Core Competencies

After completing the reading assignments for this week, my attention was focused on the emphasis on education among the “core competencies” of library and information professionals. Librarians have many different roles and responsibilities in the communities that they serve; managers, service providers, consultants, etc. What intrigued me the most in the readings, was the information was presented from an educators perspective. It is no secret that libraries have an important role in education, either being an extension of formal education or a place of informal discovery and learning. However, I often fail to think of librarians as educators themselves, in need of training in the theoretical approaches to education.

My intuition tells me that I am not alone in this oversight. This becomes more apparent after reflecting on my observations of reference interviews. During the unobtrusive observation project in SI 647 where I was asked to observe a librarian during a reference interview, I observed a poorly performed reference interview where the librarian ultimately suggested that I just “Google it.” However, as Information professionals involved in the learning process of individuals who come into the library, it is necessary that we understand more about the process of learning as well as the teaching methods. Through the reference interview particularly, it is our responsibility as Librarians to be able to answer reference questions, in addition to educate users on conducting research and navigating information in the library and outside of it.

Through my reflection of the readings for the week and the core competencies it occurred to me that an efficient way to learn more about useful education techniques and practices is through our learning process as students. SI 501 and SI 502 particularly had two very different teaching styles and two very different topics being taught, but I think the courses demonstrate some of the ideas discussed in the readings. SI 502 was definitely a class taught towards novices and was not shy about that fact. The course was designed to allow it’s students to understand basic concepts that could allow us to progress towards more expertise. I found the way of teaching to be very successful. Furthermore, when we are Librarians, especially reference librarians, we will have a very limited amount of time to work with individuals and will need to teach them the skills that they can quickly master, and provide the opportunity to learn more from us in the future if they prefer. SI 501 on the other hand was taught very differently. In many ways we were given a problem and were taught a skill set, and were asked to find the solution independently as we progressed through the course. The course attempted to develop us with the skills to develop “adaptive expertise” where we could analyze our skills, learn more throughout the course, and apply our old knowledge and new knowledge to solve a problem.

One question I had while completing the reading assignments was the constant comparison between experts and novices during the learning process. During SI 531: Human Interaction in Information Retrieval, we discussed that experts tend to find fewer “relevant” documents than novices, or intermediary subject specialists during online information searches. This is thought to be contributed to the novice and intermediary individuals knowing less specifics about the topics that they are searching for, and therefore find much more information relevant to their search because they are unfamiliar with the topics. Therefore, a greater amount of documents are relevant to their learning process. The experts however, are much more familiar with research and information on the subject and will find fewer documents relevant towards their information need. This relationship between novice and expert learners seemed to conflict with the information presented in chapter two of our readings. I am unsure of any real connections to be made, but I think that discussion on the differences in the learning process and online searching experience for novices and experts could be insightful.