Summary: Service Learning Roundtable Discussion at ACRL

Jennifer Nutefall and I co-facilitated a roundtable discussion about service learning and information literacy connections at last week's ACRL Annual conference. These are some of the notes from the discussion. What roles can librarians play in Service Learning?

  • Librarians can help create research assignments to integrate into service learning experiences in existing courses. Both roundtable co-facilitators shared their experiences incorporating research with service-learning projects in composition courses on their campuses.
  • Librarians help faculty members who teach service-learning courses fill in gaps in information provided by the Office of Service Learning on campus – and fill in a better picture of what the community partner does and what the community need is that they fill.
  • Librarians can help students research issues surrounding what the community partner deals with/works toward so they can better understand the community need and the history of the issues.
  • How could libraries be the service recipient? This is certainly an area for exploration. There is an article in which the library was the recipient of student service: Meyer, N. J., & Miller, I. R. (2008). The library as service-learning partner: A win-win collaboration with students and faculty.(4), 399-413. doi:10.1080/10691310802554879

Other questions: How does service learning intersect with experiential learning? We discussed the fact that service learning is different than volunteerism and is different from internships because it is closely tied to the curriculum and mutually benefits both the students and the community partners; whereas volunteerism benefits the community primarily and internships benefit the students primarily, for example. There is an equal emphasis on service and learning in service learning. Don’t students often have the attitude that service learning consititutes “free labor” for the agency, and little benefit for them? Sure, they do – but there are ways instructors can combat that with carefully crafted service learning projects. You can also have a representative from the Office of Service Learning come to your class to explain all of the benefits for students to participate (resume fodder, opportunities for meaningful relationships that can lead to recommendation letters, better understanding of course material, etc.). Students could also read this text to help them better understand service learning and have a more positive attitude: Cress, C. M., Collier, P. J., & Reitenauer, V. L. (2005). Learning through serving: A student guidebook for service-learning across the disciplines. Sterling, Va: Stylus Publishing.