One of the reasons I grapple with burnout is that the content of library instruction, and the one-shot model through which I deliver it, is essentially the same thing over and over again. Yes, I can experiment with different teaching methods and activities and so on, but ultimately it’s all pretty much the same thing. So I’ve been interested in exploring whether the new ACRL IL Framework has any implications for resisting library instruction burnout.
First, though, I need to work though my thoughts about the Framework to begin with, and I have to say that as the conversations about the Framework started emerging and circulating over the past year or so, I mostly side-eyed it all pretty suspiciously. I was too burned out and cynical to really care very much. I read each draft as it came out, but I did not submit any feedback or participate in any of the public discussions.
It was with this same spirit of baffled wariness that I regarded the final official version “filed” by ACRL at Midwinter this year. I’m currently taking a Library Juice Academy class led by Andrea Baer in an effort to work through what the fuck I’m supposed to do with this thing, if anything. As of now, I’m still a little suspicious and not entirely convinced that the entire document needed to be articulated through the rhetoric of threshold concepts. But, ultimately, despite my wariness, I’m choosing to view the Framework as an invitation to re-envision what I do and how I do it. My library instruction program has had essentially the same learning outcomes for like a million years, so yeah, let’s revisit them, and yeah, let’s let the Framework stimulate our thinking.
I do not regard the Framework as a mandate to change or do things in a particular or specific way. ACRL does not have the final say about the library instruction program I oversee.
The vision of information literacy articulated by the Framework is more complex and conceptual than the vision offered by the old Standards, I would argue, and I would also contend that it’s rather more interesting than the old view of information literacy. Authority is Constructed and Contextual, you say? Well, yes. Of course it is.
But I don’t think that the Framework is necessarily my ticket out of Repetitiveteachingville, and here’s why: none of this reconceptualized vision of information literacy matters if a writing instructor emails me and asks me to “demonstrate how to use databases” for his students, and if the assignment for the writing class calls for students to find five scholarly peer-reviewed articles and no websites are allowed as sources at all.
That is, I’m not sure if the teaching faculty I work with will really care about this dressed up vision of information literacy. Admittedly, I’ve not yet really engaged with them yet about these new developments in our field and how they might (or might not) inform our teaching practices, but just based on my years of experience of doing this? No. I mean, maybe like five of the fifty faculty members I work with regularly will care. Everyone else? They just don’t want their students to use Wikipedia, and they want me to reinforce that.
And to me, this is merely a symptom of the larger problem I face and that I’ve been struggling with for the better part of a decade. Despite my consistent and intensive and strategic outreach efforts, despite my partnering with faculty members who are indeed library champions who do get what we do and why, despite all of my efforts to chip away at the culture that marginalizes the very real teaching and learning work we do in the library, I’ll get a writing teacher sending his class to the library, with no notice, with a fucking scavenger hunt assignment that requires students to work with print reference books only. Please excuse me while I *headdesk* forever.
I get really tired of fighting to be taken seriously, to be regarded as a valued contributor to and participant in the teaching and learning community, not someone who merely sits at a desk and answers the phone and points out the bathrooms and “demonstrates” how to use a database. By the way, you know who can “demonstrate” how to use a database? Pretty much anyone who can type words in a box and click “search.” Asking me to “demonstrate” something does not value and respect my expertise.
To return to my main point—and I know this has gotten a bit ranty—the new Framework encourages us to “Reach out to potential partners in your institution, such as departmental curriculum committees, centers for teaching and learning, or offices of undergraduate or graduate studies, to discuss how to implement the Framework in your institutional context.” But here’s the thing: I’ve been doing all of these recommended strategies already for a really long time, and every time I make some headway and convince someone of the importance of the instruction we do, there’s always someone who doesn’t get it, and that someone who doesn’t get it doesn’t necessarily undo all of our progress, but it still feels pretty terrible and demoralizing.
So what do I do? Keep chipping away, making small changes and headway where I can and fuck the haters? I’m guessing that’s probably where I’ll go with this, but damn if it isn’t exhausting and, yes, conducive to burnout.
Framework or no Framework, the marginalization of library instruction—and the concomitant burnout—will not change unless there is a radical shift in the culture of academic libraries and higher education in general. And I’m not fully convinced that the Framework is the tool that will help us bring about this urgently needed shift.