnership?

Second, depending on your position in the library, make sure your supervisor is aware of your interest. Come prepared to that discussion. Make sure to articulate why service learning is important and what your interest is. Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • Will this take more of your time?
  • Are you looking for any kind of support (i.e. financial)?
  • How many courses incorporate service learning?
  • What are other libraries doing?

Third, promote your interest and/or success on campus. Start attending faculty development programs, especially those focused on service learning. If you’re partnered with a faculty member teaching a service learning course, offer to do a presentation for other faculty. I’ve found that one of the most helpful things is for librarians and faculty to hear concrete examples of what partnerships look like, how instruction is different for service learning courses, and what the possibilities are.

What advice would you give to other librarians who aspire to write a comprehensive publication such as this?
Go for it! It’s a lot of work but well worth it.

A benefit for me was the way the Libraries Unlimited proposal structure works. For the project proposal I put together a summary, purpose and scope, and then articulated potential chapters and who the authors might be. In order to do this I reached out to colleagues while I was putting the proposal together to see if they would be interested and to talk a little about what their chapter might focus on. It also allowed me to think about how the topic was being covered and how the chapters would fit together.

I learned a lot going through this process and while there is a lot of work, it is also rewarding and inspiring. It gave me the opportunity to connect with new colleagues and learn about partnerships at a wide variety of types of institutions.

To learn more about the Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Publication of the Year Award and to make a nomination for 2019, please visit the Instruction Section’s Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Publication of the Year Award page.

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