Going the Distance: Library Instruction for Remote Learners

Donna Runner (Monash University Library, Clayton, Australia)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 30 May 2008




Runner, D. (2008), "Going the Distance: Library Instruction for Remote Learners", Library Management, Vol. 29 No. 4/5, pp. 444-445. https://doi.org/10.1108/01435120810869183



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Going the Distance emphasises that remote students have the same need for critical thinking, information evaluation, avoidance of plagiarism and copyright violations, and other information literacy skills as do on‐campus students. By gathering together 26 contributors from the US Off‐Campus Library Services list, Susan Clayton has served the profession by documenting their collective knowledge.

The book has 18 separately authored chapters organised into four major parts: designing, delivering, collaborating, and assessing library instruction for remote learners. Each chapter is clearly titled so that if a librarian is interested in just the topic of “Developing and assessing an online library instruction course” (one of the best chapters in the book), he or she may go directly to those 13 pages.

Going the Distance is well structured as a text, with clear organisation and internal section headings. Each chapter has a list of references for further reading on the specific topic discussed. For example, “Reviewing assessment tools for library instruction” is a nine‐page chapter of which the reference list is one‐third.

Despite the satisfactory format and subject matter, however, this reviewer must confess to disappointment with the content. Librarians are in a very exciting and challenging age of transition! There are hundreds of specific anecdotal examples that could have been provided to engage the reader in the subject matter that Going the Distance attempts to address. However, the excitement of continuous changes in information literacy and communication was not well conveyed. For example, in the discussion of delivering information literacy training at a remote site, the author of the chapter notes such necessary steps as “filling out travel authorization forms”, while failing to engage the reader by conveying the fun and the challenges.

The author of the chapter “Preventing plagiarism and library anxiety” has six short pages to discuss a major societal change. It might have been preferable to remove the discussion of morality, and to focus only on what students need to learn for assignments and scholarly research. Paradoxically, however, the cultural change that has led to 70 per cent of students surveyed in 2005 reporting “some cheating”, is just the sort of exciting challenge that librarians do need to confront! The issues are more complex than the author's comment about “eroding the moral and intellectual development of future generations.”

Other limitations were lack of a clear target audience and the North American bias. The intended audience appeared to be librarians who were experienced in the profession, but were delivering library instruction off‐campus for the first time. However, certain points were mere commonsense to experienced on‐campus library instructors. For an entry‐level student in librarianship, the book would be improved by adding anecdotal examples that could have made the text come to life. A librarian who is experienced in the delivery of library instruction to remote learners will find the text too shallow. Outside the US, the inclusion of phrases such as “our founding fathers” detracts from the reading of the text. Legislation discussed in the chapter on “Understanding copyright and distance education” is of practical application only for North American librarians.

In conclusion, although Going the Distance will contribute to the development of library instruction for remote learners, it will be of greatest value to academic librarians in the US, early in the development of their off‐campus programs.

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