Passive Collaboration…aka “a foot in the door”

Collaboration is a buzzword these days. I’m all for collaboration. How can you be against collaboration? However, you may be familiar with what I have taken to calling “passive collaboration.” Some of the blog posts over the past few months have dealt with the difficulty of reaching every student. We all have students and teachers who recognize the value of libraries more than others. Teachers have a surefire way to access students and motivate them; I do not. While I’ve had success approaching teachers with my ideas, I’ve had greater success when teachers approach me and tell me the lessons that they are planning. Then I work with them and add in the research and information literacy components that I’ve been dreaming about. I feel like it’s in keeping with the “yes and” rule of improve theater. How can I build on your ideas?

“Oh, you want your entire class to research the biography of William Shakespeare without using Wikipedia?” How interesting. Yes and….while they’re in the library, can we use that time to compare different types of encyclopedias and see how that influences the information included in each entry? Or perhaps we can discuss why we don’t have firm dates for much of Shakespeare’s life and brainstorm the reasons scholars think they know what they do? Or I’ve found that most students have never heard of the “authorship question” regarding Shakespeare’s works, so I would love to hear their reactions to this short video and learn how that changes their understanding of Shakespeare’s legacy. Which sounds best to you, and which dates were you hoping to come to the library by the way? Let’s get you on the calendar!”

I’m a planner by nature—I think most librarians are—so this does not come naturally to me. But I’ve learned that there is a playfulness that comes with this level of adaptability, and it ultimately leads directly to more time with students, my favorite part of the job. One example that jumps to mind from this past semester is when a teacher asked me to come to a middle school Humanities class to hear each student present on a current events article of his or her choosing from the news. There were a few on global health and economics, but most were on immigration and refugees. As we started to compare the information in various newspapers and different countries’ responses to immigration, the teacher invited me (in front of the class) to come back every Monday to continue to analyze immigration reporting in newspapers around the globe. It ended up being a lot of fun, and student feedback last week indicated that they felt they had a much more nuanced understanding of immigration in December than in September. A separate example? When I was asked to help World History students provide feedback to student work from a sister school in Japan, it turned into a multiday lesson on how to write reviews and give feedback electronically, using our own town as an example. The time flew by. And I’ll be working with that teacher again in February on a longer project. A foot in the door….

I’m not saying that librarians should take a backseat to teachers, but I’m living in a world where doing so gives me so many more opportunities to collaborate. Think about the adage, “restrictions breed creativity.” Right now, enjoy the winter break, and when you come back to school, refreshed, in January, make it your resolution to go with the flow and try something new that a teacher presents to you!

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