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More Research Needed on Librarian Teaching Anxiety
Mrs. Kaetrena Kendrick
Having read this summary of my very first article, I wanted to take an opportunity to clarify what Ms. Schulte could not have known about how I prepared the survey and managed the resulting data from the study. The editing process (space constraints, etc) can be attributed to some of her concerns, and cannot be underestimated with regard to why many articles leave readers with some minor questions.
Schulte's review states: “the discourse in the introductory sections of the article about defining a librarian and how that definition and evolution of instruction relates to teaching is thought provoking by itself, although a bit dated." She is very right. The argument is dated, and so is the research concerning it. The lack of contemporary discussions surrounding librarian image (e.g. "what do librarians do?!") ties right into how those who academic librarians work with (teaching faculty) perceive our instruction roles, and in an article focused on teaching, I found it hard to ignore the short but contentious history of "instruction" in libraries. As for relevance, email threads in discussion lists and numerous practical articles centered on integrating IL (and librarians) into classrooms and campuses and how to teach such courses are numerous. It seems that, regardless of the formation of contemporary IL standards, the nebulous foundation that they evolved from (BI), along with LIS' slow acceptance of including pedagogy in its curriculum, is one of the reasons ACRL's Immersion Program exists today...and surely not knowing how to teach would cause some degree of anxiety.
The slight obsolenscene of research about these issues, along with it's onus on current librarian behavior in the classroom, was exactly why I included it in this study.
Schulte goes on to write: "[elimination of inappropriate survey responses] resulted in a low response rate (approximately 10%) based on the number of subscribers to the electronic mailing list and brings into question whether any of the results are meaningful." In my published paper, I clearly state that because of the low number of usable responses (382) compared with number of academic librarians in the United States (around 25,000 according to data obtained at the time of the study), my article was not meant to reflect generalizations of teaching anxiety within the group. As a nascent writer, I've not heard of any colleague who has ever complained of an overabundant participant sample; however it is always something to strive for when we are seeking answers about experience in the field.
Additionally Schulte highlights that "there was no mention of validating the survey or vetting it against colleagues for clarity" and later states that my study "draws attention to the need for librarians to be cautious and seek mentorship when designing questionnaires of any kind, so that the data gathered from them will be more meaningful." In fact, I validated the survey using statistical software, and throughout the process of creating the survey, diligently sought out the input of many LIS colleagues - including those with PhDs! The assumption is made that requesting such help will always be successful, and after reading this review, I counter with another idea: many librarians are not well-trained in survey design (something that cannot be aided just because a colleague asks for input).
A more fitting suggestion would be that librarians should seek out professional development and educational opportunities in statistics and research methods. That way, our colleagues would be better prepared to create and analyze their own data. I know of many librarians who are loathe to take such courses, or they believe that they are "the only one" who didn't receive proper training when they pursued their degree, and perpetually lean on their colleagues to make sense of data which they never fully understand themselves.
Perhaps with these kinds of critiques, EBLIP will promote the importance of this area of continuing education for LIS professionals. That being said, I find Ms. Schulte's assessment of the broader areas of the article's statistical methodology very helpful, and will take note of those useful comments in my future work.
Beyond Schulte's summary, I continue to be pleased that my work on teaching anxiety in librarianship has been helpful to many practicing librarians, who have told me they see themselves through the experiences that are highlighted in the study.
For the broader part, I'd also like to thank Ms. Schulte for her fair and constructive summary, and am thankful to be able to learn from EBLIP.
If anyone has questions about my study on teaching anxiety, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice