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Going Beyond Google

Posted by on Thursday, January 12, 2012 in Articles, Fall 2011, Issue.

Instructional librarians Lee Ann Lannom (left) and Kitty Porter in the Central Library’s fourth-floor classroom.

Libraries are places of research and learning, but teaching is also a core function of a library. As information resources grow, the task of sifting through academic databases to find the best information becomes more difficult. Librarians throughout the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries specialize in research instruction—some even teach full courses—and the libraries now provide special classrooms geared toward teaching.

“I always see myself as a teacher,” says Lee Ann Lannom, librarian at Peabody Library. “Not always in a traditional sense, but always as a teacher.” By teaching a research session for a course, she helps students learn to master the library, familiarizing them with available databases, their specialties and how to search in them.

Lannom is well-suited to her role. “I love the hunt for information,” she says. “I like to look for that needle in a haystack.”

New teaching spaces in the Central Library—part of the recent $6 million renovation—offer librarians and professors the opportunity to meld the library into the classroom. Two dedicated classrooms were added during the renovation on the fourth and eighth floors, and a new conference room is prioritized for instructional use. About 70 sessions have already been held in the new classrooms.

“Classrooms were a key part of my goals with the renovation,” says Dean of Libraries Connie Vinita Dowell, “Teaching is one of the most important things we do.”

“We’ve had so much positive feedback on the new classrooms,” says Melinda Brown, instruction coordinator for the libraries. In the new fourth-floor space, desks are easily moved into clusters for group projects or set in traditional rows for lectures. Dual screens and a document camera make it easy to conduct critical examinations of rare source documents. Comfortable chairs, loaner laptops and wireless access allow students real-time opportunities to practice research methods using the library’s more than 300 electronic databases.

Library specialists also write Web-based library guides, or “Libguides,” that direct students to course- or topic-specific resources, services and more.

Kitty Porter has seen a lot of changes in her decades-long career as a librarian. “People didn’t used to do their own searches,” she recalls. “The librarians did the searches for them.” Today, she teaches a popular course for both undergraduate and graduate students focused on the nuances of searching the vast amount of chemical literature available through the Science and Engineering Library and how to best use it.

“It’s important to know where to look and how to look,” she says. “We can help with that.”

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