Library Instruction: My Trial by Fire

I originally started this post on March 1 

February and March are proving to be some of the most challenging of my residency thus far mostly because of all the instruction I am/will be doing:

  • 1 Workshop for K-12 Teachers (February 8)
  • 1 Zotero Workshop for Graduate Students (February 14th)
  • 1 (x4) High School Session about Academic Libraries and Research (March 2nd)
  • 1 Library Instruction for Undergraduates (March 18th)

As someone who has done pretty much no formal library instruction, all of these sessions spanning about a month and a half have me feeling really exhausted. I also happen to be writing this post right after completing that second instruction at one of the local high schools so it all feels even more exhausting. To make matters even worse, I have a lot of anxiety and stress surrounding this particular part of my job because I really don’t feel all that qualified to be teaching anyone about anything and I have a lot of self doubt and self-criticism going through my mind at any given time. Knowing that I tend to struggle in this area of my job, I have decided to force myself to do a bunch of instruction in a sort of “trial by fire”. This was strategic on my part because its one of the ways that I manage my anxiety. If I were left up to my own devices, I would never volunteer to teach a class about anything because I just don’t feel confidentcomfortable in front of a large group. I tend to work better in smaller groups or one on one. With all that said, instruction is becoming an increasingly important part of librarians’ job descriptions, so I need to stay competitive. Hence why I have opted for this trial by fire of just throwing myself into a bunch of instruction.

After talking to my therapist, I don’t think that this trial by fire is sustainable long term. When you do exposure therapy, you’re supposed to be exposed to a thing on a very frequent basis. I have weeks between all these different commitments which gives me time to wear off the high of successfully completing an instruction session. This lets that anxiety insidiously creep back in and then the trial seems like it was for nothing!

There is a balance between “it will get easier the more times you do it” and “lets do it 5 times in 2 months and then expect to be good to go in 6 months when other presentations pop up. I need to find a way to cope with this uncomfortable part of my job that doesn’t subject me to putting myself under so much stress.

April 16 update

The world has really changed since I started this post and I will discuss this more in a later post. Let me update you on the status of all my instruction sessions:

  • 1 Workshop for K-12 Teachers  (completed successfully)
  • 1 Zotero Workshop for Graduate Students (I was out sick so missed it)
  • 1 (x4) High School Session about Academic Libraries and Research (I survived!)
  • 1 Library Instruction for Undergraduates (Cancelled due to COVID-19)

The order in which these sessions were scheduled tell you the level of involvement in the session. So for the k-12 teachers, there were 4 of us, and I did a lot of behind the scenes involvement and research (including this awesome LibGuide) and only spent 2 minutes in front of the group at the actual presentation. The last presentation was going to be my first solo instruction planned and executed by me which was cancelled due to our campus closing because of COVID-19. Like I mentioned in the earlier part of this post, this was done on purpose to simulate a sort of trial by fire. Being on the other side of these sessions, I can say that I still agree with my past self that trial by fire is not most effective way to get comfortable with instruction and although I only did 2/4 of my planned instruction sessions, I have learned to not take myself so seriously and try to let go this perfectionism. I have also come to terms with the fact that I just don’t like doing instruction and that is okay. It doesn’t make me any less of a librarian, and it doesn’t make me deficient in any other way either. It is liberating to let go of the expectations that as a librarian, I must love doing instruction and that I have to be perfect at it. I vow to continue to learn and grow in this area but I won’t let the expectations I have for myself paralyze me. During this era of working from home, I am currently meeting with my instruction mentor monthly, and am enrolled in a self paced information literacy courses for faculty. I will probably end up doing the Zotero workshop again in the fall, which is something I’m looking forward to since I missed it the first time around. After having taught high school students all day, I feel like I can take on anything!

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