Interview with the Author: Dr. Ann Medaille on Learning Theory in Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

August 29, 2023

I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ann Medaille about her book The Librarian’s Guide to Learning Theory. My interview with her is below. 

1. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am the Director of Research and Instructional Services at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, where I have worked for over 15 years. I am also Editor-in-Chief for the open access journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. Prior to becoming a librarian, I worked as an editor in scholarly publishing and as a middle and high school teacher of English, speech, and drama. In addition to holding an M.S.L.S., I also have a Ph.D. in education.

2. Why did you decide to write The Librarian’s Guide to Learning Theory?

Over the years, I have seen a lot of interest from librarians in specific learning theories, but sometimes this knowledge has been incomplete. Learning theory is a rather dense subject and it may be difficult to learn more about certain theories if you have limited time. On the one hand, I wanted to provide readers with concise summaries of complex theories and show their relevance to the library and information profession with practical guidance.

At the same time, I wrote this book because I wanted readers to see the bigger picture of how these theories fit together to create a more comprehensive guide to learning as a whole. No one theory can explain all of the ways that learning occurs, and different theories are useful for understanding how learning occurs in different situations.

3. Why do you believe learning theory is important for librarians to know?

All kinds of libraries are important centers of learning. We often think of learning as something that happens when a classroom teacher gives a lesson, but actually, we are learning all the time, in a variety of settings, and in all kinds of ways. Librarians and other information professionals play a big role in supporting and enhancing learning. Understanding a little bit about the psychological and other processes that govern how learning occurs can factor into numerous choices we make when serving our patrons.

4. What are two things you hope all readers take away from reading the book?

First, I would like readers to understand that learning theory is not completely unwieldy and inaccessible. In fact, theories can be intelligible, helpful, and even interesting!

Second, I would like readers to have a clearer understanding of ways they can apply learning theories in their day-to-day practice to enhance learning for people of all ages. Theories are only useful if we can do something with them.

And if I can mention a third take-away, I would say that I’d like readers to know that learning theory is not only useful for instruction or school librarians—all librarians and information professionals are regularly making choices that support better learning, so having a grasp of learning theories can help them too.

5. What learning theories are included in the book?

This book includes descriptions of information processing theory, constructivist theory, socio-cultural theory, social cognitive theory, self-regulation theory, situated learning theory, play theory, and theories of motivation, among others. It also includes discussions of topics such as collaborative learning, multimedia learning, modeling, attention, affect, communities of practice, dialogue, critical thinking, inquiry, creativity, scaffolding, and individual differences in learning.

6. How do you imagine readers using the book?

Readers can approach this book in different ways. They can read all 14 chapters sequentially to get exposure to many different learning theories and understand how they all fit together. Alternatively, they can pick certain chapters to read in order to learn about theories of interest to them. Each chapter contains sections on “Implications for Libraries” and “Teaching Librarian’s Corner,” so readers can choose to focus on these more practical sections if they prefer. Each chapter ends with a few questions to consider so readers can also use this book in professional development contexts or discussions. Finally, readers can use this book as a reference, referring to it whenever they encounter a theory in their own work and want to look up more information about it.

7. The description mentions improving space, services, and technology. How do learning theories affect those parts of libraries?

In so many ways! Learning is highly influenced by the environments in which it occurs, and this includes the set-up of spaces, the actions of people in those spaces, the tools available within those spaces, and the kinds of assistance available to support learning. Librarians and other information professionals have a great deal of influence over how learning occurs through their choices about the design of library spaces, their provision of technologies and materials, and the types of services and activities they make available to learners. This book provides numerous practical examples of ways that learning theory can influence these choices.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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