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hey, have you been somewhere you’ve never ever been before

maura @ 7:01 pm

The semester started last Thursday, and our library’s course started too! I’ve had a busy month prepping for the course and worrying whether it would run, so it was great to finally get to the first class. All the nervousness that I thought I’d have suddenly vanished the morning of, too, which was a bit of a surprise to me. Ultimately I’m really looking forward to having an entire semester to work on big meaty information literacy* topics with the students, so I think that excitement drove the butterflies right out of my stomach.

* Shhh, we’re not calling it IL to the students, though — too jargony. The official course name is Research & Documentation for the Information Age.

I know what you’re thinking: what about the work? Isn’t it an enormous amount of work to teach a 3-credit course? Well, yes and no. It’s true that course prep expands to fill the time available, and when I was finalizing the syllabus this month I probably let it take more time than it should. But now that the semester’s begun I’m going to have to find ways to be more efficient with course prep, and I think that the syllabus and course outline is detailed enough that I should be able to prepare without deep-ending.** I’ll be responsible for fewer other instruction sessions and reference shifts than last semester, too.

** Overpreparation is an issue for me in lots of workstuff, so I should really use the course to help me practice figuring out when to stop.

It’s also true that I had a few moments this month when I desperately wished for one big giant textbook for the course. I’m using one text (Research Strategies, by William Badke) — it’s got a good overview of the research skills I want to cover, is written in an approachable style, and is under $20. But I also want to talk about things like privacy and access and evaluation and preservation and ethics and copyright and fair use and open access and documentation and non-text media and practical applications of all of this, which is bigger than this book, nice as it is. I’m still as anti-textbook and pro-open access as ever, but I do appreciate how much more time it takes to plan a class without one.

All in all, I’m totally stoked*** to teach this class.

*** A couple of weeks ago a CUNY colleague asked if I was from the West Coast, and referred to me as “mellow but organized.” Which cracked me right up.

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4 comments on “hey, have you been somewhere you’ve never ever been before”

Stephen Francoeur (31 January 2010 at 9:42 pm)

I didn’t realize you too were teaching a 3-credit library course for the first time this semester. I had my first class meeting last Thursday, too. I decided to go the no-textbook route and will see if it pans out; I’m wondering if my planning for the course has connected all the dots in ways that a textbook can.

You can see my course website, which I set up using LibGuides, and download my syllabus at

William Badke (1 February 2010 at 12:30 am)

Both of you are right, of course. Textbooks tend to lock you into a method and generally don’t cover everything you want to cover. They are also deadly if you follow them slavishly instead of considering them as an essential content base for core ideas.

Launching off into all those key issues like open access, copyright, privacy, and so on is great – an opportunity to personalize the issues that make the core of research method the nuanced thing it needs to be.

I doubt it’s just a textbook/non-textbook isse. We use toolslike a good textbook to put concrete material in the hands of students for whom our classroom instruction may seem like words blowing in the wind. To hear, see it and practice it is what makes information literacy work. But I teach the other issues as well. And I refuse to publish my work with those rapacious textbook companies who believe $150 is a better price than $18.95 (or $6.00 for the PDF version).

All the best with your course.

maura (1 February 2010 at 8:19 am)

Thanks for the link to your course LibGuide, Stephen. Looks like a great class. I like the iSkills resume — maybe I’ll try that next time (assuming there is a next time — our enrollment is quite low [as per usual w/new courses] so I’ll be pounding the pavement to market the course more before registration starts for the fall). We should have a post-mortem lunch after the semester ends (or post-mortem blog posts, at least).

William, I heartily appreciate the affordability of your text — most of our students get financial aid so it’s important to me that the book won’t break the bank for them (and will be useful to consult for research they do in their other courses, too). I’ve heard other faculty complain that they sometimes have a hard time getting students to read, so the style of your book is also a good fit for my course: easy to understand with funny bits in there too. Thanks for your comment and well wishes!

Stephen Francoeur (1 February 2010 at 9:37 am)

Maura: Lunch is a great idea. My enrollment isn’t what I’d like it to be either. First day of class, only 60% of registered students showed up (I hear that some students blow off the first day of classes, assuming that nothing important happens.)

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