Member of the Week: Andrea Baer

Andrea BaerAndrea Baer is an instructional services librarian at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, GA. She is also part of the presenter team for ACRL’s new licensed workshop Engaging with the ACRL Framework: A Catalyst for Exploring and Expanding Our Teaching Practices. Andrea first joined ACRL in 2010 and is your ACRL member of the week for June 26, 2017.

1. Describe yourself in three words: Reflective, curious, aspirational.

2. What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? In my professional work I have been reading a lot about discussion-based pedagogies, in particular as they relate to engaging with politically and emotionally charged topics. Some of this work looks at the emotional dimensions of learning, as well as at the challenges and potential limitations of classroom dialogue. Such writing is especially relevant to a credit-bearing information literacy course I teach on news literacy. Some of the works I am finding particularly useful are Megan Boler’s Democratic Dialogue in Education and her Feeling Power and Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy’s The Political Classroom.

For fun I’ve been reading Lydia Davis’s amazing short short stories in Break It Down. I’m also a big fan of podcasts like Invisibilia and Radio Lab, and am addicted to the Netflix show Grace and Frankie.

3. Describe ACRL in three words: Connecting, forward-looking, multi-faceted.

4. What do you value about ACRL? I most value how ACRL helps to connect academic library professionals who work in a wide range of contexts. The conversations and collaborations that ACRL helps make possible help us explore both the possibilities and the realities of our individual and shared professional practices. Because most of my library work focuses on teaching and learning, I especially appreciate that ACRL has served as a catalyst for discussions about our evolving roles as educators and as teaching partners.

5. What do you as an academic librarian contribute to your campus? In 2016 I joined the University of West Georgia (UWG) as an instructional services librarian. My main responsibilities at UWG are teaching a credit-bearing information literacy course; liaising to the English and first year writing programs; developing cross-disciplinary instructional materials; and supporting student learning through a range of initiatives (for example, faculty workshops and most recently a faculty learning community on news literacy).

I think one unique thing that I bring to my work at and beyond UWG is an interdisciplinary perspective that I developed in part through previous graduate teaching and research in comparative literature and cultural studies. That earlier experience, in combination with my continued teaching and research, has had a big influence on how I approach information literacy instruction as contextual and as a process of open inquiry and exploration. Having worked at both research-intensive and teaching-centered institutions, I also strive to bring a sensitivity to local contexts to my work. I see this as vital to approaching information literacy as a shared responsibility of all educators. I believe my various learning and work experiences have also helped me to develop ways of talking about and exploring information literacy’s relevance with educators across disciplines.

6. In your own words: As an instruction librarian, I believe this is an especially important and exciting time for librarians engaged in information literacy education. The complexity and the relevance of information literacy is so apparent in this current moment of political polarization, as every day we encounter conflicting information sources and highly charged public and political discourse. In this climate it is easy to either disengage entirely from what’s happening in the world or to choose just to believe whatever one wants to believe, rather than critically examine evidence and argument and seek out varying perspectives. This moment has presented a very real context for exploring information literacy as something meaningful and inextricable from people’s everyday lives and from our sociopolitical conditions and environments.

Many educators outside librarianship share this concern and seem to be recognizing on a deeper level the importance of information literacy. Such appreciation of information literacy’s complexity and relevance is occurring at the same time that librarians’ instructional work has been shifting toward teaching about broader conceptual understandings like “Research as Inquiry;” engaging with the sociopolitical, historical, and ethical dimensions of information production and use; and approaching information literacy as a shared responsibility of all educators. We are experiencing a lot of change, which can feel at times overwhelming, but which also opens room for a great deal of creativity and possibility for how we support student learning.


Editor’s Note: Are you an ACRL member? Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Contact Mary Jane Petrowski at mpetrowski@ala.org for more information.