Interview with Maria Accardi

Maria T. Accardi is Associate Librarian and Coordinator of Instruction and Reference at Indiana University Southeast. She served as a co-editor of and contributor to Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (Library Juice Press, 2010), and is the author of Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction (Library Juice Press, 2013), for which she received the ACRL Women and Gender Studies Section Award for Significant Achievement in Women and Gender Studies Librarianship. Maria’s research and practical interests include critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, the relationships between storytelling and teaching and learning, and combating library instruction burnout. She has taught two classes for Library Juice Academy thus far. They are: Changing Lives, Changing the World: Information Literacy and Critical Pedagogy; and Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction. She is preparing to teach a new course for us, which will be titled, Transforming Your Teaching Toolkit. Maria has agreed to do an interview here about her course and her experience teaching for Library Juice Academy.

Hi Maria, and thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Thanks, Rory, for the opportunity.

I’d like to start by asking you to say just a few words about the courses you’ve taught for us previously and what it was like teaching them.

I’ve previously taught two courses multiple times: Changing Lives, Changing the World: Information Literacy and Critical Pedagogy, and Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction. Both courses were inspired by Library Juice Press book projects I’ve been involved with. I co-edited Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (2010) with Emily Drabinski and Alana Kumbier, and then I wrote Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction, published in 2013. Those texts provided the general structural backbone for each course. Both courses were primarily concerned with the burgeoning critical information literacy/critical library instruction movement in academic librarianship. The Changing Lives course looks at critical pedagogy more broadly, while the feminist pedagogy course looks at approaches to library instruction more specifically through a feminist lens. Teaching these courses with Library Juice Academy has been incredibly rewarding and enriching, not just as a teacher, but as a librarian interacting with peers on topics that matter a lot to me.

Great to hear. Thank you for continuing to teach for us. The new class is different than the others, not being based on a book and being more of a workshop. Could you talk about the new course?

The new course was inspired by an activity that I’ve done in both of my previous courses. This activity involves participants submitting a lesson plan, along with any materials like worksheets or assessment ideas, for a library instruction session taught from a critical or feminist perspective. The lesson plan is discussed and critiqued on the discussion forum and I provide feedback and ideas as well. This activity always seems to go over very well, based on comments I’ve received from previous participants. In addition, I really enjoy this particular activity and I feel like my years of experience in library instruction, both as a teaching librarian and as the coordinator of an instruction program, provides me with an informed perspective on what has the potential to be successful in the classroom. I also think that instruction librarians don’t often have the chance to discuss their teaching materials with their peers in a constructive and supportive way. So, since I seem to have a knack for helping librarians think through their teaching plans and materials, and since people seem to really get a lot out of the experience, why not base a whole workshop-style course on that idea? That’s where I’m coming from with this new course.

I think it is a great idea and will be very useful to people. I think bringing in what you’ve learned from your prior teaching experience with LJA will be very helpful. Would you tell us a bit about how it has been teaching for LJA previously? What are some things that really worked and what are some things that were surprising?

Teaching for Library Juice Academy has been a sincerely delightful experience. LJA participants are interesting, hard-working, and smart people, and I love working with them. I’ve found that facilitating a safe space for productive and critical inquiry and exploration is a challenge that requires constant tweaking and reflection, but it is a genuine pleasure, because the payoffs are so rewarding. I work to create a environment that is supportive and flexible, and it has resulted in immensely enriching online discussion forums that I truly believe advance the knowledge of the participants, and, in turn, the knowledge of the profession in general.

Based on my prior teaching, I’ve learned that it helps to have a transparent structure and organization and a schedule, so that people know what to post on the discussion boards and when, but it also helps to allow a bit of creative ambiguity. In my feminist pedagogy class, I’ve been experimenting with the activities for the final week of the class, and I’ve tried providing options but ultimately leaving things open-ended. I think that open-endedness can feel a little anxiety-producing, but it also has immense potential for interesting things to happen.

I’ve been surprised and moved by how candidly participants engage with the readings and online conversations and activities. I’ve witnessed students allowing themselves to be vulnerable in the midst of a bunch of strangers, which is amazing and a privilege to observe.

That’s great! I am glad it has been such a positive experience for you and the participants. Thanks very much for the interview. Anything else you’d like to say?

I think that about covers it. Thanks for the chance to chat about teaching, and I look forward to interacting with LJA learners this summer!

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