New Instruction Librarians Find Many Hats to Wear

Rebecca K. Miller discusses the ins and outs of the profession

June 24, 2017

Rebecca K. Miller, instructional information literacy coordinator and college librarian for science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, holds The New Instruction Librarian (ALA Editions 2017), the book she recently co-authored with Candice Benjes-Small.

“We need and deserve better,” stated Rebecca K. Miller in her thought-provoking presentation “So, You’re a New Instruction Librarian …”

Miller, head of library learning services at Pennsylvania State University Libraries in State College, spoke about the startling statistics found by several studies, which reveal that many instruction librarians receive no in-house training, preparation, or support for teaching, but are simply “thrown into the fire.”

Miller herself found this to be true for about 68 percent of respondents in her own co-conducted research in 2013. This research, as well as the advice that Miller highlighted during her session, is fully presented in The New Instruction Librarian (ALA Editions, 2017), which she co-authored with Candice Benjes-Small.

The session progressed through a countdown of top-10 statements, each beginning “You know you’re an instruction librarian when …” and elucidating the various “hats” that an instruction librarian wears. Among Miller’s tips: When wearing the “colleague hat,” it’s important  to consider your organization’s culture—and the communication within that culture—in order to effectively contribute to it.

In all, Miller identified eight instructional librarian hats: colleague, instructional designer, teacher, teacher partner, advocate, project manager, coordinator, and learner.  Though each hat probably will not be worn every day, teaching librarians are likely to wear all of them at some point in the profession.

Miller discussed the learner hat extensively, explaining that when learning takes place, a teaching moment is also created. She urges instruction librarians to both teach and learn from each other in order to be prepared and feel supported, saying, “It’s really important to think about how what you’re doing can contribute back to the conversation that other teaching librarians and other professionals are having. Part of the learning process is truly engaging in the scholarly conversation around you.”


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