Dual (but not Dueling) Roles

This week has prompted me to consider my role in the law school. Librarians occupy different roles in different schools: faculty in some, faculty of the attached university in some, staff in others. Why was I thinking about this? Because I have been teaching as an adjunct for the last two semesters within the law school – and not as an adjunct teaching research. One semester was a legal writing course, but one was a substantive law class with an exam (I still put in some research). Teaching these different subjects has altered my role in the school in various ways – some of them great, some of them less great but interesting nonetheless. Various stakeholders responded in different ways to my teaching as an adjunct, and I learned several things from each part of the school.

Full-time faculty were happy for me. Several congratulated me on the accomplishment of teaching a class. It was an interesting viewpoint. They clearly thought that I was using my librarian position to try to work my way I into a law professor job. Tactfully explaining that being a doctrinal law professor was not my goal gave me a great opportunity to explain my passion for research and excitement about being a librarian.

One of the things that surprised me was the opportunity I had as an adjunct to connect with the other adjunct professors. I was invited to and attended all the adjunct faculty events. I have attended them before as a librarian, and sometimes I’ve had adjuncts take me up on my offer to use library resources. But these past two semesters were much more productive. I felt like the cool kid in class. I knew where things were, and new (and newer) professors came to my office, called me, and emailed me for all manner of things. I answered basic resource questions, helped put together fact patterns, did research, showed how to use databases, and generally had some of the most productive interactions with adjuncts that I’ve ever had.  This also meant I had knew more about the adjunct-taught classes and could help the students in those classes

Which brings me to the students. The interactions with them were interesting. First, as the adjunct who was on campus the most, my time was in demand. My students came to see me frequently. Even full-time faculty were jealous of the amount of class related traffic I had. And, interestingly, I had far more interaction with students than when I teach a research class. Additionally, almost all of my students have come to me for research help.  A couple of them said that they never really came into the library, but now that they knew me, they felt more comfortable.

This leaves the last stakeholder – me. Prepping a new, non-research class gave me renewed appreciation for faculty members and the challenges they face. Teaching a doctrinal class and a writing class allowed me to see where research could be infused into the curriculum, and I have copious notes for proposing cooperative projects next year. Plus, although it occasionally made me more tired than I would like (gosh, I hate grading!), seeing a group of students every week when I was not teaching them research allowed them to ask me questions about research that they might have been hesitant to ask if they thought I was judging or grading them.

Stepping outside of the traditional role, whether it is in an adjunct role, or perhaps in a different staff responsibility or student adviser role, can give librarians valuable information about our students and our libraries. It can be, and was for me, a great opportunity. Has anyone else had a similar or different experience when assuming other roles in your school or organization?

About Shawn Friend

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