Celebrating one year of SLL

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year since I launched Service Learning Librarian.  I'm celebrating a little early since I know I'll be in the throws of teaching, etc. in a few weeks on the actual anniversary. A passage I read a few nights ago in Paul Rogat Loeb's Soul of a Citizen resonated with me and it made me reflect on the purpose of this blog.  One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to explore the role of information and the librarian in service-learning.  The passage described how information alone doesn't usually cause people to act.  Often, information overwhelms us.  For example, at any given time, one can tune into NPR or the evening news and hear about rising unemployment rates, the floundering housing market and the increase in poverty in the United States.  I suspect that most people have the desire to do something to help, but we are so caught up in our daily doings - working, feeding the family, walking the dog or carting the kids to music lessons - that we think we don't have enough time.  Hearing those statistics isn't enough to make people want to help solve the problem.  We might complain about what the government is or isn't doing to help the situation.  We might think "What could I possibly do that would help?"  What often causes people to act, according to Loeb, is a personal connection.  It isn't until we meet someone who is personally affected by any given issue or until we actually witness an injustice that we feel compelled to act. John Riddle considers the role of information in the service-learning setting in his 2003 article, “Where’s the library in service-learning?”  He suggests that asking students to research a social issue before they attempt to solve it through service will help alleviate their "shock" when they enter the service setting.  I haven’t finished the book yet, but I wonder if Loeb has considered how the combination of being informed and having that personal connection affects service experiences.  Of course, Loeb is talking about volunteerism, and that is decidedly different than service-learning. Both Riddle’s article and Loeb’s book also relate to experience I had last summer when I met with the WSU Director of Service-Learning to plan a workshop for faculty about how the library can support service-learning.  She suggested that research in the service-learning course might help students understand the issues better.  She hypothesized that being informed about social issues before attempting to solve them through service might lead to improved students reflections, and therefore, deepen the ties between the service and the learning.  She noted that often faculty lament that their students' reflection papers are shallow.   Maybe, she said, research will help deepen the students' reflections. Based upon my experiences supporting service-learning at WSU, Riddle's article, and now Loeb's book - I feel stronger than ever that research, or more to the point, information, combined with service will produce more meaningful experiences in the service-learning setting. It won't be easy to measure, and I may never have data to prove it.  But I can't imagine that being informed about the issues could be detrimental to the service-learning experience, either. So, I will continue to explore the connections between information literacy and service-learning on my little blog.  And we’ll see what happens in 2012!

CategoriesCivic Engagement, Library/Librarian Roles