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Librarian-Student Connections

January 25, 2023

It can be uncomfortable when pausing for questions during an information literacy session and all you hear are crickets. Every time I hear the silence, I worry that I’m not doing my job well, that the students aren’t learning anything new, and I’m not helping.

But maybe I’m looking in the wrong place for confirmation. Maybe it’s not the questions asked or silence that indicates that they are “getting it.” Maybe it’s more than an outward confirmation and maybe it’s sometimes intangible.

Recently as part of our library’s Information Literacy Committee, we read the article “The Power of Presence: One-Shots, Relational Teaching, and Instruction Librarianship” written by Veronica Arellano Douglas and Joanna Gadsby. In this article, they suggest that it’s not the length of time spent together in a teaching session, but rather “openness to relationship and connection.” As I’ve continued to teach information literacy classes, I’ve thought if they forget everything I’ve told them today, at least they’ll remember that I’m here to help in a variety of ways.

Instruction librarians know how hard it is to cram everything we want to cover in one class. It can be daunting and leave you feeling drained. The authors state that “the quality of our presence in the classroom becomes greater than the duration of the encounter.” This also suggests that it may not always be the tangible question and answer format that indicates students are connecting with the content, but rather students knowing that you can support them; That you’ve showed up and will continue to show up. Not every student interaction will be one of connection, but if we’re open to connection, we can demonstrate our willingness to help, support, and engage with our students.

I enjoyed reading this article and thinking more of genuine connection with students when possible as a success. Even if I can’t find the book or article they are looking for, which in the past has made me feel like it was a failed interaction, I can now reframe it as a success because I demonstrated interest, willingness to help, and effort, all of which can positively impact the student. It’s still a meaningful, positive connection that will “make the students more willing to seek out help in the future and increase their sense of agency.” After reading this article, I realized this was always my goal when helping students. I want them to know and remember I’m in their corner ready and willing to help.


Arellano Douglas, V., & Gadsby, J. (2022). The power of presence: One-shots, relational teaching, and instruction librarianship. College & Research Libraries, 83(5), 807-818.

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