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Reflection Paper

Daniel L. Messer
Dominican University
During my time in LIS 764 Library User Instruction, I learned a lot about library
instruction and about myself as an instructor. This learning took place as a result of the courses
instruction and assignments. The assigned presentations consisted of teaching a catalog, teaching
a tool, and group teaching. Other assignments that allowed me to explore teaching included my
interview paper, and the second part of the group project which had my group move our
presentation to an online format. For the Teach a Catalog presentation, I chose to teach Books in
HOLLIS+ which is Harvards catalog for searching its collection of over 18 million volumes.
When it came time to teach a tool I chose to teach ilga.gov which is the website of the Illinois
General Assembly. A couple of weeks ago my group give our presentation on Government
Information. We have been putting the finishing touches on our efforts to convert it to an online
format. Finally, I learned a lot about library instruction at a large public research university from
my interview with NIU librarian Karen Hovde and my research for that interview.
Self-Critique
I feel that my skills as an instructor would best be rated as needs improvement. The
reason for this rating is that I tend to present instead of teach; though to be honest I only just
started to get good at presenting. I feel that I am a strong speaker who is plagued by crippling
nervousness and stage fright. My strength as a teacher can be seen in my knowledge of the
subject matter I am teaching, which tends to led me to have a show and tell not teach mentality.
My teaching and speaking in general is enhanced by my ability to project my voice to the back of
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the room. Perhaps my greatest strength as a teacher is the ability to think on my feet. Though in
many cases my quick thinking is required due to a failure or lack of preparation on my part. I like
to engage my audience in theory, however in practice I tend to panic and forget to ask or have
built my interaction on a specific part of a tool that requires a special plug-in to work. All in all I
feel that I will make a great teacher once I work out my issues.
Strengths
My strengths are present but are outweighed by my weaknesses. One of my greatest
strengths is the base of knowledge, I build up about a subject before I attempt to teach it. Lets
take the first presentation for example where I taught Harvards catalog; I spent only a few hours
learning the ins and outs of the catalog before I taught it, but that was because I had spent the last
several years using the catalog provided to all CARLI member institutions. When it came to the
second presentation on ilga.gov, I had already been using it as part of my job for several months
so I know about it. For the final presentation, I had read several articles on the need for academic
librarians to teach about government information and used several of the resources that we
taught.
Another of my strengths as a teacher is my ability to project my voice. I can reach the
back of the room without yelling and still get my point across and my voice is not half bad to
listen to. I was once told I had a voice for radio, I still dont believe them. But, I am able to get
my voice to carry without changing my tone and am able to sound excited even when coving the
most boring of materials.
My greatest strength as a teacher is my ability improvise on the fly. What this mean for
my teaching is that I can recover from stumbles quickly and make due when technology fails me.

Two great examples of this are; the presentation that I give last semester in LIS 753, the second
is my second presentation of this semester. During my final presentation for LIS 753, I was
tasked with critiquing a website of a library. The website I was criticizing was down for
maintenance that day. So I improvised by sketching a rough outline of what the website looked
like from memory in order to point out its flaws. For the second presentation in this class on
ilga.gov I had intended to teach the class how to use the Legislator Lookup tool. This link
however took me to the State Board of Elections website and required the use of Microsoft
Silverlight to run, the schools computers however lacked this plugin. This forced me to skip this
content and instead add back in content that had been cut. To be honest most of these strengths
probably serve me better as a speaker than as a teacher.
Areas for Improvement
The areas where my teaching needs improvement are numerous some of the areas include
as follows. I tend to forget to interact with my audience, even when I have practiced doing so in
my rehearsals. To give an example during my first presentation on Harvards catalog instead of
asking for search terms from the audience, I just used my own. I also have a tendency to stop
moving and hide behind a podium or a computer screen. As evidenced by all of my
presentations, the over reliance on the computer was present in presentation 1 and 2 to I also
buried my face in my notes during all three of my presentations. I also have an issue with using
all of my allotted time as evidenced by all three of my presentations being under time. My first
presentation was 3:41 when it was supposed to be 5 minutes, my second presentation was 6:52
when it was supposed to be 7 minutes, and my group presentation was 43 minutes when it was
supposed to be 45 minutes and my part was much short than I rehearsed. In fact if my part had
reached my goal time my group would have made time.
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To add insult to injury many of my strengths have corresponding weaknesses. My


extensive knowledge of my subject matter tend to led to me lecturing rather than teaching
audience in an engaging manner. In my first presentation instead of interacting with my audience
and asking them for topics to search for I instead searched my own topics, despite picking
Harvards catalog which has over 18 million books in it. Which basically means that if the topic
isnt touched on in that collection it probably isnt worth covering. For my second presentation
on ilga.gov my only planned interaction with my audience had to be scraped for technical
reasons. I found myself unwilling and unable to take suggestions from the audience. Finally for
my part of the third presentation I basically talked at my audience.
My greatest strength as teacher is probably my greatest weakness. As I said before my
greatest strength is my ability to think on my feet. The reason why this is a weakness as well is
that I know it and really on it survive my presentations, instead of practicing more. Lets
illustrate this with an example, in preparing for my part of the group presentation I ran through
my presentation 5 or 6 times the most I have ever practiced a presentation by a wide margin.
Normally I just outline it run through it once or twice and then give it.
Personal Philosophy of Education
It is difficult for me to come up with a personal philosophy of education before my career
has even begun. I dont have the years of experience that Char Booth or any of the librarians that
she asked philosophies from. The best I can do right not is that I believe that people are smarter
than I think they are. So I should not be afraid of using jargon or any big words, I just need to be
ready to explain the word either by the context I use it in or by explaining it. I also need to be
certain that I am talking to my audience not simply talking at them. What does my philosophy
mean? Well it means that I should use jargon when teaching but explain that jargon to my
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audience. This can be done my using the jargon in a place where its meaning is abundantly clear
or by putting it into context. For example start by saying today Im going to show you how to
use our librarys OPAC, or our librarys online public access catalog or by explaining to my
audience that a database indexes journals, which allows the database to search those journals for
articles. The last part of my philosophy can be summed up as when youre talking to an audience
your engage them; when youre talking at them youre putting them to sleep. Lets illustrate this
if Im talking to you; Im asking you questions, pausing to give you time to ask questions, or
having you do an activity. On the other if Im talking at you Im just running through my speech,
I might as well be in another room, because Im not engaging with you.
Future Goals
My future goals in the near term consist of finishing my degree and hopeful getting a part
time job in a library that allows me to teach some sort of workshops or failing that waiting for
my practicum where I will being doing instruction. After I finish my degree I hope to get a job at
either a community college or at a large research university preferably private, doing instruction.
Hopeful that intuition offers me some sort of professional development account that would allow
me to pursue a second Masters and then a Ph.D. Later on after several years of doing well at that
intuition, I hope to be awarded tenure and be promoted to a leadership position in my
department. Eventually, I would like to work my way up to the position of Dean of Libraries.
Where to from there who knows; Provost, Public Office, ALA President, if Im connected
enough and its the right time Librarian of Congress, a box under an overpass. Who knows what
the future holds.

Future Training
The training that is available to me in the near future to help me with my future goals
largely consists of more presentations that include audience participation. Another thing I can do
is watch videos of librarian teaching tools on YouTube or librarians teaching about teaching on
YouTube. I can theoretically attend workshops or discussions about teaching and teaching
effectiveness. I can also attend library workshops, in order to see how the librarian is teaching
the workshop. Finally I can watch my professor and watch how they are teaching and try to
mimic them. This about sums up my reflections on LIS 764 and myself as an instructor.