Teaching Librarians/Information Literacy Educators: A General Overview

The average citizen has seen the inside of a library at least once in his or her lifetime; generally speaking, the term “librarian” is a part of commonly used household vocabulary. However, public knowledge of the layers of specializations within the library field is less prevalent. Defined as “tutor librarians, instruction librarians, learning advisers, and teaching librarians” (Cox 2013), the information literacy educator is one field of librarianship that has been an active investor in society since the 19th century, and has taught, Cox articulates, “people how to find and handle books and information,” which was traditionally acknowledged as the role of librarians within academic, school, and public libraries (Clyde, 2002).

Teaching librarians or information literacy educators are among the branches of librarianship that have been steadily evolving in the more recent decades. Cox (2013) explains, “Academic librarians have engaged in formal instruction of students for more than a century, but the role has expanded and developed significantly in the last 30 years and has also become specialized and professionalized (as cited in Albrecht & Baron, 2002; Bewick & Corrall, 2010; Walter, 2008; Westbrock & Fabian, 2010). With the influx of technology, the skills of teaching or academic librarians have evolved from basic experience of instructing students to in-depth knowledge of authoring online tutorials and designing comprehensive presentations and curriculum.

The skills and necessary experience required for an academic/school librarian are constantly in flux, like the job itself. Cox (2013) explains that, “Existing research suggests a need for further investigation of the content and value of existing professional education offerings for teaching librarians,” or in other words, further research needs to be centered around the question concerning just how qualified librarians need to be in order to teach students in grade schools and academia. Cox (2013) explains that steps have been taken regarding mentoring new teachers and the “investigation of the significance of disciplinary knowledge in establishing credibility as a teacher,” both for educators and teaching librarians.

While the very definition of “teaching librarian” and the “information literacy educator” has evolved and will continue evolving as technology continues to hone in on new and more efficient ways to process and access information, the role of the teaching librarian will continue to be a subtle yet vital influence in understanding how to access information, where it is kept, and in what ways that information can be used to answer a wide spectrum of questions.

References

Albrecht, R., & Baron, S. (2002). The politics of pedagogy: Expectations and reality for information literacy in librarianship. Journal of Library Administration, 36(1/2), 71–96.

Bewick, L., & Corrall, S. (2010). Developing librarians as teachers: A study of their pedagogical knowledge. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 42, 97–110.

Clyde, L. (2002). An instructional role for librarians: An overview and content analysis of job advertisements. Academic & Research Libraries, 33, 150–167.

Cox, A. & Corrall, S. (2013). Evolving Academic Library Specialties. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 64 (8),1526-1542.

Walter, S. (2008). Librarians as teachers: A qualitative inquiry into professional identity. College & Research Libraries, 69, 51–71. Retrieved from http://crl.acrl.org/content/69/1/51.full.pdf.

Westbrock, T., & Fabian, S. (2010). Proficiencies for instruction librarians: Is there still a disconnect between professional education and professional responsibilities? College & Research Libraries, 71, 569–590. Retrieved from http://crl.acrl.org/content/71/6/569.full.pdf.

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