Allen is Senior Librarian, Library Services. He provides in-class (and in-library) library information sessions for a variety of College courses; one-on-one research consultations; and email and in-person reference service. Allen compiles and maintains research guides specific to the College’s departments, programs, and courses; these are posted on the Learning at the Library blog on the Gottesman website.
Allen received a BA and an MA in English literature from Cornell University, and an MS in library Services from Columbia University. He is interested in promoting and supporting research mastery among students and researchers (a few steps beyond “information literacy”), and he finds contributing to library users’ fluency in the use of rich resources very gratifying.
Here is his story:
In graduate school, I gradually realized that the price of being able to immerse myself in literature and writing was that I would be obliged to teach, and though I did ultimately teach a Freshman Humanities course in English and American poetry and fiction for an academic year, and enjoyed it, my discomfort getting into each semester was extreme, and I eventually withdrew from graduate studies, in large part because I’d envisioned a career that involved writing and research, but not classroom teaching--I just didn’t like it or feel comfortable doing it. At the same time, I began working in libraries and soon found my interaction with users at the reference desk to be gratifying and rewarding in ways that my best experiences in the classroom had been. I found that I was able to teach, and learn, on a one-on-one basis with individual library users, and that I was pretty good at it.
After earning my library degree, I came to the library here and as I had elsewhere greatly enjoyed front line reference service and felt it to be the right place for me to be. However, it gradually emerged--I should have seen this coming--that I’d also be obliged to teach, to meet with classes, both in the library and in classrooms elsewhere in the College, to provide instruction in research procedures and optimal library use. As in the past, I found anticipation of these sessions to be unnerving; the dynamics of classroom interaction seemed unnatural to me, I felt self-conscious and ill-equipped for the job, and in general the whole undertaking was to me stressful and burdensome.
As it’s developed over the years (though after slow periods I still dread the approach of the concentrated instructional demands of a new semester), I’ve found that classroom teaching does good things for me, in terms of raising my energy level and focusing my mind, and that I enjoy meeting with classes quite a lot and feel I do a good job at it. So librarianship has turned out to involve teaching responsibilities I wouldn’t necessarily have sought out, but I’m not sorry that it does, and in fact I feel fulfilled by them.