USER EDUCATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION: HELPING ACADEMICS JOIN THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. This article is by Gwyneth Price. It was presented at the 1999 IATUL Conference Technical University of Crete, Chania, Greece.
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My view of academic librarianship is based on ten years of experience at the Institute of Education, which is a postgraduate college of the University of London. The Institute has a very high reputation as a research organisation, but academics are currently rather more exercised by the concepts of teaching and learning. As teacher trainers they are aware that their own learning and teaching strategy should be an exemplar for other organisations. In this paper I will examine some of the issues that concern me in relation to how lecturers themselves approach learning.
At the Institute of Education Library, as in most institutions, user education focuses on the needs of students, in our case postgraduate students following courses in teacher training as well as Masters and Doctoral students. We pride ourselves on our understanding of the library skills needed by these students and feedback from them, and from their teachers, suggests that we are successful. But we continue to feel concerned about the apparent failure of researchers and lecturers to gain the same levels of library expertise as their students. We know that this is the experience of other academic librarians in other Higher Education Institutions and we are tempted to believe that it is the academics who are failing rather than the librarians. Why is it that so many academic staff use the library as little as possible and then embarrass themselves with their lack of expertise? Why do they resort to the sort of tactics which would label students as failures?
My searches through the literature have shown me some unexpected answers to my questions, which should not have come as a surprise since in my experience academics write very little about libraries and librarians just write very little. The first thing that I discovered was that not much has been written about academic lecturers as learners. There is a great deal of interest in how students learn, but also an assumption that teaching and learning is a one way process, that is teachers teach & students learn and their roles are never reversed. Professional development for teachers seems to consist almost entirely of learning how to teach and using libraries does not seem to be part of the curriculum. In the UK the Institute for Learning and Teaching will accredit teaching qualifications for lecturers in Higher Education, as recommended by the Dearing Report . Librarians should be working to ensure that library skills will be included in the course. My own experience of teaching new academics on courses at the Institute of Education is that many new lecturers see little point in learning how to use libraries. It is useful to examine some of the reasons for this apparent disinterest, which is shared by many experienced teachers.