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.
Seton Hall University
Coordinator of Instruction Librarian
Number of Years Teaching:
Are you a dogs or cats fan?
I love all animals, but my dog George is my soul mate!
What’s your favorite “thinking” beverage?
Coffee or tea! I just came back from Sweden, and they have this lovely tradition of fika, which basically means a coffee break with sweets. It’s a nice way to slow down and give your mind a break, which ultimately helps thinking!
Describe a favorite activity that you use with students (this could be for a face-to-face class, online, or hybrid class). *
This is a pretty simple activity, but in terms of teaching source evaluation, I like to have a conversation about sources at the end of class after students have had some time to do hands-on research. I find that students are better able to grasp source evaluation in a more nuanced way when they have sources in front of them that they themselves have selected. Students can “research their research” and think more critically with concrete examples and because they have a vested interest in making sure that these sources are appropriate for inclusion in their research; they tend to engage with the concepts more than if I brought in examples of sources for them to analyze.
Tell us about your favorite teaching tools (e.g., cool apps, clickers, etc.).
This semester we transformed our librarian-led tour of the library spaces and services for all first-year students into an app-based scavenger hunt. We used a tool called ActionBound which allows you to create mobile, interactive, location-based activities. It is free to use for smaller groups, but since we needed to use it for 1600+ students we did pay a subscription fee. It is seamless and easy to use both on the user and developer sides. You can put QR codes at specific locations and have students scan them, ask multiple-choice questions, have students take and upload pictures, and so on. It’s also very easy to make changes to the scavenger hunt along the way, so if you find that students are encountering difficulty with a task, you can modify the content and make it live immediately.
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
I love to teach classes in subject areas that are new to me. I offer to other librarians that if they get overwhelmed with classes for their liaison areas that I can cover for them. I find that it keeps me fresh thinking about how to present and engage students around different research methodologies and tools. I also enjoy making connections with students and faculty in areas that I might not usually meet.
Name two things you would share with a librarian who is new to teaching.
One thing that is not always made clear when you are new to instruction is that everyone starts somewhere. Between learning how to communicate with faculty; to learning the vast number of research databases, tools, and skills; to learning how to effectively engage a class and create active lesson plans, there is a lot to learn. Some new librarians come in with pedagogical training from their library programs, but many do not. There are also a lot of “soft” skills (invisible labor?, emotional labor?) that can only be learned through experience and observation of what works and what doesn’t work. Also, you’re never going to make everyone happy. There will always be classes or students or professors who do not engage with the material you bring to them, and that’s not all on you. You do your best to get to know who you’re working with; you prepare to your best ability. It’s hard not to take things personally when something falls flat. It’s equally difficult to steer yourself away from becoming stale and out of touch with your student population. I think that’s why I love instruction though – it’s a challenge that never ends.