Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Freak or geek by osmosis? Reflections on librarians' distance education

While I am enjoying the MLA Web 2.0 101 class, I have a confession to make: my sociocultural anthropology side is learning far more by observing my colleagues in the course than my librarian side is with the curriculum. Sorry. Apparently I'm such a Lackluster Veteran (although I don't quite fit the demographics, what are you?) that it's a serious challenge for me to be 'ooh, ahh!' about Web 2.0.

When we arrived at the midpoint of our 8 week class, more than a few colleagues expressed dismay at falling behind due to a variety of reasons that mostly involve time and/or technology & requesting/proposing alternate arrangements. I am certainly sympathetic to the demands of the life/work/education balance yet somewhat puzzled. There appear to be common expectations that our coursework would tidily fit in with our regular routine at our jobs without any extra effort (i.e. homework) required.

I'm fascinated by this and want to understand why as a future online teacher. Were these expectations because the class is free? Online? Massive at over 600? Something in the way it was marketed to MLA members? Having the curriculum administered via a blog? How is this class any different than a college course where professors surely must hear the same things from students at midterms? Do we truly value CEs or see them as something we sit through, grab our certificates for our points then head out without much further reflection on the material?

As I've shared in my profile, I was a full time distance education library school student for 16 months while working at a non-library job 24 hours a week and being some semblance of a wife & mom to a preschooler. If there was a Most Non-Existant Friend award for 2006-2007 I probably would have won it, but I think most of my friends understood & have forgiven me :)

I say this not to boast or suggest taking that life/work/education balance to anyone (I'd discourage it unless you want to question your sanity on a regular basis), but to note that I'm still not certain if I am a freak or a geek by osmosis by being online since the early 1990s and comfortable with learning information in whatever form as rapidly as possible. I have to be careful as I teach in the future to realize that many (most?) of my colleagues are not set on automatic information-seeking overdrive, although I believe that many (most?) of our users are. Of course this depends on our particular library and services, but perhaps this is part of the current disconnect where users are not perceiving libraries as being of value.


Anonymous said...

>Do we... see them as something we sit through, grab our certificates for our points then head out without much further reflection on the material?

Unfortunately, I think you've hit the nail on the head here. I'm a relative newbie to the profession, too (5 years this month!) but in general I've noticed that librarians get very sensitive about having to do professional development outside of regular work hours. I'm not sure why we should be any different from other degreed professionals (physicians, nurses, lawyers, teachers... especially teachers) who most certainly are expected to learn on their own time. Some would argue that librarians are underpaid as it is... why "donate" even more time? If what you learn in that time helps you to be a more effective librarian, helps you prove your value and potentially even helps you keep your library open, I'd say it's well worth it to stay flexible about the 9 to 5.

The Eagle Dawg said...

Thanks for the input and congrats on your 5 year anniversary, Anon! :)

I agree with you that most professionals do invest substantial amounts of personal time (and money) in career development & we shouldn't be an exception. The hours my son's (M.Ed) kindergarten teacher puts in are phenomenal and her salary isn't remotely close to a physician's. I don't know about you, but I chose to become a librarian in part due to my love of lifelong learning (both on & off the clock) and not for the pay ;)

Connie said...

Very interesting observations. All of my learning about social networking tools was done outside office time. I built it up to the point where I was teaching these tools to other librarians as a continuing education course at the University of Toronto, as well as speaking on the topic. Also, substantial association committee work, most of which was done on my own time.

As someone who considers librarianship to be a vocation wherein I never really stop wearing my info professional hat, it irks me to see colleagues treating it as a 9 to 5 job. Yes, we have to have work/life balance.

But, where is the passion?

The Eagle Dawg said...

Connie, I certainly agree with you. Meredith Farkas just offered a great perspective on what passion and 'off the clock' time can lead to! However, I am still not certain if it's just the medlib sector or other librarians too that have resistance to learning/exploring/etc both on and off the clock. I want to understand why and do my part help to move the profession forward, but am also a total newbie warned by my advisor not to rock the boat. There's a balance in here somewhere, I'm certain of it :)