Instruction Librarians Talk about Teaching and Learning: Hunter College Libraries’ 2015 Library Instruction Day

Instruction day icebreaker

Icebreaker: Would you rather be able to fly, or be invisible?

At Hunter College Libraries, we often complain that there is rarely time available for us (those who teach) to talk about our teaching and share ideas, both best practices and biggest challenges. This spring, Sarah Ward and I began considering a time and space for such a conversation. In an attempt to be as inclusive and democratic as possible, we (the organizers) invited interested library faculty and staff to complete a Doodle poll to choose the best date and then, following an “unconference” model, to nominate topics via a Padlet “wall.” Expenses for the event were minimal: adjunct coverage at the reference desks.  We invited folks to bring brown bag lunches, and we organizers contributed some cookies.

Library Instruction Day became a reality on Tuesday, June 23 from 10-1, with approximately 14 of us attending, representing all four of Hunter’s libraries; members of the technical services team, as well as reference and instruction. We began the day with an icebreaker: Which super-power would you rather have, flight or invisibility, and why? Participants, fairly evenly divided, shared their answers on a white board.

Hunter's library instruction day

Take-aways from Hunter College’s Library Instruction Day

We then spent about an hour gaining context in an interactive workshop lead by Meredith Reitman, Hunter’s Director of Assessment, titled “What are your students really learning?” The remaining two hours were spent in informal discussion of ideas from the participant-generated list (seeded with a few additional items by the organizers).  Attempting to practice what we preach, we closed by asking each participant to generate a three-item “to do” list, based on ideas generated by the event. Each person then shared his/her top item on the white board.

Our discussion was great and the feedback was generally positive, with interest in making the event annual. What do you do in your library to meet this need?

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Instant expert

In my student years I was often amazed by reference librarians who helped me find relevant information even the subject was remote to his/her specialty (I was told so). They are knowledgeable in general and quick learners for sure. But more importantly, they know the strategy and logic when encountering unfamiliar subjects on their daily job. This ability is seen as one of the prominent characteristics of librarianship. It makes the reference librarian as a walking-encyclopedia, so to speak.

In a recent blog post <>, Daniel Russell of Google asks “What do you do when you need to learn about a topic area very quickly?” His take is to “look for groups of people interested in your topic.” Other people suggested sources and tools like Wikipedia, good keywords, professional associations, authoritative guides, blogs, and of course, Google search. I like to check Wikipedia for known subjects, e.g. classical music, and to search Google for just about everything. In most cases, the latter will include the former in search results. Dr. Russell will have a related talk “How to become an instant expert on a topic through Google” at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Philadelphia. <>

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CuPL – CUNY Libraries Branch Out!

cupl2CuPL : CUNY Libraries Branch Out
Monday, April 13th – Saturday, April 18th, 2015

How do we connect the resources of CUNY libraries with the life-long learning possibilities of Branch libraries? Are our current and future students aware of resources outside of their campus libraries?


Monday, April 13th – Saturday, April 18th, 2015, participating CUNY campuses will Branch Out!

Teaming with participating branch libraries, the first ever CuPL: CUNY Libraries Branch Out initiative will bring branch libraries to CUNY campuses all in one week.

CuPL: CUNY Libraries Branch Out is a collaborative effort between librarians at the City University of New York, and librarians in the public libraries throughout NYC. The goal is to enhance use of systems across institutions and make current, former, and future students aware of local resources for academic research success as well as lifelong learning.

2015 Participating CUNY Libraries

LaGuardia Community College
Monday 4/13
teams with Queens Public Library
College of Staten Island
Monday 4/13
teams with Richmondtown Branch
Lehman College
Monday 4/13
teams with Robyn Saunders from the Career, Education and Information Services (CEIS) at the Bronx Library Center
York College
Tuesday 4/14
teams with Queens Public Library
Queens College
Wednesday 4/15
teams with Queens Public Library
Kingsborough Community College
Wednesday 4/15
teams with Sheepshead Bay Library
City Tech
Wednesday 4/15
teams with the Info Commons at Central Branch
Hostos Community College
Thursday 4/16
teams with Bronx Public Library main branch
Brooklyn College
Thursday 4/16
teams with Central Library’s Society, Sciences Technology Division
Guttman Community College
Friday 4/17
teams with NYPL Midtown for a library card drive
Saturday 4/18
teams with the New Amsterdam Branch for BMCC’s career fair

To receive more information on CuPL : CUNY Libraries Branch Out, contact the CuPL representative:
NYPL – Rebecca Federman & Carolym Broomhead
Queens Public Library – Kim McNeil –Capers
Brooklyn Public Library – Melissa Morrone
CUNY Libraries – Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz

CuPL : CUNY Librarians Branch Out is a sub-committee of LILAC and includes the following librarians
(list in formation):
Carolyn Broomhead, New York Public Library
Robin Brown, BMCC
Diane Dimartino, OLS
Robert Farrell, Lehman
Rebecca Federman, New York Public Library
Julia Furay, Kingsborough Community College
Meagan Lacy, Guttman Community College
Tara Lannen-Stanton, Queens Public Library
Miriam Laskin, Hostos Community College
Galina Letnikova, LaGuardia Community College
Kim McNeil–Capers, Queens Public Library
Jesse Montero, Brooklyn Public Library
Melissa Morrone, Brooklyn Public Library,
Evelyn Muriel Cooper, New York Public Library
Shawnta Smith, Graduate Center
Amy Stempler, College of Staten Island
Di Su, York Community College

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Is your audience listening?

One of the things we don’t want to see during teaching is the disconnection between the lecturer and the listener. It happens for various reasons. It could be the lecturer; even a veteran speaker could have a dull moment. It could be the listener; he or she might have had a long day already. It could be the use of jargon, clarity of speaking, tempo of talking (either too slow or too fast), unchanged pitch of voice, student’s lack of interest, slow computer, or even the weather…

The most effective way of teaching involves two-way communication. We should try to create an active learning environment to make sure students remain engaged in learning process.

Ways of engaging students may include asking simple questions, doing classroom easy quizzes, using game-based demonstrations (I still remember vividly Sandy’s, a wonderful former colleague, game of Boolean Logic).

Visit Vitae, a service of The Chronicle of Higher Education, one may find useful teaching tips there. Although they may not relate to library science, general rules can be applied. For example: “What if You Have to Lecture?” By David Gooblar. URL:



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IL is rarely on administrator’s agenda

Reading through the interview (link below), one can see a number of items on the newly hired university librarian’s agenda as priorities: reinventing the building, caring for the legacy materials and physical books, and delivering 24/7 services. Dr. James J. O’Donnell’s envision of the future academic library is “one in which everybody in the institution…gets everything they need, wherever they happen to be, immediately.”

It is true that the library profession originated as a service type and we always strive for better quality to serve users. We must remember, though, that the profession has evolved over the time in both concept and content. User education is an inseparable part in a modern library although the degree of involvement may vary depending on the mission and nature of the library. Academic librarians act dual roles: keeper and educator. Teaching is part of our job. Information Literacy education and library instructional programs are necessary, to say the least.

Interview link [It is a news link, thus, has more than this interview. Read the top item only.):

A Former Provost Is Recast as a Librarian, and Other News About People





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Praise from a professional

Daniel Russell is a researcher at Google. Some of us may have taken his MOOC of Search ReSearch. A scholar, scientist, and an expert online searcher, Dr. Russell regards library highly and speaks of librarian with respect. “I have many reasons to use my local library-but perhaps the best is that it’s a place where I always learn something.”

“Reference Librarians. They’re excellent resources of information and a source of research skills. When you go to your public library, be sure to chat with the reference librarians. They are, in essence, professional SearchReseachers. They know all kinds of things that are key to finding information (both online and offline) in places and in ways you might not have thought about.” For full text, read his blog post:

5 reasons you should have a library card

“reference librarians are both incredibly well-informed about the infoverse AND incredibly happy to tell you everything they know in order to make you a better researcher. I like that. I like it a lot–they’re not out to make a dime from every transaction, but they’re genuine saints who want nothing more than to teach you how to do the search on your own and make you self-sufficient.” Full text:

Why libraries?

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The current status

To keep up with the progress of redefining IL, Keiser’s detailed report on ACRL’s work is rather helpful. (Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.)

Reimagining Information Literacy Competencies




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“Change Literacy” and the future libraries

Brian Mathews of Virginia Tech suggests to put “change [as a noun] literacy” into consideration for the ongoing revision of definition of Information Literacy. Change literacy is, describes Mathews, “the ability to anticipate, create, adapt, and deal with change (in the broadest since) [sense, I’d guess] as a vital fluency for people today.” The rationale is “If we treat change as a literary [literacy, I’d guess] then we can better prepare students for the challenges they will face tomorrow.” Despite the somewhat awkward term, Mathews’ view of “change literacy” reflects the evolving concept of literacy. His blog post about it can be viewed at
On a separate topic, a recent essay by the same author, “Librarian as Futurist: Changing the Way Libraries Think about the Future” appears in July 2014 issue of portal. He advocates “What will libraries be in the future? They will become whatever their users need.” His statement, while inspiring, has raised questions: how do we decide user’s actual need (in what scope and at what level(s))? Who decides user’s need (user-initiated or librarian-initiated or both)? These are the issues that deserve to be discussed.

Citation: portal: Libraries and the Academy, Volume 14, Number 3, July 2014 pp. 453-462.

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Intentional Informationists

Among the 2013 top twenty articles recommended by ALA Library Instruction Round Table, <> Hoffmann and Wallace’s “Intentional Informationists” is of particular interest. [See citation below] The case study depicts IL practice at California State University-Channel Islands, a young institution of ten years history (as of the time the article was written). Their goal is to shift “the emphasis from literate to informed, from passive receptors of information to intentional users and consumers of information.” The authors define an “intentional informationist” as a person with “the contextual, reflective and informational skills to identify information opportunities, tackle complex information problems and pitfalls, and provide solutions or considerations that do not just meet her individual needs.” (Full text can be retrieved in ScienceDirect)

Hoffmann, Debra, and Amy Wallace. “Intentional informationists: Re-envisioning information literacy and re-designing instructional programs around faculty librarians’ strengths as campus connectors, information professionals, and course designers.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39.6 (2013): 546-551.


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What the leaders think about IL

Released today, Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2013 reports that library directors (chief librarians in CUNY’s term) were nearly unanimous in saying that teaching research skills and information literacy to undergraduates was a very important part of their mission.

One of the issues is practical: staffing, as we all face it and deal with it. Some libraries with more human resources cope better. We at York have to re-schedule or even cancel some IL sessions due to the shortage of staff. An encouraging trend revealed by the survey indicates ” Forty-two percent of respondents at baccalaureate colleges said they planned to expand staffing in instruction, instructional design, and information-literacy services over the next five years, as did 44 percent at doctoral universities and 53 percent at master’s-level institutions.” (quote from The Chronicle report on the survey).

Jennifer Howard of The Chronicle of Higher Education summarizes the survey results in Chronicle’s Wired Campus page:

What Matters to Academic-Library Directors? Information Literacy:


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