How my personal pedagogy influences my academic client liaision

When I first began thinking about my personal pedagogy, I didn’t realise how entwined it is with my academic liaison work (student too, but that’s a different post for another day). In fact, the librarian I was very much influenced the teacher that I was when I first began teaching. And now each reinforces the other on almost an equal footing.

My partnership approach to liaison is very much influenced by a belief that my clients are lifelong learners in all aspects of their complex and challenging academic lives (as researchers and as teachers). I have feedback from a client that says “We learn from you everyday” and hopefully many of my academic clients feel that they learn from our work together.

I certainly learn from working with my clients. My first eight years as a librarian were spent in hospital settings and it was very clear right from the beginning that I would have to practice from a learning foundation. I couldn’t even spell many of the things that I had to search for and I felt as though a medical dictionary had been surgically attached to my body during my first year of practice. Of course this also made the reference interview critical. No being tempted not to reveal my ignorance due to false pride; patient care and the professional development of clinicians were at stake.

As I moved to work with engineers, spatial scientists and urban and regional planners in the university sector, my learning foundation held me in good stead as I had a whole lot of fresh learning to do. And, eight years on I’m still learning about these disciplines. My reference work and information literacy work are particular drivers of this learning as they provide opportunities for me to understand more and more about the way these disciplines think and the questions that they ask. These insights are wonderful for working with students who are struggling to work out what their courses are trying to get them to think about.

There are very few recipes to apply to liaison work like this. Yes, there are some basic starting points that any librarian would use, but after that it all depends on what and how I am prepared to learn about my clients, their disciplines and their teaching and/or research environments. I love this; it ensures that every day is different thanks to the different journeys I take to work with my clients.

Some librarians say that, these days, liaison work is generic but, I don’t agree. I think that being a proactive, critically thinking, client-centred librarian means that we cannot practice generically. It’s not physically possible as getting to know our disciplines gives us new thinking tools that we can’t help but apply. Our brains just use them. I bet there’s some kind of neurobiological explanation.

Just as teaching and learning are very personal activities, so liaison work is a very personal activity; embedded in the librarian I am becoming. And, I am always in a state of becoming. My understanding of my personal self, my librarian self, my understanding of my academic partners, my understanding of the disciplines with which I work, and my understanding of our  environment/milieu all reinforce each other as I practice each day. I’m always learning something new thanks to all the short and long journeys that each day brings. No wonder I feel as though I am always in a state of becoming!!

And, this brings me to an interesting question. As a professional practitioner, my focus has been on professional ontology. But, what does this mean for the evolution of my very own professional epistemology? Something new to think about now 🙂 And, it’s probably a particularly useful time to do this thinking as our library is undergoing a major review and who knows what changes await me.


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