Well, hello to anyone who is still out there! I am officially poking my head out of my self-imposed sabbatical seclusion. Things got really complicated inside my head last year and I kind of didn’t know how to write about it. Also, C. and I decided to sell our condo and buy a house, which took up lots of time and brainspace.
I returned to campus two weeks ago and it’s been a bumpy transition back into this whole business of going to work everyday. Things are feeling a little better now. Something that really helped me get my brainspace back into a good mindset was teaching my very first library instruction session after several months off.
You guys. It was SO GREAT. I don’t even know how to tell you. Honestly, I had so much dread about the return to the library instruction classroom, because my burnout was so all-consuming. But mainly, what helped the most in terms of developing an enjoyable and energizing session was that I avoided as much lecture and point-and-clicking as possible. Instead, I focused primarily on getting students to think about information, rather than teaching them how to find information. I mean, most students know how to click links and type words in a box, right? What they need help with is evaluating the stuff they find when they click search. This is my informed hunch based on years of doing this thing.
When preparing for the session, I cast about for ideas for what to do. I looked at all of my teaching files from the past several years and initially decided to recycle something I’ve done before. But then something told me to keep looking. I dug around in some files that I’d copied from some library instruction book a million years ago that I failed to make note of properly so I can’t correctly cite my source. Bad librarian! But anyway, I found something that looked promising and adapted it so it looked like I wanted it to. This is the result linked here.
The best, most enjoyable part was not really how well they filled out the worksheet, but the conversations I had with them while they did so. While they worked in pairs, I walked around the room and talked to each pair. I asked them how they were doing, what they had found so far, and nudged them along if they needed help. I concluded the session by quickly recapping the general findings of the group, which addressed not so much what they found, but that they thought about what they found.
In fact, when I stopped to talk to one of the pairs, they were looking at a library catalog record not for a book on our shared topic (what makes college students successful), but instead Fifty Shades of Grey. And I totally did not care at all that this was not on our topic! It was still a chance to talk about how to read a catalog record and figure out how to get their hands on a book.
In short, I am thinking that maybe I’m not entirely cured of my burnout, but I have a good idea of how to plan library instruction sessions so that they can help prevent further burnout. And it was a fantastic way to begin the semester and return from my sabbatical.