Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC)
My first professional career was that of high school math and science teacher. It was some time ago, and the approach to diverse learning needs then was firmly planted in the realm of differentiation. It was through working as a teacher that I discovered school libraries (and their ability to serve a wide spectrum of student needs), and made a career change to become a library technician and then an academic librarian.
During an NSCC course on Students with Learning Disabilities, my colleagues role-played a mock trades classroom which had adopted a UDL approach, which offered such a reasonable alternative to differentiated instruction that everything clicked into place for me. I also recognized that libraries had incorporated Universal Design elements in their spaces, but not much UDL theory in their services. Then I became curious about how UDL was being approached by librarians as instructional partners in the academy, and whether UDL informed the pedagogical underpinnings of librarians’ work as educators.
Now, as a Learning Commons Assistant at Nova Scotia Community College, Annapolis Valley Campus & Centre of Geographic Sciences, I provide academic supports to post-secondary students and oversee online and accommodated testing services. UDL is crucial to this role and I see first-hand the benefits of a UDL approach for all post-secondary learners. I am now very interested in the growing role of Learning Strategists in post-secondary institutions, and the impact of UDL on this position. We still have a journey ahead of us, but I’m very excited by the promise of UDL in our colleges and universities.
Together with Maggie Lyons-MacFarlane of Mount Saint Vincent University, I’ll be speaking about the “Myth of the Average Library User: A UDL Checklist for Academic Libraries.” UDL seeks to dispel the “mythical average student” (Meyer et al. 2014). As important instructional partners, librarians must equally dispel the myth of the average academic library user. It’s our premise that students come to the Library to learn self-reliance; the library website and its instructional components are a main entrance. How can we design this entrance to reach a wider variety of our learners so that fewer are “justifiably absent” (Titchkosky, 2008)? Even while presenting preliminary results of a UDL checklist for academic libraries, Terri & Maggie will critique this approach: the checklist is dead; long live the checklist.