Tuesday, March 26, 2013

JHU: Intro to Libraries (remixed)

In my academic history (which I consider relatively varied), each university I have attended has required students to take a one credit seminar on either research techniques, library resources, or something along similar lines. While this effort does help students understand the difference between keywords and subject headings, the material taught may fade quickly they realize that they don't remember a thing and that paper's due next week and who do they ask with questions. Johns Hopkins does things differently.

At JHU, there is no core curriculum, so the responsibility is on the students to take the initiative to seek help. Heidi Herr and Adriane Koenig were kind enough to speak with me about how students learn library resources. Each program has a library liaison (Heidi is the liaison for the university's Philosophy and English programs) who joins the students for their programs' research labs to offer help and answer immediate questions. This gives the students the opportunity to learn when they need it rather than prematurely. The program liaisons also have time when the students can make appointments or come individually to ask questions, allowing for more intense research sessions. While the librarians answer about 2,100 questions in the Research Consultations Office, they answer about 3,000 follow-up questions during their office hours.

In addition to program liaisons, Hopkins offers other unique ways for students to learn. During a three-week period in January, they hold an Intersession - a time during which students can voluntarily take seminars outside of their field of study. As of this January, the library decided to take party by offering library classes. This past Intersession they offered an Intro to Special Collections as well as a Research & Social Science Engineering seminar. Each program's librarian also creates and moderates their LibGuides, providing resources remotely and at need.

A recurring theme throughout my visit was that Hopkins does things differently. Their patrons are unique, and consequently so is their library. Their practices may not work for any other university, but it certainly seems to work for them. The librarians aren't afraid to try new things or do tweak something they've done for years. All four of the librarians I spoke to were excited about their field and the library without any of the disconnect that sometimes occurs. They are involved with their students and faculty, always looking to make the next step forward. The university is making strides in the world and so are they.

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