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To One-Shot or Not?

Earlier this week I had a wonderful research discussion with Nicole Pagowsky about the work we do as instruction coordinators and managers in libraries, information literacy, teaching, and feminist praxis. The next day I co-taught a workshop about teaching research as an iterative process with my lovely colleagues, Emily Deal and Carolina Hernandez. It was sparsely attended, but the English graduate students and faculty who showed up were interested and engaged. I bring up these two events because they both left me thinking about my own relationship with teaching information literacy, how it’s changed over the years, and how something I’ve been mulling over may be in direct contradiction with my own career path and experience.

I don’t like a one-shot: the drop-in visit/guest lecture from a librarian to a class where the instructor may or may not be present, the students may or may not have any context for why the librarian is there, and overall time spent together in awkwardness is anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. I’ve written about one-shots tangentially in previous posts and directly talked about them at conferences. I want us, as a profession of teaching librarians, to move beyond them to a practice of information literacy education that is more equitable, sustainable, and meaningful for students. We can do so much more than just pop-in to do a session or babysit a class while an instructor is away at conference. We want to build relationships with students and talk to faculty about pedagogy and curriculum. We are capable of and deserve more.

All that said, I think back to how I learned to be a teacher, how I fostered professional relationships with faculty, how I learned about students. All of that happened in one- two- or three-shots. All of it. I designed assignments with first year seminar faculty because I taught two classes the year before that didn’t really work. I better understand students’ understanding of information sources because I saw senior thesis writers attempting to find information more commonly found in statistical reports in academic journal articles. I saw first hand how students approached searching Google vs. searching library databases. I talked to faculty about the questions students were asking in a one-shot and ended up coming back to class again and again after that.

I’ll stop there.

As librarians we don’t always have the option to teach a semester-long class, so how then, without a one- or two- or three- shot do we learn how to teach? How do we learn how to be critically reflective practitioners? How do we talk to faculty about teaching if we’ve never done it?

I ask these questions not to support one-shot teaching–I still honestly believe it is deeply problematic–but to ask, without artifice or underlying answers or passive-aggressiveness, how DO we do this?

Do we co-teach? Do we teach outside the traditional classroom? What does that look like? Do we focus intensely on one class and build expertise and relationship there?

There are no easy answers, but I want to wrestle with these questions. We can’t expect new librarians to engage deeply in conversations of pedagogy and information literacy without ever teaching, so where and how do we create space for meaningful teaching?

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