The professor and the academic librarian: a dynamic collaboration
Bruce Fyfe traces the origin of his research back to a discussion he had over a pint at the campus pub with Peter Ferguson, a political science professor, six years ago.
It was there that Fyfe, a librarian at Weldon, and Ferguson conceived the idea to test students' research skills following a semester of information literacy with a twist.
Academic librarians typically come in to the classroom once near the beginning of the term to familiarize students with the resources available to them within the campus library system. In this case, however, Fyfe staggered his visits throughout the semester and tied his instruction directly to the course content in an effort to better resonate with students. It's a model that integrates the academic librarian in the priorities of teaching, learning and research.
“The great thing about having Bruce is that it’s his profession to understand how to do research and the new ways to do research,” Ferguson explained. “So one of the things that’s great for me is he comes in to the classroom and we talk to students about how to do research, but at least once every time, I think ‘Oh wow, that’s a cool tool. I want to do that.’ So it’s not just the students who learn. I learn too.”
Theirs is a collaborative approach to teaching and research between a professor and librarian that seems to be paying off. Their studies have found that students’ research skills are deepening and their capacity for critical thinking is progressing beyond the classroom. Fyfe has kept in touch with students who, years later, link research they are currently working on to the effort Fyfe and Ferguson put into establishing strong research skills at the undergraduate level.
“It’s hugely rewarding when they can take the skills they’ve learned and they can transfer them to other situations and into other contexts and be successful,” Fyfe said. “Lifelong learning is a goal, and this has been immensely rewarding to see this and these students. The faculty and students all benefit from this type of work.”
Indeed, tapping academic librarians’ vast knowledge-creating expertise not only leads to more substantive interactions with students, but meaningful collaborations with faculty members. Our academic librarian colleagues are in a unique position of contributing to high-quality teaching and research in a rapidly expanding information age. As academic librarians Michael Russo and Alice Daugherty observe, librarian and faculty collaborations “lead to a more dynamic intellectual climate on campus and increase the knowledge base for everyone.”
In this round of UWOFA-LA negotiations, UWOFA remains committed to achieving a fair and equitable new collective agreement for our librarian and archivist colleagues who vitally and meaningfully contribute to this university’s core mission of high-quality teaching and research.