Content Development and Management
Libraries are not static environments. Rather, they are constantly evolving, “living organisms” that provide different content and experiences to users on a day-to-day basis. The ability to develop and manage content, including negotiating with vendors and licensors, for targeted communities of users, is crucial to working in any type of library.
There is more to the content of a library than just books. Information professionals might assemble books and other materials in a collection. Online-only resources might exist in the form of LibGuides or tutorial videos. A library may host special programs and events for patrons, ranging from book club gatherings to speaker presentations. Each of these items and more involve content development and planning in order to bring them from idea to reality. In other words, information professionals are responsible for connecting people to content. The process by which they do this involves content creation and management.
Like libraries, content is not static. It evolves with use: books in a collection periodically need weeding when they are no longer useful, relevant, or reasonably accessible to their intended audience; new collections require a collection development plan in order to determine what materials they will contain and how a librarian will arrange them; LibGuides and instructional units need updating to stay abreast of technology and resource changes; events and speakers need to have a connection with the current interests of a library’s users. Content management or curation goes hand-in-hand with its development. The term “weeding” when referring to the removal of outdated content is intentional: like gardeners removing weeds and pruning trees, information professionals must manage their content in order to foster room for growth and future innovation.
Part of content management involves negotiating with the vendors and licensors that often act as intermediary distributors of content for the best possible terms to serve a library’s users. These vendors and licensors want users to see and interact with their content; librarians know whether the target audience for a given vendor or licensor’s product exists in their environment.
People develop and manage content outside of library environments all the time. As a former journalism student and current social media marketing manager for a professional organizer, I develop content every time I write something, whether it’s a blog post or a series of infographics. I manage that content when I edit it, distribute it, and update it. However, as an information professional, I want to see the content I develop and manage make a more direct impact on a specific audience. Since I aspire to be an academic librarian, I want to develop content that is useful to university students, staff, faculty, and researchers in the form of LibGuides, instructional units, and archival collections. I hope to curate and manage existing content by paying attention to what academic library users are frequently asking for, and whether they find it among our resources or not. In order to bring users what they need, sometimes I will need to negotiate with vendors and licensors for the terms that suit my organization’s community best. I aim to help people learn and discover content –to connect with it– by participating in the process of content development and management in an academic environment.
Courses and Work Experiences
Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals (LIM 511) is one course among several where I had to develop content for a specific target audience. Throughout this course, I developed original content for use in an instructional unit aimed at professors and other teaching staff at a suburban public research university. The instructional unit involved several parts, including a video tutorial, infographics on my chosen topic modeling several learning theories, a needs assessment and environmental scan of my target audience, an instructional unit design plan, and finally, an assessment plan for the instructional unit.
Be The Librarian #5: Instructional Unit Assessment Plan
Artifact course context and relationship to program goal. The assessment plan served as one of five different parts of the overall instructional unit. As the last part of the instructional unit submitted prior to my final presentation, the assessment plan built upon all the other content I developed for the unit up to that point. For that reason, in order to relate the program goal to this instructional unit assessment plan, I must first detail what led to its creation.
The first part of the instructional unit was an example video tutorial that instructors could use with first-year undergraduate students in courses of any discipline to emphasize the role and importance of citation rules, tools, and research management.
The second part included three infographics created using the learning theories of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Humanism to demonstrate to instructors how and why they could cover the topic within their own curriculum.
The third part of the unit reveals the results of the needs assessment and environmental scan in the form of a presentation targeted toward library management. It would be with the understanding of those library managers that I could proceed with using my instructional unit to assist campus instructors with teaching citation rules, tools, and research management in their own courses. Again, knowing the target audience of my presentation helped me develop the content necessary to “sell” the need for my instructional unit as part of the programs and services the academic library offers. Furthermore, the presentation offers me the hypothetical possibility of negotiating with library management to achieve mutual goals: management wants to see library resources and services utilized in a cost-effective manner, and I want to introduce a new program that will make use of those resources. Once approved, the instructional unit would also warrant negotiation with its target audience of instructors, since many of them might not see the need for such a course within their curriculum, or would not want to be part of an interdisciplinary instructional unit, finding it too broad or generalized for their purposes.
The fourth part of the instructional unit is the design plan itself, incorporating the infographics from the second part, and the results of the needs assessment and environmental scan of the third part. It also details the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), which play heavily into the assessment plan: the instructors themselves are students in the context of the unit, and the goal is to help them help their students. At the conclusion of the instructional unit, the students (themselves teachers) should be able to demonstrate the general theories of citation instruction across disciplines, as well as encourage creative, original thinking. They do this through the development of their own lesson plans, providing feedback on the plans of their fellow instructors, and participating in interdisciplinary group assignments where they create assignments for first-year undergraduates. One remaining SLO is that fewer undergraduate students will need to ask instructors citation-related questions, or will make citation mistakes on their submitted work. The final SLO is the prevention of disciplinary action against undergraduate students due to citation issues. These outcomes are not observable within the context of the instructional unit classroom (by the teaching librarian) but instead, serve as long-term learning outcomes for the instructors themselves.
Again, each of the instructional unit components up to this point were created with instructors of first-year undergraduates in mind, not the university students themselves. The instructional unit assessment plan itself details how instructors will be evaluated using the activities mentioned in the earlier components of the unit, such as the infographics. These activities or assignments include examples of what sorts of non-book/website/journal article materials instructors might want their students to cite for in-class assignments, but that students could find difficult to cite; a list of a minimum number of citations of varying types to encourage their students to think critically about their information sources; and sample papers with reference sheets including intentional errors that students need to be able to spot and understand, in order to avoid those same mistakes in their own work. Because I designed the instructional unit with flexibility in mind, the rubric does not assume that the teaching librarian will select specific activities for the university instructors to do. Instead, the rubric is based on the work done by participants over the course of three activities, regardless of which three they are, or in what order they are done. The teaching librarian would examine the lesson plans, participation, and feedback of unit participants as part of their ability to demonstrate the general theories of citation instruction by using creative, original thinking and encourage the same in others.
Ultimately, it is the teaching librarians who develop content for the instructional unit specific to their group of suburban research university instructors. The librarian must be responsible for managing that content for each session and adapting it as needed, based on the demonstrated needs of their target audience, the concerns of library management, and the results of prior units and activity assessments.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. The Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals course made me solely responsible for selecting a topic to develop an instructional unit for, writing an instructional unit design plan, creating original infographics and activities to use in the unit, and provide an assessment plan for use in evaluating the unit participants.
Throughout the process of developing an instructional unit, I kept both my target audience of suburban university instructors and my goal of creating a flexible instructional unit in mind. The assessment plan portion of the instructional unit demonstrated the unit’s overall efficacy by not only suggesting a variety of different activities for teaching librarians to incorporate and examine the results of, but also using both SLOs and a rubric to guide participant performance. The SLOs looked at the instructors as long-term members of the academic teaching community and included long-term outcomes alongside the short-term ones to reflect that. The assessment plan, in particular, necessitated that I transparently connect the SLOs to the rubric so that participants could easily understand why they should integrate citation instruction into their own curriculum, rather than relying on the library to teach it in a generalized, one-off course.
Furthermore, not only did I integrate various learning theories into the activities instructors could use in their classrooms, but they played a crucial part in how I developed the content of the instructional unit. As an example, the instructional unit assumes a minimum of three activities that participants would do, with the opportunity for the teaching librarian to start with simple activities and progress to more challenging ones, a method eschewed in the learning theory of Cognitivism. For my final presentation in the course, I had to integrate all of the Be The Librarian assignment components into a cohesive explanation of the unit, its target audience, why a librarian would want to teach it, and how they could do so effectively. This presentation afforded me the opportunity to clarify portions of the assignment that may have been lacking when I submitted individual parts, such as the connection between the SLOs and the rubric in the assessment plan.
Skills and abilities. For any assignment submitted throughout the MLIS program, I utilized various technology skills, since the program exists entirely online. Using WebJunction’s Competency Index for the Library Field (Gutsche & Hough, 2014), these technology skills can be broadly classified as Core Technology Competencies, and include E-Mail, Hardware, Internet, Operating Systems, Software Applications, and Web Technologies for accessing course materials online, creating and editing shared documents, and compositing multiple videos together for submission.
For the creation of this particular artifact, I used General Programming skills to develop an instructional unit meant to be used for an ongoing program offered in an academic library by a teaching librarian. Additionally, I used Learning and Innovation skills to not only increase my comprehension of learning theories but to integrate them into an instructional unit geared toward other instructors, so that they could apply them with their own first-year undergraduate students. Since such an instructional unit could draw a diverse crowd of participants, the unit had to build in a level of flexibility, to allow the teaching librarian the opportunity to adapt the unit to his or her audience, solve problems alongside the participants, and address the myriad perspectives inherent in an interdisciplinary group.
I also utilized Leadership and Project Management skills in the development of the instructional unit and its assessment plan. By assuming the role of an instructional librarian that would be putting the unit to use, I created a unit that would allow me to inspire instructors from across several disciplines to collaborate and develop content that would accomplish mutual goals. This empowers instructors not to follow a standardized formula in developing their curriculum, but to take ownership of the ideas they generate during the unit and apply them to their specific needs. The instructional librarian would ideally align the library’s mission to foster information literacy and provide access to resources necessary for university members to conduct their research with the focused goals of each instructor for their freshman-level courses. In employing “project management principles and procedures in the planning and implementation of programs and services” (Gutsche & Hough, 2014, p. 11), the assessment plan covers all of the components that went into the instructional unit, leaving no portion left unavailable for eventual evaluation. The plan details SLOs for both the instructors-as-students and for the first-year undergraduates that are the participants’ students. It also includes clear expectations for unit participants in the form of a simplified rubric, one that can be easily adapted to reflect the instructional librarian’s chosen activities for the unit.
Future Work Environments
Since I want to work in an academic library, the ability to develop content for targeted communities of users is crucial: such libraries serve a targeted audience of academics to begin with, but there are several “niche” audiences within that: students, staff, faculty, or visiting researchers; specific majors, and so forth. In developing content such as LibGuides, collections, or instructional units, I connect them to the content they need to achieve their goals.
Furthermore, content creation and content curation (management) also go hand-in-hand, by making sure resources are accessible, useful, and relevant. Nothing in this world is truly static; libraries are constantly evolving with changing content, from books to databases, collections to programs.
Content development and management may take many forms at an academic library or other future work environment. These forms may include developing LibGuides, writing collection development plans, performing environmental scans and other assessments, writing grant proposals, or designing instructional units just like this one.
Gutsche, B. & Hough, B. (Eds.) (2014). Competency index for the library field 2014 (2nd ed.). Dublin, OH: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Competency_Index_for_the_Library_Field.html