Santa Clara University’s commitment to social justice shines through programs that partner students with local community organizations for in-depth service learning opportunities. Service learning is defined as community service connected to a for-credit course, allowing students to put what they learn in the classroom into practice, to engage in problem-solving skills, and to reflect on their experiences.
An important objective of the University Library’s strategic plan is to identify courses and programs with community-based learning components in which the Library can play an active role. In 2016, I edited a book about academic libraries’ connection to service learning titled Service Learning, Information Literacy, and Libraries. I was deeply honored when it was selected as the Association of College & Research Libraries Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Book of the Year. The chair of the award committee stated that “this timely book pushes the field in new directions as it encourages librarians to consider new and innovative methods of teaching information literacy concepts and skills.”
Our library’s commitment to service learning is illustrated by librarian Nicole Branch’s work with the sociology course “Self, Community, and Society.” Students in this course spend two hours each week in a school or after-school program in the surrounding community, providing direct service to local youth.
Nicole teaches three sessions of the class and frames the approach to three major assignments. The assignments provide students with guidance for collecting school and community data; data-informed opportunities for personal reflection; and context for critically analyzing community data. The curriculum is strategically timed to support students in the service process, with the aim of using information literacy and reference sources to encourage students to develop critical thinking skills as part of the service learning experience.
This is just one example of the ways librarians are engaging with service learning at SCU, and preparing new graduates to value critical thinking and community service in their post-college lives.