Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching skills

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Emily Wheeler Pamela McKinney


Librarian roles in the education sector increasingly include teaching responsibilities, therefore librarians need to know more about teaching theory and techniques in order to provide high-quality information literacy (IL) teaching. There has been little published research into how librarians conceive of their teaching, their skills and themselves as teachers. This research, initially conducted for a Masters dissertation in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, investigates the variation in conceptions of their own teaching skills among academic librarians who teach IL in higher education (HE). It was investigated whether participants would describe themselves as teachers, whether they are influenced by teaching theories (and which ones), and whether they are actually teaching or training. Firstly the literature on pedagogy for IL, approaches to teaching IL in HE, and librarians as teachers, was reviewed before the research and its findings are discussed.

A phenomenographic approach was used. A purposive sample of six librarians who teach IL in HE institutions in the north of England was chosen, selected to ensure maximum variation between participants and the resulting conceptions. Six interviews were conducted using phenomenographic techniques to encourage participants to talk about their conceptions, and the interviews were then transcribed and analysed.

The data gives rise to four categories of description, each of which describes a conception that librarians hold of themselves and their teaching:: teacher-librarian; learning support; librarian who teaches; and trainer. The variation between categories is determined by interviewees’ conceptions of themselves, their teaching, IL, and other teachers.

The results suggest that further support and training for librarians and library and information science (LIS) students would be beneficial and more in-depth and larger-scale research is recommended to test these conceptions and understand in greater detail the training experience and needs of librarians who teach.
This article is based on a paper presented at LILAC 2015.

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How to Cite
WHEELER, Emily; MCKINNEY, Pamela. Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching skills. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 2, p. 111-128, nov. 2015. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 may 2023. doi:
information literacy, pedagogy, teaching, higher education, phenomenography, conceptions, librarians, UK
Peer reviewed articles from LILAC