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ALA bus talk

A funny thing happened on the bus the other day.  I was on my way back to my hotel from the Convention Center. 

I am sitting next to a university librarian from somewhere in Utah.  Somehow the conversation turns to the subject of teaching.  She says to me, "Aren’t we glad we don’t have to teach?" 

(Of course, she notes a dramatic change in my demeanor. Them’s fighting words.)

She says, "Well, of course, if I wanted to teach a course in sociology or something, I could apply to do that." 

I take a breath and say, "It surprises me that you believe you have a choice."

She says, "Well okay.  Exactly what is it that you teach and how exactly do you teach it?"

I say, "Well I work with my teacher colleagues to plan, implement, and assess learning. I teach information and communication strategies as they apply to our curriculum. I teach teachers too."

She is quiet.  I frighten her.

I say (but not out loud) that I just don’t get why, across our divisions, we know so little about each other’s work.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. pollyalida says:

    Amazing that a college librarian doesn’t think she teaches? I worked in a college library for years. A day didn’t go by that I wasn’t teaching. Sometimes in a formal classroom, more often one on one at the reference desk and by appointment with students and faculty. Often I found myself teaching while at lunch or coffee with a faculty member or grad student.

    But unfortunately it was my experience that we had little idea of what our colleagues in school and public libraries did. I can’t believe how much I learned when I left that job and started working with librarians from all across our profession. Amazing diversity, yet shared goals. We have much to learn from each other. We just don’t always know it.

  2. Joyce Valenza says:

    Nice to hear from you, Polly! I was amazed too. Having worked across three divisions I know we don’t always “get” each other. I am also shocked at the differences in CULTURE across the divisions. Though we are both devoted to work with young people, YALSA and AASL meetings, for instance, look so very different.

  3. Floyd Pentlin says:

    Joyce – I have to tell you that I was taken aback by a university adjunct who told everyone at a library meeting the reason she entered library services is because she wanted to get out of the classroom. I can’t imagine what effect that has on her students when she tells that story. It’s not just across the ALA divisions that the perception problem exists.

  4. not so new teacher says:

    I think that sometimes people do not realize that they are teaching. People who do not spend much time in a classroom concerned with what they want students to learn lose sight of the idea that anyone can teach anywhere, and that just becuase they are not in a classroom does not mean that they are not teaching.

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