Featured Teaching Librarian: Merinda Kaye Hensley

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. Nominate yourself or someone great!

Name: Merinda Kaye HensleyMerinda Kaye Hensley

Job Title: Digital Scholarship Liaison and Instruction Librarian

Number of Years Teaching: 10

Are you a dogs or cats fan?
Real-life cats and Neko Atsume!

Where do you do your best thinking?
Walking along any beach, but I prefer the rocky coast of Maine.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?
Since much of my work is around the intersection of scholarly communication and information literacy, I am always trying to think of ways to work with students on completing the research cycle through sharing their work. Right now I’m really excited about teaching a new workshop I’ve developed for students engaged in undergraduate research. This particular session is designed to help students think about managing their online presence by submitting their original student work to the institutional repository. We are going to talk about creating metadata to make their work findable and file formatting for their final projects, discuss their author’s rights and how that ties into open access, and address a few beginner’s copyright issues. In my experience, undergraduate researchers have a lot questions related to scholarly communication issues. I am teaching this session as part of an undergraduate research certificate that’s awarded by the campus Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR). The students can get credit for the certificate by presenting at student and professional conferences and by attending a series of different campus workshops. My upcoming goals include working with OUR to expand certification to include submitting student work to the IR and to start thinking about educational efforts for undergrads on data management.

How do you avoid teaching burnout?
Burnout is a serious issue for all librarians at all stages of their careers. I’ve certainly had stretches of burnout, just like all of my colleagues. I’ve been so appreciative of the conversations that Maria Accardi has brought up via her “Librarian Burnout” blog: . She challenges us to think about a cultural shift in librarianship to deal with burnout. I have several ways of dealing with burnout. First, one of my coping mechanisms is to spend time with the LIS students that work in pre-professional positions throughout our library. While it is true that the students bring a refreshing optimism to librarianship, more importantly for me, they bring unique experiences/perspectives and questions to the table. Our conversations help me to re-examine my own practice. You can get a sense for what drives new grads today by reading Hack Library School: http://hacklibraryschool.com. My second strategy for dealing with burnout is to confide in my colleagues. I think that all too often, we are afraid to show weakness at work. But we are all human and we are all constantly learning, and it’s that learning process that can simultaneously push us up and drag us down. On my good days, I would tell you that burnout is a yin-yang thing for me, in that it comes with the territory of a job well-done. On my rough days, I look for ways to invigorate, which usually, for me, includes time with my research. My research grounds me and gives me a voice in the larger conversation. It’s challenging for me, and I have figured out over the past decade that I really enjoy the writing process. And finally, I vacate. Self-care and vacation go hand-in-hand, and every summer I try to take at least two solid weeks – enough time to completely disengage and forget about my work concerns enough to see them in a completely new light upon my return.

 Tell us how you assess your classes (e.g. mud cards, clickers, reflections).
One of the aspects of assessment that I don’t think we talk about enough are informal assessment techniques: observation and listening. This is the kind of assessment we do on the spot in the classroom that can assist us in making incremental changes to improve student learning. When I talk to the library and information science students I work with about learning how to teach, I try to emphasize that while these techniques take practice, both can exponentially help us to be more active in the classroom, and our students will be able to see the difference in our approach. Why? Simple – it gives us an opportunity to play with our understandings of pedagogical approaches and it’s authentic. From that authenticity, we can make changes based on our observations. Some ideas for observation that I focus on while teaching are roaming the classroom while students work on an activity, brainstorming as a team, asking follow-up questions, and truly listening without expectation, to name a few.

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