Featured Teaching Librarian: Jenny Stout

Several times a year, the ACRL Instruction Section Teaching Methods Committee selects and interviews a librarian who demonstrates a passion for teaching, innovation, and student learning.

Jenny Stout

Name: 
Jenny Stout

Institution:
Virginia Commonwealth University

Job Title:
Teaching and Learning Librarian

Number of Years Teaching:
8

Who’s your favorite fictional villain?
Hannibal Lecter. He’s evil and violent, but also a gentleman!

What is your favorite movie based on a book?
So many, but most recently “Call Me by Your Name”, based on André Aciman’s novel. It’s just such a tender, beautiful story of first love and heartbreak.

Describe a favorite activity that you use with students (this could be for a face-to-face class, online, or hybrid class).
My favorite activity to use in the library classroom is ridiculously simple: I ask the students to brainstorm keywords/search terms for their own research topic for two minutes. Then, I get them into small groups (three to four) and each student gets two minutes to share their topic and have the rest of the group brainstorm additional keywords/related concepts/ideas/questions to consider. I find that it gets the students outside of their own heads when it comes to their research topic. Other students giving them ideas or feedback, or asking them questions about their topic, can unlock ideas that never occurred to them before.

Name two things you would share with a librarian who is new to teaching.

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously or get visibly upset if students aren’t participating or seem bored. Instead, approach teaching with a sense of humor and even irreverence. Sometimes learning about databases is boring or confusing, and it’s OK to admit that to students. They appreciate authenticity.
  2. Never make a student feel stupid. If you ask a question and they give a wrong or incomplete answer, always say something like “That’s not what I was thinking, but you’re going in the right direction” or “Interesting idea! Anyone else want to build on that?” If you make a student feel embarrassed or stupid, you will lose their trust.

What’s your teaching philosophy?
The most important aspect of teaching is connecting to students on a human level. All the things we think teaching is about–giving students the correct information, making sure students can find all the resources they need, assessing how well we taught, etc.–are actually a byproduct of what’s truly important: earning students’ trust as someone they can come to for help who isn’t going to judge them or grade them. If a student leaves my library class remembering nothing except “wow, that librarian was nice and I feel comfortable contacting her with questions,” I consider that a success.

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2 Responses to Featured Teaching Librarian: Jenny Stout

  1. Jack Daniels says:

    Nicely done, Jenny Stout!
    You definitely “get it” when it comes to teaching late-adolescents/emerging adults.
    “…earning students’ trust as someone they can come to for help who isn’t going to judge them or grade them” really is hitting the bulls-eye when it comes to teaching with college kids – whether you’re a teaching librarian or a faculty member. Our students already have enough swimming against the stream of “performance equals success” to do. Accepting them for who they are, and not how they perform opens a lot doors.
    Another teacher who “gets it” is Michel Wesch. Like Jenny Stout, his practice of teaching inspires. Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7VHcpwDDzI

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