Meet Sam Kirk, the Libraries’ New Manager for Curricula Support
May 4, 2020
In March, Sam Kirk joined the Drexel Libraries in the role of Manager for Curricula Support—a newly defined position within the Drexel Libraries. Libraries Communication Manager Stacy Stanislaw sat down with Sam to learn more about her plans for the curricula support program and the challenges of transitioning to a new position at the start of a pandemic.
Q: Tell me about your background and your previous work in libraries.
Prior to joining Drexel University Libraries, I served as the Information Literacy Librarian at University of Penn Libraries, where I was also the liaison to English and Theatre Arts. I worked at Penn for eight years, beginning my time there as an intern while working toward my MLIS at Rutgers. The core of my work has been in academic libraries, though in library school I also volunteered at my local public library in circulation and reference. My cousin is a public librarian and my aunt is a school librarian, so I guess you could say it runs in the family!
Q: This is a new position at the Drexel Libraries. What does it mean to be the Manager for Curricula Support?
To me, Curricula Support is very much tied to design and thoughtful pedagogy. That might look like working with a subject specialist and a faculty member to design an assignment around structural barriers to information, or it might take the shape of designing a set of activities and outcomes around student use of one of our archival collections. It means working with and working for library staff and faculty alike.
Q: You came to Drexel at a very difficult and strange time, with the closing of campus due to COVID-19 and the move to remote teaching and learning. Tell me about your vision for the program before you started and how your plan has changed due to the closing of campus.
Before I started, I had this mental picture of librarians and faculty gathered in a conference room, furiously scribbling our ideas on whiteboards and paper. I was, unknowingly, wedded to the idea of a physical introduction: that I would get to know my colleagues and our frequent faculty collaborators in person, and get right to work, with the creative energy in the room carrying our ideas through from brainstorm to production. That physical presence is not currently an option, of course. The core mission of Curricula Support hasn't changed - a design-focused program to assist faculty and librarians alike - but the way we've grown the program has. I've had to be much more methodical and contemplative, laying the groundwork with preparation rather than starting design projects right away. In many ways, I think having been forced to sit back and plan will eventually lead to a stronger program.
Q: John Wiggins, the Libraries’ Director for Services and Quality Improvement, invited you to join him on Drexel’s Remote Teaching Task Force to develop resources to support faculty and staff. How has being a member of the campus-wide Task Force helped you navigate and understand Drexel?
The people on the Task Force are determined to give students the best opportunity for remote education possible, given the circumstances. They're answering hundreds of IT tickets and staving off Zoomboming, creating peer support opportunities for faculty, and pushing to hear from students about their learning experiences. It has been heartening to see that a group of "on the ground" instructional technologists, instructional designers, librarians, and faculty truly do make an impact on administrative decision-making. It has shown me that to navigate Drexel successfully, you need to get to know and value partners from across the university.
Q: Have you been able to establish any new/interesting partnerships even though everyone is working remotely and the opportunity for “serendipitous moments” isn’t so easy in this remote working environment?
I was so fortunate to be invited to participate in the Teaching and Learning Center's inaugural Drexel Teaching Academy cohort. The faculty in this group are so dedicated to spreading thoughtful pedagogical practices at the university; it always makes for a great conversation, and I can so easily see collaborating with the folks in that group in the future.