Moderator’s note: This post was written by Anne Marie Gruber, Instruction & Liaison Librarian, University of Northern Iowa
Libraries and service learning–a match made in heaven? I think so! Especially when it comes to information literacy instruction, it makes sense for academic librarians to support service learning along with other forms of community engagement in higher education. As we work to demonstrate our value to the academy, contributing to this growing area of emphasis in higher education can make us even more connected to our institutional priorities and ensure key decision-makers understand our services.
While I’ve been an academic librarian for over 10 years, I am new to University of Northern Iowa, a mid-sized comprehensive university that happens to be my alma mater. UNI has strong connections to the community and a long history of service learning, but there has been little library involvement with service learning until now. In my short time there, I have been an ambassador of sorts, talking up the potential for library/service learning collaborations based on my past experience teaching many information literacy sessions for service learning courses. While I know I’m preaching to the choir here, I think it’s important to articulate some specific arguments for library involvement in service learning.
Let’s start with benefits to community partners, since they are sometimes forgotten in service learning conversations. One faculty member I worked with at my previous institution indicated the information literacy session librarians led “ensured students represented the institution exceptionally well to non-profit leaders in the community”. Agency representatives appreciated that our students had “done their homework” by conducting some preliminary research. Our involvement enabled students to engage with community partners at a deeper level and brainstorm creative service learning projects.