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Report of Nancy M. Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian

Outreach and Instruction

Outreach and Instruction


Library outreach and instructional programs continue to expand. No longer emphasizing services based at reference desks, the librarians are now reaching users virtually through media like Instant Messaging, the "Ask Us Live" pilot program, web sites, and online tools; through collaboration with faculty in classrooms; and through collaboration with other Harvard libraries and University departments on a variety of programs. HCL and FAS science libraries, along with Harvard Medical School's Countway Library, launched a new web site for the sciences, providing guidance to students and others who work across multiple libraries. In collaboration with the FAS Academic Technology Group (ATG) and iCommons, a "Library Resources" page was designed and launched and now appears by default on all new FAS course web pages, allowing easier integration of our services and resources into the curriculum. This page contains links to "Ask a Librarian," selected e-resources covering a broad range of disciplines, the HCL research contacts list, library hours, information on reserves, and more.

To better respond to outreach opportunities, HCL created a new unit, Research, Teaching, and Learning Services (RTLS), to provide vision and leadership for innovative teaching and learning across HCL, informed by the evolving needs of Harvard faculty and students. Work of the unit includes assisting HCL librarians with instructional and outreach activities, e-learning projects, using innovative pedagogical tools and techniques, educational technology, and learning assessment. Over the past year, RTLS has worked to align its services and activities with HCL's broad teaching and learning initiatives and priorities, working closely with library committees and working groups, HCL Communications and ITS, the Academic Technology Group, the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, iCommons, OIS, and other Harvard libraries.

In the startup year, focus was on the following:

  • Integrating library resources and services into FAS course web sites; working with the HCL iSites Management Team; developing a new, modular approach to creating HCL course-related research guides using iSites by providing a staging site with a library of ready-to-modify content topics
  • Developing the pedagogical skills of librarians by providing personal consultation to HCL staff on a broad range of teaching and learning topics, ranging from research guide creation to lesson plan development to assessment; conducting Plug & Play sessions to engage the community of Harvard librarians, educational technologists, faculty, and students in exploring new technologies for research, teaching and learning in libraries; participating in the Gen Ed Idea Generation workshop
  • Implementing a software/hardware "sandbox" for staff, with the goal of providing HCL staff with creative workspaces to explore and develop innovative tools for research, teaching, and outreach activities
  • Developing a team-based approach to creating learning objects and consulting with staff on a variety of digital projects and tools for teaching and learning

While the RTLS program was beginning its work, outreach work continued across the HCL libraries. In Widener, undergraduate and graduate students met individually with Research Services librarians to discuss their research needs, or had a series of ongoing conversations as they worked through their dissertation or thesis research. Individual consultations with students often follow from library classes associated with particular courses, including junior and senior tutorials. Library Liaisons worked closely with the faculty and students in their designated departments, with an emphasis on students involved in major academic projects. Houghton Library hosted 184 seminars—including freshman seminars, repeated meetings of undergraduate classes, section meetings for core classes, and proseminars and seminars for graduate students—that provided students with the experience of working with primary materials.

Through the HCL Research Services Staff Share Pilot, reference staff from Lamont, Cabot, and Widener Libraries cross-trained and worked in each other's libraries to become acquainted with users' reference needs and to familiarize themselves with research resources. The pilot program helped the Library respond to user needs with a smaller complement of staff, and it allowed staff to utilize their expertise outside their assigned areas of focus. The success of the program may lead to further cross-training initiatives among HCL reference librarians.

Part of HCL's focus this past year was strengthening outreach efforts to teaching fellows. HCL held a three-hour "Gen Ed Idea Generation Workshop" to engage librarians and TFs in brainstorming engaging research assignments and learning activities for Gen Ed courses. Four Gen Ed courses were "workshopped," and ideas were documented and posted to both VITAL and the Library Gen Ed iSite. HCL librarians were invited to present at the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning's annual fall teaching conference.

We have sought to build upon HCL's existing pedagogical framework: developing the skills of librarians who teach; exploring new platforms for creating and delivering research guides and tutorials; collaborating more closely with academic programs and technology groups; and creating virtual and real spaces for discussions around research, teaching, and learning. Faculty and students are more actively involved in the planning, execution, and assessment of our learning tools and library spaces. We anticipate that exciting new outreach opportunities will evolve from these efforts.