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October 25, 2015 / Charlie McNabb

Allyship and Info Lit at the ACRL WA/OR Conference

Last week, I attended the ACRL WA/OR conference at Pack Forest. There were lots of great presentations and workshops, but I find myself really musing on two in particular.

A contingent of University of Washington Bothell librarians facilitated a workshop called “‘Let Us Walk Together’: Forging Solidarities with our Campus Communities” that really inspired me as an activist/librarian. In their introduction, they described Black lesbian feminist activist/scholar Barbara Smith‘s four conceptual pillars (identity politics, coalition building, intersectionality, and multi-issue politics) and four core practices (awareness, integrity, courage, and redefining your own success). They argued that the student experience goes well beyond the classroom and that librarians have a role to play as allies in solidarity with movement building.

They went on to describe some of the campus activist struggles and movements currently in process and ways in which the library and librarians have engaged with student activists. At that point, they turned the workshop over to the participants to discuss in small groups. I’ll share two of the discussion prompts: “How can we speak with rather than for marginalized groups on campus?” And, “How do we negotiate the power we hold as members/representatives of the institution and the stability or precariousness of our employment while engaging in campus activism?”

Some great discussion happened, with more questions than answers. I’ll be continuing to think on this topic, for sure. Thanks to Megan Watson, Dave Ellenwood, Tami Garrard, and Ana Villar for the inspiring session!

The other workshop that’s been on my mind was presented by three Oregon State University librarians, and was called “Let Your Love Open the Door to Student Development Theories.” They provided an overview of several learning theories, psychosocial theories, and cognitive-structural theories before talking about how we as library instructors can scaffold instruction to meet our students at their particular developmental stage. We were then given different case studies and encouraged to connect theories to specific scenarios.

As an information literacy instructor, I have engaged with various learning theories and frameworks, particularly Universal Design; but I haven’t thought a lot about how brain development impacts learning. Between freshman year and senior year, the brain changes a lot! Judgment, intellectual development, and identity grow and develop rapidly during this time, which influences motivations and ability to learn and retain information.

I’ll be doing some more research on these theories. Thanks to Laurie Bridges, Hannah Gascho Rempel, and Kelly McElroy for putting me on the road to matching student development to instruction goals!

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