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Celebrating 30 Years of Teaching & Learning at UW–Madison Libraries

April 24, 2019

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries Teaching & Learning Program recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary! Educating students about information literacy has been a major priority for the Libraries since 1988. Decades of strategic work and collaboration across campus have led to UW–Madison students having a wealth of resources to embark on a lifetime of learning.

Prior to 1988, library instruction was a grassroots affair teaching librarians organized informally. Then, in recognition of the increasing importance of instruction, the Director of the General Library System (GLS) created the Office of Library User Education and hired a Campus Coordinator for instruction.

Abbie Loomis, Coordinator of Library User Education/Library & Information Literacy Instruction from 1988 to 2007, recalled that during her hiring interview at Memorial Library she was shown the Reference room and was told “this is where we teach.”

“In those early years, students who came to us for instruction sat on the floor because there was no dedicated space to teach,” notes Loomis. “Today many of our campus Libraries have several spaces to teach the more than 2,000 sessions to over 30,000 learners every year.”

Those statistics give UW–Madison some of the highest participation metrics among ARL libraries.
In 1995, the campus Library & Information Literacy Instruction Program took on a new initiative by implementing the information literacy component of the Undergraduate General Education Communication-A requirement. About 70 percent of incoming first-year students were (and are still today) required to take the course.

In 2014, the program was rebranded as the Teaching & Learning Programs (TLP). As well as supporting students and instructors on campus, instruction staff support the Wisconsin Idea by teaching research skills to healthcare clinicians and lawyers across the state, helping to promote research to students from pre-kindergarten through high school (ask Memorial Library folks about teaching pre-K kids!), and aiding researchers with data information literacy skills.

“This program was built by innovative and committed library staff,” says Sheila Stoeckel, current Director of TLP. “It’s been sustained by quality instructors who are strong campus collaborators, and who have strong reputations as partners in education. This program has iteratively adapted and thrived through cycles of rapid changes over the past three decades.”

Online and blended learning are key changes making an impact today in higher education. The Libraries are evolving in this area by creating micro-courses aimed at graduate students on topics such as copyright and research data management, videos for undergraduates on scholarly reading and academic integrity, and immersive experiences allowing students to actively search through online guided instruction.

“The long-held advocacy of innovative teaching and learning in the Libraries has been critical to the success of our related programs,” says Loomis. “It has also been crucial in stressing the tenets of research and information literacy and lifelong learning: You need to think critically and analyze sources to make good and sound decisions.”

The Libraries’ continued success with instruction is the foundation for several strong partnerships across campus that impact learning in and out of the classroom. From partnerships that resulted in collaboration on the Teaching & Learning Symposium, of which the Libraries were one of two founders, to working with the Center for the First-Year Experience bringing SOAR Advising permanently into College Library, the Libraries are leaders in impactful campus collaboration. It’s a legacy Stoeckel deeply appreciates and is inspired to continue.

“I’m fortunate to work with great educators who have a genuine desire to teach and support research, teaching, and learning,” she says. “I cannot emphasize how often I get to hear about our staff’s impact across campus and in the community. It just reminds us of the difference we can and are all making with our work.”

Here’s to another 30!