National Library Week Inspires Online Teaching

National Library WeekThe links between library access and education are strong, but you may not be aware of all of the resources and assistance available from the many types of libraries operating today. In recognition of National Library Week, taking place April 13 through 19, it’s my goal to highlight some of the best ways to connect with libraries for online teaching and learning.

Full disclosure: based on the Pew Research Center’s typology of public library engagement, I probably fall somewhere between “information omnivore” and “library lover.” I was fortunate to be introduced to libraries at a young age, a relationship that has continued throughout my career and years as a student. Now that I teach online, I want to find more ways to introduce others to the library.

The theme of this year’s National Library Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, is “Lives Change @ Your Library.” The typology and engagement report from the Pew Internet Research Project noted that while “print books are still central to American’s library use,” there is a “full universe of library services” available. What do we need to do to bring this universe, or at least parts of it, into our blended and online courses?

Investigate and Initiate

Public libraries offer not only book collections and the expertise of reference librarians, but also computer access and local programs for all ages. Academic libraries now have vast digital collections available and specialized assistance to meet the needs of faculty members and students in specific disciplines.

We know these types of resources well, but there are other libraries you may want to explore for use in your classes. Take a look at a few examples:

  • Research: Organizations like the Smithsonian Institution provide open access to library services such as books online, digital exhibitions, and research collections.
  • Government: The Library of Congress offers resources, programs, and services on site in Washington, DC, as well as online. State and local government libraries also offer access to a range of archives in different formats.
  • Corporate: Professional organizations also collect and curate materials relevant to specific industries. The Association for Computing Machinery’s Digital Library is just one example. Check your field’s associations for more information about library resources and services.

Several organizations are offering special access to library collections and other research materials during National Library Week. Many of the Oxford University Press (OUP) online products are free to access during the week. (The OUP Students Resource Center and Researchers Resource Center also feature web-based resources including reference guides.) Check out ProQuest‘s National Library Week contests and special access to popular resources this week.

These library services and resources are readily available, but require us to reach out for more information, ask questions, and initiate activities. Make contact with libraries near you and consider developing your own “library exploration” professional development initiative to increase your own awareness and expand your professional learning network.

Collaborate and Create

How can educators make the most of library access? You don’t have to do it all by yourself. Work with your institution’s librarians to find out what services are already available and ready to be added to your course. Some schools offer library services integrated with learning management systems, for example, with quick links to research tutorials, FAQs, and database searches embedded in courses.

With National Library Week as a catalyst, here are a few ideas for collaborating with libraries and librarians in your next class:

  • Invite a librarian into your course. Remember touring the library on campus in your first research course? Online tour equivalents are now available, and school librarians are often happy to meet with students via Skype or other real-time communication tool to answer questions about library services and conducting research projects.
  • Add a library assignment. Encourage students to find out more about the library through specific course activities and assignments. Clark College Libraries and Williams College Libraries provide lists of ideas that focus on information literacy, which could be adapted for a variety of course topics.
  • Model library use. Share with students how you used the library recently. What search techniques were helpful? What items and information did you discover? From tax help to interlibrary loans, chances are you’ll increase awareness of the services students can benefit from, too.
  • Think beyond books and periodicals. Libraries have additional materials that may be unique to your institution. Makerspaces and media labs are two examples, which could be incorporated by online and blended students using things like 3D printers and video equipment to complete assignments.

Reflect and Connect

The American Library Association’s Declaration for the Right to Libraries proclaims, “Every day, in countless communities across our nation and the world, millions of children, students, and adults use libraries to learn, grow, and achieve their dreams.” Many libraries and librarians are calling on us to review the declaration and offer support during National Library Week.

A first step in facilitating your students’ awareness and engagement with libraries may be to reflect on your own experience. How has your life changed as a result of library access? What did it mean to you in your academic pursuits? Here are a few additional questions to consider, inspired by the Tabuman Health Sciences Library this week:

  • What was the library to you as a student? A safe place? A retreat? A study or social space?
  • Was it library access that led to information for a project that ended up shaping your career in some way?
  • Was it a librarian who helped you find or connect with a person or idea that changed your perspective?

We celebrate National Library Week because libraries and librarians play significant roles in education and career development. Participate in the event by tweeting how library access has changed your life with #LivesChange and #NLW14, and encourage your students to do the same. Think of the week as a starting point for renewing your connection with the library, and take steps to keep the conversations going throughout your current courses and beyond.

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Source: Inside Online Learning Blog