News and Events at Boatwright Library
Wearing Two Hats: Faculty Librarians and First Year Seminars (Part Two)
Three years ago the University of Richmond replaced the required Core course with First-Year Seminars (FYS). Because one of the FYS program’s stated goals is to “develop the fundamentals of information literacy and library research,” it has been an ideal opportunity for liaison librarians to work closely with multiple class sections. Two librarians, Linda Fairtile and Marcia Whitehead, have taken it a step further and taught their own FYS courses. Dr. Marcia Whitehead's reflections on this experience are featured in this issue.
As a librarian, I know well that most students cannot replicate a process they have seen demonstrated only once, still less one they have only heard described. I can’t either. Once I have learned a process, I have to repeat it at frequent intervals if I am not to forget it. So must they. My first year students may prefer variety, but they learn from repetition. They like the sense of autonomy that comes from being allowed to choose some of the course reading material; my goal is for them to learn to conduct research by searching for, selecting, and evaluating those texts, not once, but several times over the course of the semester. Since the subject of the course embraces nearly every discipline it’s hard for them to choose anything topically irrelevant. But the challenge isn’t just to make applesauce; it’s to make applesauce you want to eat. Whatever they choose becomes the assigned reading for the entire class. The selectors don’t just have to read it; they have to lead the discussion. Sometimes the applesauce is delicious; sometimes it goes up in flames. If they learn what kinds of articles to pick and how to prepare mentally for a lively discussion then the day is well spent, even if the article itself is not a significant contribution to the literature.
The experience of teaching a First-Year Seminar--three times now--and seeing it through a major revision makes me appreciate the flexibility of “one-shot” library sessions. If a strategy fails there, I have another opportunity in a week or so to try something else—with a different class. On the other hand, as a librarian, I have little opportunity for follow-up with the same students. I only know whether or not the individual class sessions go well, not whether the students actually grasp, employ, and retain the skills and concepts I try to impart. If I have the opportunity to teach my FYS again, I will think more about the apron—the semester long process of creating pieces and integrating them into a larger product. I will include more reflective writing by the students about the choices they made, why they made them, and what they learned from both their successes and their failures. In the meantime, I am unpicking quite a few stitches myself.
- Dr. Marcia Whitehead
Podcasts@Boatwright features Dr. Jenny Pribble.
Boatwright Library's E-Resource of the Week is Philosopher's Index.
Boatwright Library's Rare Book Room is now open on Monday - Thursday, 1-5 p.m.