on librarian-ing like Adam in Rhode Island…

I hope that this post finds you lounging in your happy place reading something that you want to read for the sheer fun of reading what you want to read or wrapping up the odds and ends in your libraries and preparing to lounge in your happy place reading something that you want to read for the sheer fun of reading what you want to read!

Our summer starts earlier than most so I’m on my annual journey to the East Coast of the US to visit my significant other’s family and to spend time in New York. On our lovely drive up to Boston, MA; Camden, ME; and Providence, RI I had the good fortune of dodging the worst of the bad air in NY and ate a lot of delicious meals in MA and ME. On our way back to New York, we hosted dinner for our family at a wonderful Iberian restaurant in Providence. It was at this dinner that we had the amazing great fortune to be guided through our meal by our amazing server, Adam.

As I was trying to figure out what to write about this month, I started to think about how libraries are a lot like food service establishments.

Sometimes when I go into a building where food is served, I’m just entering the building as a means to an end. When we’re driving up I95 trying to get to Boston from New York and I walk into a service plaza next to the freeway, I want to pee, eat something so that I won’t die, and get back on the road as fast as possible so that we can beat the afternoon rush hour traffic as we near Boston!

Serviceable Library Services…

As a young librarian, I think I got really, really good at giving teachers my “I95 service plaza” library lessons. If they wanted “a lesson on primary sources from Greece and Rome.” I delivered a pretty nice lesson on primary sources from Greece and Rome. Just like the 6-inch meatball sub on cheese bread from the Subway in the I95 service plaza, my lessons did what they needed to do.

Sometimes, though, when I go to a nice restaurant with family or friends, I’m entering that restaurant with hopes for more than just that “serviceable” meatball sub. I want to eat delicious food; have time to chat and make happy memories with nieces and nephews and the significant people in their lives; and, if i’m lucky, maybe discover a new taste that I didn’t know that I liked! I want the whole dining experience!

If you even made it this far down into this post you’re probably thinking, “What in the world does this have to do with libraries?” Well, I’m not really sure yet, but I’m hoping to figure it out by the end of this post. So anyway…

Teaching Teachers What Kind of Library Services They Should Ask For…

Before our dinner in Providence started, I was chatting with our server Adam and mentioned that I am a “man of the pig” but that I didn’t think the pork belly a la Plancha on the menu was going to be my cup of tea as I generally find pork belly to be too fatty for my personal liking. Adam challenged me to give their kitchen’s pork belly a try as the way it was prepared rendered most of the fat out of the pork belly and made it “almost like pork crackling.”

Was that pork crackling you said???

We decided to order a few tapas plates to start, but if your family is anything like ours deciding on 4 starters in a restaurant can sometimes feel and sound like Brexit trade negotiations, so after allowing the group to brainstorm the 398+ possible tapas combinations, Adam, who knew the menu well suggested 4 dishes that had assured each of the 10 of us would have something he was pretty sure we’d enjoy. We had scallops, lamb chops, asparagus, and pork belly. As it turned out, “OMG… I can, indeed, love pork belly enough to want to marry it!!!” I just didn’t know what I didn’t know about how pork belly could be prepared.

I work with really great educators! My teachers work hard. They care about their students and, i believe, sincerely want to teach students the skills and concepts those students will need in order to thrive in their futures. The thing is, though, that a significant majority of our teaching faculty grew up researching in an analog information world. The speed of the transition to a predominantly digital information landscape at the scholastic level has come so rapidly, that I’d guess that the vast majority of high school teachers in all of North America (not just at my school) probably lack the skills necessary to really teach high school research well in 2023.

I think that as “servers” in our libraries we need to develop our “menus” of concepts/lessons that we’re ready to suggest to teachers who “just don’t know what they don’t know” about what services they should be asking us for.

A Good Restaurant Server Leads Diners Through a Meal…

Adam didn’t steer me wrong on the pork belly so I asked whether he thought I should try the chicken special of the day or the duck. Without hesitation, he recommended the duck “hands down” and he wasn’t wrong.

Sometimes teachers approach us with an idea for a research based activity. “I want to have my students do a debate.” It’s at moments like these when the details on information use matter and sometimes that means that as librarians we need to lead the teacher/diner through the project/meal. “Uh… I’m going to strongly suggest NOT assigning students a side before they research. Let’s force them to research the best arguments on BOTH sides of the issue and have them decide which side they’d argue with a coin flip on the day of the debate otherwise we’ll be teaching them to cherry pick arguments and create propaganda rather than teaching critical thinking and research…” 😳

So What Now?

I’ve started thinking about the menu of services we’ll want to work on delivering in the fall. We’ll certainly want all of our frosh and sophomores to get an introduction/review of the basics of SIFT, but beyond that I’m thinking:

  • Research as process
  • Social emotional self-awareness in the research process
  • Logical fallacies
  • Using AI in the presearching/topic selection process
  • ???

Anyway, that’s where I am. Apparently, thinking a LOT about food and a little about the future of my library’s services for next school year.

Please hit reply and share the kinds of things you’re considering putting on your library’s menu in the fall in the comments below. I’d love to see what you’re doing!

Have a great summer, all!

3 thoughts on “on librarian-ing like Adam in Rhode Island…

  1. Thank you for this wonderful and insightful post. I am now hoping you will tell us more about how you conceive of social-emotional aspects of research?

  2. Hi Tasha,

    As is typical of most things I blog about here, “Uh… I don’t really have things completely figured out and I’m hoping someone will comment with some suggestions that might help me round out the idea! So basically… I dunno yet!” LOL!!!

    That being said, pre-pandemic we had begun trying to incorporate aspects of affective awareness into our library research lessons based on work from Carol Kuhlthau. https://wp.comminfo.rutgers.edu/ckuhlthau/information-search-process/ It was quite rudimentary–just explaining to kids, “This researcher named Carol Kuhlthau looked into typical kinds of feelings that people have when they’re starting to do work that you’re starting here and this is the 60 second version of what she found.”

    We tried having kids write words describing their feelings about their research and we’d put them up to see where everybody was at the moment. Interestingly, kids found tremendous comfort in knowing that almost all of their classmates were also feeling “lost” or “uncertain” in the work. Many of our kids, especially the ones used to being the smartest ones in the room, would visibly relax, and it seemed to free kids up to ask for help or admit they didn’t know what they were stuck at any given point. Faking knowing what you’re doing is stressful and I don’t have any hard data, but observationally it seemed to take stress levels down a few clicks for our kids.

    The pandemic and remote learning along with significant faculty changes put that work on the back burner for a bit, so I’m hoping to begin exploring some pathways to return to some of this kind of work next year!

    • Thanks! I did not expect a fully fleshed-out answer. I think the social-emotional aspects of research are something that kind of tickle the backs of many of our mind. That said, I think I am going to follow you lead that you shared. It feels real and validating. Thank you.

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