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By econnections on June 19, 2013 1:39 PM | Permalink

A self-confessed enthusiast of live theater, dance, and musical performances, Anne Zald once made a 12-hour, round trip drive just to see a play. Every family has its share of notorious stories that become folklore, and for Zald’s family this experience made the cut. “We saw a great production, which I loved,” she reminisces. “But now every decision to go to an event is accompanied by jokes such as, ‘Well, if it only takes an hour to get there, how good could it be?’”

Anne’s determined spirit is also evident in her service to UNLV students and faculty. She is head of Educational Initiatives at University Libraries. Efforts to embed information literacy across the curriculum are her primary responsibility. One such initiative is her involvement with the Faculty Institutes, which helps professors to design their courses and assignments in ways that implement active learning practices that improve learning outcomes.

While subject librarians are often involved with the design of new general education courses as participants in the Faculty Institutes, Anne gathers information about Libraries’ involvement on a programmatic level, and then works with the subject librarians on strategies to assess instruction in the institute sessions. “It’s our goal to ensure students understand the concepts, skills, and resources that are appropriate for completing their assignments,” she says. “Figuring out how to assess student learning in library instruction sessions—and what impact the Libraries have on student learning overall—is a priority for us in the Libraries; it’s a big part of my responsibilities,” she adds. To further advance this endeavor, Ann organizes professional development opportunities for Libraries staff, such as on-site workshops or by providing access to external training materials that are related to teaching within libraries.

Anne is recognized by her colleagues as someone who reaches beyond the already full range of responsibilities associated with her position. She is involved in numerous programs on campus, such as the Marriage and Family Therapy Department, where as the Libraries’ liaison she collects and manages information resources that support this area of teaching and research. But she does even more. “I usually teach several sections of English 102 and COLA 100E courses every semester,” Anne explains. “I also serve as chair of the Calvert Award for Undergraduate Research Committee.” The Calvert Award, as it’s more widely known at UNLV, recognizes students who demonstrate sophistication and integration of the Libraries’ information resources for a research project. Anne promotes the program, recruits and trains faculty judges, and she manages the application and evaluation process.

It’s evident that Anne is determined to make a difference in students’ educational experience. In 2009 she made the move to UNLV from the University of Washington, where she held several positions in library services. “I came to UNLV because the position was an opportunity to focus my work on the educational role of libraries and librarians. The conversations that were underway here at UNLV following the 50th anniversary strategic planning process and the revision of general education signaled to me that I would be working with people who cared about students, about what and how students learn, and about making a difference in students’ lives through education,” says Anne. “And that has proved to be the case. The UNLV Libraries are making positive contributions to student learning through our educational efforts and our partnerships with faculty and academic support units on campus.”    

In the mid-1990s, when the Internet was just becoming available to the general public, Ann designed and taught a yearlong course on how to integrate information and information technologies into the college student’s first year experience. “For about five years I worked on the UWired project as it evolved and eventually operationalized into existing programs at the university. My enthusiasm for a different approach to the educational role of libraries was seeded during this influential professional experience.

“During that period of my career, I was fascinated and invigorated by the opportunity to work outside the library in partnership with faculty and the many professionals at a university who care deeply about students. That really changed my understanding of what academic libraries are all about and what I could be doing during my workday. Coming to UNLV gave me another opportunity to delve deeply into these issues and partnerships.”

As she reflects on her time at UNLV Libraries Anne says that collaborations with faculty from other units on campus have been rewarding. “The more people I meet and work with, the more I understand the university and the more I can design programs that support students.”

“The fact that I’m always learning is my favorite part of my job, and it really motivates me,” she says. “I’m surrounded by people asking and answering questions—from students needing help with class assignments to graduate students tracking down obscure (at least to me!) resources; to faculty members thinking through the options for an assignment with whom I can brainstorm possibilities. Even something like a colleague trying to connect with students in a new way in the classroom brings new challenges. How can you avoid learning something new in that kind of an environment?”