How much is too much instruction?

***cross-posted from the CACUL Re:Generations blog***


There’s some great conversation lately on the ACRL’s Information Literacy Discussion List ili-l about the number of instruction sessions that should be assigned to librarians before they burn out, stress out, or have their other work suffer. I thought this would make an interesting discussion because 1) there seems to be a difference between instruction loads in universities and colleges and 2) I had no idea how much teaching I’d be doing when I landed this position out of library school.

My job, “Collections and Instruction Librarian”, clearly emphasizes instruction, but collections work, supervising, committees, reference, and other projects are major aspects of my job. I was less excited about the ‘instruction’ part of the job when I applied, but I was up for the challenge. Thankfully, it’s been something I enjoy much more than I expected, which is great considering how much teaching I’ve ended up doing. There are two other teaching staff in my library, and I’m responsible for 50% of instruction.

The academic year (Sept-April) has seen me teach 60+ library instruction sessions. The timing varies, with September-October being the busiest time. I’ve taught 7 sessions in one week, and 4 in one day. Now, there’s obviously a lot of overlap of content (and multiple sessions of the same material), and for the most part I don’t have to prepare sessions from scratch, but there is still necessary prep time to ensure a smooth session.

My sessions range from basic library orientation to in-depth research sessions developed with faculty for upper-year nursing and education students. Covering a range of subject areas (including business, psychology, English) keeps me on my toes, but leads to some anxiety about new sessions. I know a week with 4+ classes means that a lot of other tasks are waiting for me at the end of the week. Regardless of content, the act of standing up and teaching, or being ‘on’ requires energy and patience. It’s hard to stay enthusiastic covering the same content three times in an afternoon.

So, how much is too much? How is instruction assigned at your institution? Did library school prepare you adequately?



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