The Power of Presence: One-Shots, Relational Teaching, and Instruction Librarianship

Veronica Arellano Douglas, Joanna Gadsby


In Connected Teaching: Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education, Harriet L. Schwartz presents “relationship as a site and source for learning.” It is both where the learning takes place and the mechanism through which we teach and learn, making it the “essential driver of teaching and learning.” Application of relationship and relational thinking to academic librarians’ work as educators has gained traction in recent years, yet the concept of teaching and learning as a relationship remains one that we idealize in librarianship as occurring only through longer-term experiences like teaching credit-bearing courses or becoming embedded in classes for the duration of a semester or quarter. The one-shot—a one-time-only information literacy or research workshop that takes place within the context of faculty-led courses—is seen as a consolation prize: ineffective, exhausting, tacked on, and demoralizing. However, there are one-shot classes or workshops that leave us, as librarians, feeling connected to students and faculty, deeply moved by the learning that has happened in the last hour or two (and in the hours of planning before the class even occurs). Conversely, we may have taught semester-long courses that leave us drained, questioning the purpose of the hours spent in the classroom. So what, then, is the difference? What is the quality that makes some teaching experiences fulfilling and others exhausting for librarians?

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