The Rise of the Learner Experience Librarian

January 11, 2012, 2:51 pm

I’m excited to finally be collaborating with Char Booth. We’ve been seeking a project for several years now and finally found one in the form of an invited paper and co-presentation at CARL 2012.

This is our venture:

Understanding the Learner Experience: Threshold Concepts and Curriculum Mapping
In order to improve library instruction, we need to develop a richer understanding of the holistic learning and teaching experience of our institutions. Threshold concepts are core ideas in a particular area or discipline that, once understood, transform perceptions of that subject. Curriculum mapping is a method of visualizing insight into the courses, requirements, and progressions a learner negotiates as they pass through a particular department or degree. When understood and applied in tandem, these strategies provide a powerful means of developing actionable insight into the learner and faculty perspective, and highlight pivotal points at which to provide library instruction, resources, and research support. This presentation will explore theoretical and applied applications of threshold concepts and curriculum mapping, as well as feature an interactive portion devoted to collaborative mapping of threshold concepts key to teaching and learning in libraries.

This paper/talk is enabling me to reflect on the user experience movement. When I was a UX Librarian it was difficult to explain exactly what I did. Flash forward several years and the UX movement in libraries has predominately become about the online experience rather than THE EXPERIENCE.


Framing our narrative in terms of the Learner Experience helps to swing the conversation back to the big picture—the totality of using the library and beyond—be it on online, on-site, or elsewhere in the community. It’s about the interconnected touch points from which people interact with us.
Here is an example:




When you look at a typical writing assignment there are lots of different components. It’s never as sequential as this, but you get the picture. As librarians we tend to focus on the blue block. THE ACT OF RESEARCHING. Using databases and print materials. Getting the “good” stuff. Info Lit. Scholarly Journals. And so forth. But when you step back and look at the whole process you see that this aspect is just one piece along the path of the assignment.


Multiply this example by several papers and throw in some tests, group projects, a presentation, and various other assignments (video, web, data, etc) and you start to see the scholarly journey across the semester. That’s the learning experience. Once we map this out we begin to unravel new possibilities and can push the library into new directions that support the learning enterprise. This is what I’m excited about these days. How do we improve learning—not just the efficiency of using scholarly materials.


Be Like Xerox

I’m inspired by the story of Xerox which evolved from being about hardware and supplies into services. They saw the decline of their initial model and pivoted into something larger. They looked at the total customer experience and then built or bought services to address the full path (keeping records, collecting money, document sharing, data entry, etc.) They zoned in on the essential processes that companies need to operate rather than just one piece of the enterprise.


That’s pretty much how I feel about libraries.


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