I have just read the book Humor and Information literacy by Joshua Vossler and Scott Scheidlower. The book is directed at librarian teachers, and contains many good suggestions on how to make your lectures more appealing to students. It is easy to read and have lots of examples and reading it is not a complete waste of time. This little blog post is not about the book, however, it is about what seems to be the fundamental idea behind the book: Information literacy/library instruction/librarians is/are so boring we need to include a handful of jokes.This is exemplified by the following passage: "I cannot imagine that anyone who walks into a library instruction session expects an ideal performance. They are too busy dreading the coming hour of boredom". The authors cite someone else here, so this is not necessarily their viewopint.
I agree with the fact that some library instruction can be dreadfully boring. But so can chemistry, business or art history lectures. But I have yet to meet a lecturer in chemistry who thinks his subject is boring. What have we librarians done to get this reputation, and not least, to think these thoughts about the profession we have voluntarily chosen to work in for a longer or shorter part of our lives?
I don't find my work boring at all. I think I have a truly interesting job which I am very passionate about. I work with the dissemination of knowledge - what could be more exciting than that? When I teach information literacy I teach students how find, use and evaluate information. I try to make them think critically about what they read and write. I try to make them learn more and better. If I actually found these topics boring I should not be allowed to go near a classroom to teach.
My point here is not that I think students find our classes fantastically fascinating. I know they are bored. But they are bored in almost any classroom. I am frequently bored myself when attending lectures, usually because I'm too tired too pay attention. My point is that we as librarians must have another attitude to our job. We apparently need more confidence and more enthusiasm. Without these we shouldn't be teaching. It's as simple as that. An enthusiastic teacher can make anything interesting.
Back to the book: please don't hesitate to bring humour into your teaching, but not because what you're saying is intrinsically boring, but to make your lecture EVEN BETTER.
Vossler, Joshua and Scott Scheilower (2011): Humor and information literacy : practical techniques for library instruction. Santa Barabara: Libraries Unlimited.