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Food for Thought with Char Booth – “Curriculum Mapping as Strategy and Structure”

October 28, 2013

On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, during the Pennsylvania Library Association conference’s College & Research Division Luncheon, academic librarians in attendance were treated to a presentation by Char Booth, author of – among many other things – Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies at Ohio University (ACRL, 2009) and Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators (ALA Editions, 2011; the 2012 ACRL Ilene Rockman Publication of the Year Award winner).  Booth’s talk was titled “Curriculum Mapping as Strategy and Structure” and addressed the need for mapping the intersection of library instruction across and within departmental courses as a “conceptual investigation” of what is happening at the local level, which will facilitate both streamlining of efforts and consistency in delivery.

Booth noted that while there are numerous broad studies about users’ needs (such as the ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology 2012, Project Information Literacy, The ERIAL Project and its published report College Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know [ALA Editions, 2012], and Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester [ACRL, 2007]), it’s important to also look inside our institutions at the specific needs of our individual campuses so that we don’t make inaccurate assumptions.  One way to accomplish this is the development of curriculum mapping – a visual method of laying out the courses offered within a college, academic department, or program, and how those may cross-list with other programs.  Once courses are mapped out, we can then note which ones involve a library instruction or research component, what information literacies are incorporated into each, and where there are either gaps or duplications.

By identifying and reducing duplicated efforts, we can be more efficient and more course-specific.  Reduced repetition will increase student engagement by making library instruction sessions even more relevant and focused.  Booth asked us to consider, “What can we focus on for THIS class as one part of the program requirements with multiple sessions with librarians throughout?” which eliminates the sense of needing to cover all of information literacy in a single session.

Booth described curriculum mapping as a “knowledge management tool” that can provide both insight and strategy, which can help us think about library instruction in a holistic way that can break us of a tendency toward tunnel vision.

If we use curriculum maps the way that we use geographical maps – to ground us in the landscape and to guide us toward a destination – we can create library experiences that are more deliberate and more relevant.


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