Connecting with Faculty and Students by Taking Courses: The Role of Humility in Building Relationships

By Garrett Trott
University Librarian
Corban University


Faculty are often known for their depth of knowledge in a particular domain. From this depth, faculty teach, introducing students to various disciplines. While it is not uncommon for librarians to have advanced degrees in specific fields along with a master’s degree in library science (or a related field), they often offer services such as information literacy instruction and reference inquiries for disciplines where they may not know much more about the topic than students. Unfortunately, a librarian’s lack of disciplinary mastery may be challenging when collaborating with faculty, individuals with expertise. Additionally, departmental silos, often made up of individuals who have mastered a specific discipline and the subsequent disciplinary jargon, are typical in many academic contexts and can easily intimidate any individual lacking expertise.1 While interdisciplinary work has striven to bridge departmental silos, the knowledge needed to work in almost any discipline can be provoking and challenge many interdisciplinary components of academia.

It is common for librarians to serve faculty and students in various domains, which are often beyond a librarian’s area of expertise. Subsequently, contrary to many teaching faculty, librarianship demands generalists.2 Even subject-specialist librarians, who are familiar with a specific domain, often have generalist tendencies as they must be familiar with the various subdomains that comprise the disciplines with which they work. The nature of librarianship often demands that their field of knowledge be broad, implying a lack of the disciplinary depth common among faculty. This differentiation of the knowledge base for teaching faculty and librarians often complicates collaboration.

Is there a way that librarians can utilize their generalist tendencies and academic silos to build bridges for collaboration? As classrooms are contexts for learning, which often have strong relational dynamics, a librarian’s immersion as a student in a traditional face-to-face course may be an ideal context through which librarians can develop collaborations and genuine partnerships.

A librarian stepping into the role of a student may sound peculiar, and it can foster challenges. For example, it may seem out of place when a librarian (often a colleague and a peer to the instructor) sits in a course as a student with younger individuals as fellow learners. In contexts where librarians continually strive for equity with faculty, would not fostering humility by taking the role of a student be counterproductive? While time constraints may make it difficult or impossible to enroll in a course that would require several hours a week, there are notable benefits to librarians and their library organizations worth considering. Such a posture in this context displays a humble passion for learning about a topic and often opens doors for collaboration.

Some may see humility as a weakness and counterproductive in generating collaborations.3 However, this essay will argue that humility is not a weakness but a vital tool for setting up contexts for partnerships and collaborations. Many learning contexts are social engagements, and relationships and connections are often a byproduct of the classroom and foundational for collaboration. A librarian’s display of humility in their willingness to engage in a social and educational endeavor by sitting under a teacher develops connections, builds bridges, and creates contexts where collaborations and partnerships flourish.

This essay will examine my experiences of taking a course in Classical Hebrew. While I learned Classical Hebrew through this course, and collaboration was not at the forefront of my intentions, collaboration opportunities were abundant. After seeing and using these opportunities to foster collaboration, I saw incredible value in course participation as a librarian that went beyond my interest in learning Classical Hebrew. This essay will integrate my collaboration experiences with the literature, supplying insight into how a librarian’s involvement in a course can foster collaboration.


My original intention in taking a course from a colleague on Classical Hebrew had nothing to do with collaboration. I had taken Classical Hebrew many years prior in a graduate program but stopped reading works written in Classical Hebrew (which is critical to maintaining the language). Subsequently, my knowledge of the grammar, vocabulary, and syntax of Classical Hebrew vanished. I desired to re-learn the language for many reasons, but collaboration was not one of them.

Learning any new language can be challenging, and learning Classical Hebrew amplifies those challenges. Language learning often begins with understanding the alphabet and vocabulary. The differing alphabets in many foreign languages, and their similarity (or lack thereof) to the English alphabet, can make initial challenges vary dramatically for different languages. For example, although English is considered a Germanic language, a significant portion of English vocabulary has Greek or Latin roots. Subsequently, the first steps of learning Greek are often bearable due to its similar alphabet and familiarity with many Greek vocabulary roots. For example, the Greek word “phobos” means fear, which serves as a root for the English word phobia, which also means fear. Unfortunately, Classical Hebrew is a Semitic language. The differing language family makes its alphabet and vocabulary have few similarities to English. This, and the reading sequence of Classical Hebrew (from right to left, the opposite of English), amplify the difficulties in the initial steps of learning this language.

After the third week of this course, the excitement of learning a new language wore thin. Many, including myself, began acknowledging the incredible challenges of learning a language lacking semantic similarities. The oddity of switching roles from a librarian with faculty status (who also taught many of these students in different courses) to a struggling student intensified the challenge: Could I show my frustration with learning the complicated vowel system? When called upon to parse a verb, could I admit that I did not have the slightest idea where to begin? Particularly in front of a colleague (who happened to be younger than me) and students?

The anomaly was further amplified because I taught a three-credit research and writing course, which some students who enrolled in Classical Hebrew also took. To some students, I was an instructor in one context, a fellow student in another, and a librarian in another. Would transparency regarding my challenges in one context (learning Classical Hebrew) be seen as equivalent to an inability to teach in another (conducting a three-credit research and writing course)? Thankfully, this concern had absolutely no warrant. In fact, my display of humility, ironically, built excellent bridges with all students, particularly those in my three-credit research and writing course, and embracing this oddity expounded opportunities for collaboration.

While my intention in taking Classical Hebrew was not to develop pathways for collaboration, opportunities came to my door, literally. In the fourth week of class, a student from Classical Hebrew nonchalantly came into my office, even though the door to my office was partially shut, and started talking. They had not made an appointment, but I was just in the middle of an email, so I stopped typing and welcomed them in. We began the dialog by lamenting the shared trials of learning Classical Hebrew. Even with my earlier learning of Classical Hebrew, the foundations were not coming back as quickly as I had hoped, so I could honestly empathize with this student as they grieved over the awkwardness of the Hebrew alphabet.

After this brief lament, the student segued into a challenge they were having in another course and asked if I could help. I happily worked with this student, and we found what they needed. The dialog and reference interview was the beginning of an unexpected fruition of my struggles with Classical Hebrew. The student’s comfort level was to the point that they even walked in (without an appointment and without even knocking, even though my door was partially closed) and began asking questions directly regarding their needs in a separate course. My prior years as a librarian made me acknowledge that this was not the norm.

This interruption was only the first. Other students from Classical Hebrew began inquiring about various topics (even before and after the 50-minute course session). The repetition of students from this course asking similar straightforward inquiries in numerous contexts made me wonder: Did humility, displayed by my ability to overcome the awkwardness which I felt by becoming a fellow student, play a role in overcoming the awkwardness a student may feel about inquiring with me as a librarian? If my display of humility by becoming a student appeared to build bridges, I wondered if taking courses played a crucial role in collaboration and asked myself: “Is humility fundamental for empowering collaboration?”

Classical Hebrew is a two-part course: the second section is offered in the spring semester and builds from the first. After seeing the potential for collaboration from the fall semester, I enrolled in the second section. As I participated in that course, I considered how I might use my involvement with this course to show humility and develop further collaboration with the faculty member and the students.

The critical role of humility

As noted, humility was a key component fueling my participation in Classical Hebrew. Humility enabled me to embrace the awkwardness of being a librarian and experience a traditional undergraduate course as both a student and a librarian. While some librarians may be fresh out of graduate school and have recent familiarity with a college classroom, others, including me, have been out of a college classroom for decades. Sitting next to an 18-year-old kid wrapped up in a mobile device (during the whole course hour) often amplified that oddity. The strangeness often intensifies when the instructor is a colleague and a similar age (or perhaps even younger). Learning endeavors require various degrees of humility. For example, in some contexts, such as classroom involvement, admitting that I am lost when the instructor calls on me to identify a Hebrew consonant takes more humility than simply sitting in a class listening to a lecture (with students who are much younger). While it felt awkward to admit that I could not recall a fundamental component of Classical Hebrew, I needed to remember that I was not alone in these challenges. In fact, admitting my challenges and the discomfort it brought about opened gateways for collaboration. This essay argues that a librarian can remedy the awkwardness of stepping into a traditional undergraduate course when embracing humility, which is integral to both learning and fostering strong collaborations.

What is humility? Humility has several nuances and a variety of distinctions. For example, Weidman, Cheng, and Tracy show two diverse sides of humility: one related to an appreciation for the self and others and one related to self-abasement. However, they argue that much of the work which defines humility assumes it is a positive, socially desirable construct.4 Acknowledging its ambiguity is critical and makes clarity of its definition essential. While this essay does not intend to ignore that humility may have negative tones, it will agree with the literature, which argues that it tends to have a constructive and productive nature.5

Tangney’s work is foundational in any discussion of humility.6 In their article, Tangney provides an overview of humility from various theoretical perspectives. Tangney argues that the literature offers a multifaceted description of humility beyond a typical and degrading definition emphasizing unworthiness and low self-regard.7 Tangney notes four critical components of humility in the literature: an accurate assessment of one’s abilities and achievements; an ability to acknowledge one’s mistakes, imperfections, gaps in knowledge, and limitations; a relatively low self-focus; and an appreciation of the value of all things and the many different ways that people and things contribute to our world.8

Peterson and Seligman’s essay also provides insight into how humility is defined.9 The title of their essay, “Humility and Modesty,” implies the author’s view of their semantic similarity. While Peterson and Seligman are not alone in seeing this similarity, some disagree. For example, Weidman, Cheng, and Tracy’s study confirmed this resemblance, but they saw many other words that they felt had more substantial similarities (e.g., kind, generous, helpful, etc.).10 Peterson and Seligman argue that modesty is a social expression of humility; it is a “style of presentation that can be consistent with an inner sense of humility but can also arise for other reasons, such as situational pressures and demands.”11 Peterson and Seligman argue that humility is a “nondefensive willingness to see the self accurately, including both strengths and limitations.”12 While this can lead to modesty, Peterson and Seligman acknowledge the challenges of accurate self-perception and suggest that other components, such as an eagerness to know oneself honestly, are crucial to humility development. While in general alignment with Tangney’s definition,13 Peterson and Seligman note a distinction: Tangney notes that humility leads to a low self-focus, while Peterson and Seligman argue that this may not always be the case. Genuine humility, they claim, leads individuals to see themselves positively.14

Is humility a trait or a state? Do different circumstances drive humility? Or is humility part of an individual’s character that shows up regardless of circumstances? These are classical questions when aiming to define humility, and the debate between these two is extensive. Chancellor and Lyubomirsky provide an intriguing overview of this discussion in their article: “Humble Beginnings: Current Trends, State Perspectives, and Hallmarks of Humility.”15 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky argue that humility should be seen as a “state” without disregarding the value that discussion of it as a “trait” has developed.16

Chancellor and Lyubomirsky close their article by providing five intriguing hallmarks of identity that showcase humility:

  • Secure, accepting identity.
  • Freedom from distortion.
  • Openness to new information.
  • Other-focus.
  • Egalitarian beliefs.

Their first hallmark is having “a calm, accepting self-concept that is not hypersensitive to ego threats.”17 Second, for humility to develop and flourish, Chancellor and Lyubomirsky argue, individuals must have a self-concept free from distortion: they must truly know themselves. Clarity in this area is critical for humility. In an era with abundant critique and various feedback methods, freedom from distortion enables individuals to determine truth components from various critical contexts. Humility drives the application of critique, even when the criticism is less than favorable and laced with subjectivity. The third hallmark of humility states that an eagerness to learn displays humility; a person showing humility will seek the truth even when it may be embarrassing or unflattering. The fourth hallmark states that humility drives individuals to focus on others. When conflicts arise, an individual displaying humility aims to understand other perspectives and the potential which conflict fosters in a larger organizational scheme. 18 The final hallmark of identity is egalitarian beliefs: “seeing others as having the same intrinsic value and importance as oneself.”19

Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s hallmarks of humility provide a notable elaboration on key components of humility and provide an insightful definition that applies to many domains. Subsequently, this essay will use their hallmarks to show the value of humility in collaborative work.

Humility and Collaboration

Does humility play a role in developing a collaborative context? In their work, Mattessich and Johnson point out key components that drive successful collaboration.20 They argue that good collaboration is a “mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship … which includes a commitment to mutual relationships and goals … mutual authority and accountability for success, and sharing of resources and rewards.”21 In this meta-analysis, Mattessich and Johnson lay out twenty-two success factors that make collaboration work. They break down these factors into six categories: environment, membership characteristics, process and structure, communication, purpose, and resources.22 If humility is critical for collaboration, the question looms: does humility, specifically Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s five hallmarks of humility, intertwine with Mattessich and Johnson’s insights into collaboration?

Chancellor and Lyubomirsky state that “openness to new information” is critical to humility.23 Humility often displays an eagerness to learn and teachability. A humble person seeks growth and development in these learning contexts because being open to new information often leads to admitting past errors and often spurs lifestyle changes.24 In their work, Mattessich and Johnson argue that mutual respect, understanding, and trust are key factors creating a context where collaboration can flourish.25 Displaying humility by being open to new information is often the fruition of respect, understanding, and trust. Such openness fosters collaboration.26 While the components of humility and collaboration are distinct, they clearly intertwine.

The intertwining continues with Mattessich and Johnson’s note that excellent communication fosters collaboration.27 Humility also plays a central role in developing good communication by promoting transparency, an eagerness to listen, and openness.28 Good communication intertwined with humility fosters excellent collaboration.29

A second component of Chancellor and Lyubomisky’s definition of humility is being other-focused. Mattessich and Johnson note that a favorable and political social climate is critical in collaboration.30 Many library leaders are familiar with “the middle,” a context that focuses on others and intertwines with humility. Being in “the middle,” library leaders often represent different perspectives to distinctive entities. Library leadership is often called upon to present the needs of the library to the University, while at the same time aligning them with a firm understanding of the mission and purpose of the University. This dual representation makes librarians familiar with “the middle.” Humility can play a critical role in establishing collaborative contexts in the middle because a simultaneous focus on the needs of both the University and the library builds connections.31 However, being other-focused creates incredible tension: balancing the needs of students, the library, the department one oversees, and library employees while simultaneously focusing on the needs of other departments and the university. Humility, displayed by being other-focused, enables one to embrace this tension. A dual, other-centered focus, driven by humility, can allow the library director to cultivate a favorable social climate amid their numerous, and at times, conflicting, contexts, a key component for excellent collaboration.32

Being in “the middle” intertwines nicely with collaboration: it provides a unique context for collaboration and compromise, and compromise is critical in any collaborative effort.33 However, wisdom must accompany compromise. Mattessich and Johnson note that compromise which builds collaboration must distinguish between when to strive for accommodation, developing common ground, and when their values demand them to stand firm.34 One must remember that in the context of academic librarianship, being other-focused entails focusing upon the needs of the students, faculty, and staff, and the essentials of library employees and understanding what it takes from the library to truly meet those needs. When it best serves all constituents, having an “in the middle” understanding of compromise, intertwined with humility, enables collaboration to flourish.35

Mattessich and Johnson note the critical role of constructive communication in collaboration. Humility drives understanding and empathy for those who may have various perspectives. Subsequently, humility can foster constructive communication, which is vital for generating an other-focused climate and critical for collaboration.36 Mattessich and Johnson note that constructive communication, intertwined with humility, can empower a group to promote transparency, convey all necessary information to one another, and create a context where collaboration can flourish.37

Chancellor and Lyubomirsky note three other hallmarks of humility: a secure and accepting identity, freedom from distortion, and egalitarian beliefs. While the collaboration literature does not explicitly spell these characteristics out, Mattessich and Johnson note that skilled leadership is critical for a successful collaboration,38 and the leadership literature consistently intertwines these three facets of humility with excellent leadership.

Humility involves a self-concept that is not hypersensitive to ego threats and, at the same time, a complete understanding of one’s weaknesses. This humility is also critical for exceptional leadership.39 Secondly, a good leader must foster humility by having a self-perception free from distortion and dismantling their false selves in order to build a strong leader.40 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky state that egalitarian beliefs are critical for fostering humility. In his work, Peter Drucker also agrees that egalitarian views are necessary, but not for humility; they are critical for excellent leadership. Drucker notes that good leadership does not start with the assumption that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Good leadership begins with a commitment, driven by an egalitarian foundation, to discover why people disagree.41

In his article discussing leadership, W. J. Walls notes the critical connection between humility and collaboration when he states:

Effective collaboration requires an attitude embodied by Robert Greenleaf’s test of servant-leadership: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what is the effect of the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or at least not be further deprived?” It is enhanced by empathetic, caring individuals who feel free to “think big thoughts” and are committed to the collaboration’s purpose as well as to the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of all who are touched by the collaboration.42

Chancellor and Lyubomisky’s hallmarks for humility clearly intertwine with Mattesich and Johnson’s components which foster excellent collaboration. From this connection, humility can play a critical role in collaboration.

Humility applied

My context of taking Classical Hebrew allowed me to display the five hallmarks of humility and supplied an excellent foundation for building collaboration. Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s first hallmark of humility is a secure and accepting identity. In my context of taking this course, it was critical to have security in my ability to learn Classical Hebrew and my role as a librarian. While it is difficult to precisely define the circumstances which led to developing this secure and accepting dual identity, two components have been critical. First, I had taken languages prior, so I knew the challenges unique to learning Classical Hebrew (or other Semitic languages). Secondly, I was well aware that challenges are complex and stressful but often lead to growth and development. From various contexts, I learned that learning is not always nice and neat. While I took Classical Hebrew to learn the language, I understood that I might learn something about myself, others, my professional responsibilities, or any one of numerous areas. I understood and embraced the idea that learning Classical Hebrew had the potential to open doors, even though I was not aware of what doors it could open. Learning to embrace all the challenges of learning Classical Hebrew played a critical role in enabling me to learn as a student and build bridges while so doing, while at the same time struggling alongside other students with Hebrew vocabulary and grammar.

Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s second hallmark of humility is freedom from distortion. One can apply this freedom from distortion to numerous contexts, but in this context, I had one single focus: I wanted to learn Classical Hebrew. My interest in learning drove my involvement with this course. It was clear after the third week of the course, when the option to withdraw from the course without penalty had passed that all students in this course shared that interest. Our shared struggles, challenges, and passion for learning Classical Hebrew built relational bridges. These relational bridges empowered our learning endeavors. While critical for learning Classical Hebrew, these relational bridges also served as a gateway to developing various roots for collaboration.

Learning Classical Hebrew involves openness to new information, Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s third foundation for humility. Being open to new information from the instructor and reading the textbook are obvious applications and critical for any learning endeavor. Not dismissing my role as a librarian while involved with these courses, developing contexts where collaboration can flourish, goes further than being open to new information by reading the textbook. An openness that fostered collaboration took full involvement with the course, which means learning with and from other students. In Classical Hebrew, the instructor’s teaching involved various pedagogical methods, including small group learning and class participation. To fully apply the third foundation for humility, I had to be involved in small group and course dialog, which involved admitting my inability to parse a Hebrew verb, sharing with other students what I am learning, and full participation in the course as a student. This openness was critical to developing collaboration.

While there are many opportunities where learning can take place in social isolation, community often is critical for cultivating transformational learning.43 A traditional classroom is not the only venue where a community can learn, but it fosters collaboration. To participate in this, one must follow Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s fourth foundation for humility: be others-focused. Learning as a community involves increased awareness of and appreciation for others and their contribution to the learning process.44

Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s fifth humility hallmark is egalitarian beliefs: “seeing others as having the same intrinsic value and importance as oneself.”45 An egalitarian perspective was critical to my involvement with Classical Hebrew. First, I had to see the tremendous value students brought to the classroom experience, including my own learning experience. This acknowledgment forced me to eliminate any social barriers between me (as faculty and librarian), them (as students), and the instructor. Second, I had to rethink the traditional instructional hierarchy. In many instructional contexts, the instructor is the exclusive agent from whom an individual can learn. While the idea of the instructor as a content master still bears relevancy in many learning contexts (including Classical Hebrew), the instructor’s structure of the course empowered him to simultaneously be a sage on the stage while also being a guide on the side, guiding participants through an educational endeavor. It was an incredible hybrid, and my embrace of that hybrid, fueled by Chancellor and Lyubomirsky’s fifth humility hallmark, egalitarian beliefs, made it an astonishing learning endeavor.

The instructor’s humility fostered this hybrid, a balance between the content, which demanded expertise and the subsequent hierarchy that expertise brings, and the instructor’s temperament of humility. The instructor displayed humility by fostering relational congruence, empowering the hybrid to flourish. Relational congruence, an ability to be authentic or genuine, is vital for collaboration through classroom participation. While collaboration can occur in contexts lacking congruence, it often cannot be fully developed. In Learner-Centered Pedagogy, Klipfel and Cook argue that an instructor’s humility plays a critical role in fostering relational congruence in the classroom.46 Subsequently, humility from both the librarian and the instructor is key for successful collaboration. The context of Classical Hebrew enabled seeds to be planted for future collaboration because the instructor joined me in embracing humility.


This essay defined humility and argued that humility is critical for collaboration, showing that humility was vital to developing connections in a course on Classical Hebrew and fostered successful collaboration. This section will discuss how collaboration was nurtured and developed through my participation in Classical Hebrew.

Writing is crucial in many academic and professional fields across various disciplines. In the academic realm, students frequently engage in research to gather relevant material for their papers or projects. Librarians are particularly adept at catering to the needs of these educational endeavors through various means. However, language learning does not typically use traditional research and writing practices. Language acquisition often involves repetitive memorization and striving to grasp the fundamental structures of syntax, which can be mentally taxing. When these challenges surfaced in Classical Hebrew, I saw library space as a potential solution: a conducive space for learning, both individually and in small groups, and a place for unwinding from the rigorous learning endeavor, providing rejuvenation. By cultivating a sense of humility, I developed connections with students who were my peers in Classical Hebrew, which enabled me to advocate for the library as a resource capable of addressing these needs.

After completing the two-semester course on Classical Hebrew grammar, I eagerly enrolled in third-semester Classical Hebrew the subsequent fall semester. This course had a distinct context, with a much smaller group of students (eight compared to approximately forty in the first-year course), it required a more traditional research-oriented project. Once again, I contemplated the library’s potential to assist students in their learning journey throughout this course. The instructor frequently referenced critical tools for working with Classical Hebrew, and during one class session, the instructor asked me, “Do we have this particular tool?” In response, I offered to check and assured them, “If we don’t have it, we will acquire it!” Subsequently, the instructor allowed me to stand before the class and provide a brief overview of the library’s catalog and how to navigate it effectively to locate the required materials. Upon investigation, I discovered that the library had several of these resources that were either outdated or significantly worn. It became clear that new copies of these materials were necessary to support the students adequately.

While these were great opportunities that built bridges for collaborations, the benefits of involvement with the course did not stop here. As noted earlier, a demand to be “in the middle” is typical for librarians. Individuals who are “in the middle” often represent their library or department, its staff, and their needs to the university and, at the same time, are in contexts with colleagues from outside the library representing their needs and interests to the administration. As noted earlier, one component of humility, being other-centered, can be critical to developing collaboration. Walking into a course as a student can enable a librarian to see things differently: as a student. This propels the question: Does your participation as a student enable you to empathize further with a colleague’s request for updating classroom furniture?

Also, in many contexts, you have the opportunity to observe the instructor excel, but realistically, you will also likely see that instructor’s frustrations. Are there ways that library resources can minimize these frustrations? A remedy may be straightforward. For example, if an instructor provides a URL to an article but the article is behind a paywall, is the instructor aware that the library may have access to that article in one of its databases, and a simple fixed URL with ezproxy authentication may remedy this? Or, the problem may be a bit more complicated. Perhaps, the room the instructor is teaching has outdated technology accompanied by a weak wireless signal. As a student, you begin to see the frustration related to utilizing educational technology in this kind of classroom for both the instructor and students. As a library director in the middle, that awkward position can empower them to join others in advocating for classroom technology needs with a new perspective because you have seen it as a student. In this context, using one’s position in the middle as an advocate, embracing the tension, and aiming to have a dual, other-centered focus, can be critical for building collaborative bridges.

I have had the privilege of taking a few other courses outside of Classical Hebrew. While taking these courses did build opportunities for collaboration, none of them have opened the number of doors opened by Classical Hebrew. For example, in fall of 2021, I took Greek Grammar. The content was similar to Classical Hebrew, but the course structure differed. Greek Grammar was a format taught from the textbook and lacked pedagogical variance. Although I still built many relational bridges in Greek Grammar, the lack of pedagogical variance and congruence made it challenging to know students. While I did not have as many moments of awkwardness in Greek Grammar as I did in Classical Hebrew because of the lack of pedagogical variances, connections fostering excellent collaboration were not as natural of a byproduct in Greek Grammar as they were in Classical Hebrew. After these two different experiences of taking courses, the feelings of awkwardness (and I felt a bit awkward in both classes), I felt were more rewarded in my experiences with Classical Hebrew. While I cannot say this with complete confidence, it seemed like classes structured in a way that they consider various learning styles and foster congruence, though they may be more uncomfortable for the librarian, reap more collaborative benefits.

As noted earlier, compromise is a critical piece for excellent collaboration.47 However, wisdom must accompany compromise. In this context, compromise will likely involve some component of professional responsibilities. As noted, while all course participation has built collaborative bridges to various degrees, courses with some pedagogical variance have been most beneficial for collaboration. I prefer learning in a more traditional style (sage on the stage, where the instructor leads the course and almost all the instruction comes from the instructor) instead of utilizing various pedagogies (small group discussions, course time for group translation, etc.). However, to develop collaboration, the latter seems to work better. My experience suggests that compromising one’s time and energy to empower collaboration is more beneficial when the instructor becomes a guide on the side instead of a sage on the stage.

My experiences developing partnerships with faculty through course participation come from traditional undergraduate courses. Could collaborative efforts be pursued by taking an online course? I feel that this would be possible, but it will take a concentrated effort in the structure of the course to include contexts for social interaction to make it excel.


My last class in Classical Hebrew was in the third semester. That class finished in December 2019. At that point, there were plans to foster further collaboration, and discussion was taking place about how my participation in these classes could build collaborative efforts to aid in fostering the mission of Corban University. However, soon after that discussion began, the challenges of COVID struck. While still in agreement with the critical role that collaboration could play in furthering the University’s mission, COVID put our collaborative efforts on hold due to challenges brought about by the sudden shift to remote education. Even though I participated in other courses amid COVID, the concerns and limitations which COVID brought to these contexts hindered dialog regarding collaboration. While face-to-face contact is not necessarily critical for collaboration, the changes brought about due to COVID made us rethink what collaboration might look like in a remote context.

Corban University just finished its first year of what we consider to be post-COVID instruction. Some of the foundational work needs to be re-established to foster collaboration. Unfortunately, at this point, I cannot share the results brought about by using classroom participation as a tool for collaborative connections beyond my experiences in Classical Hebrew. However, from my participation in the classroom and the multiple relational connections which learning creates, I have much hope that collaboration fueled by humility will create contexts where library services play a critical role in making learning thrive.

Collaboration is still in development at Corban University. The purpose of this collaboration is to serve faculty and students better. The collaborative climate in which my involvement with this course served as the foundational cornerstone.

About the author

I finished my MLS (Emporia State University) in 2004. Most of my professional career has been at Corban University, a small private university in Salem, Oregon. I began as a Reference-Instruction Librarian and was promoted to University Librarian in 2018. As we are a small institution, the reality of my tasks is that I do a little bit of everything: collection development, configuring databases, managing/leading, budgeting, and instruction.


1 Ruth Gannon-Cook and Kathryn Ley, Engaging Learners with Semiotics: Lessons Learned for Reading the Signs (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 172.

2 Leslie M. Haas, “Being a Deep Generalist,” in Expectations of Librarians in the 21st Century, ed. Karl Bridges, Libraries Unlimited Library Management Collection (Chicago: Libraries Unlimited, 2003), 86.

3 For example, some literature notes that one component of humility involves a relatively low self-focus, which could imply low self-esteem or a degrading view of one’s skills and abilities (June Price Tangney, “Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 19, no. 1 (2000): 73). However, the brief overview of the literature which aims to define humility shows that to argue that Tangney’s perspective may lead to a damaging self-perspective is not widely shared.

4 A. C. Weidman, J. T. Cheng, and J. L. Tracy, “The Psychological Structure of Humility,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 114, no. 1 (2018): 21–22,

5 Many works aim to define humility. Because of the scope of this essay, it will provide a summary of three critical works in this area (Joseph Chancellor and Sonja Lyubomirsky, “Humble Beginnings: Current Trends, State Perspectives, and Hallmarks of Humility,” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 7, no. 11 (2013): 819–33,; Tangney, “Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research,”; Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman, “Humility and Modesty,” in Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 461–77. While not exhaustive, these three works have been key to the discussion and will provide a good scope of the efforts to define humility.

6 Tangney, “Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research.”

7 Tangney, 73.

8 Tangney, 73–74.

9 Peterson and Seligman, “Humility and Modesty.”

10 Weidman, Cheng, and Tracy, “The Psychological Structure of Humility,” 21–22.

11 Peterson and Seligman, “Humility and Modesty,” 463.

12 Peterson and Seligman, 463.

13 Tangney, “Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research,” 73–74.

14 Peterson and Seligman, “Humility and Modesty,” 463–64.

15 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, “Humble Beginnings: Current Trends, State Perspectives, and Hallmarks of Humility.”

16 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, 821.

17 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, 823.

18 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, 826.

19 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, 827.

20 Paul W. Mattessich and Kirsten M. Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 3rd ed. (Fieldstone Alliance, 2018).

21 Mattessich and Johnson, 5.

22 Mattessich and Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 11.

23 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, “Humble Beginnings: Current Trends, State Perspectives, and Hallmarks of Humility,” 825–26.

24 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, 826.

25 Mattessich and Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 16.

26 Jia Hu et al., “Leader Humility and Team Creativity: The Role of Team Information Sharing, Psychological Safety, and Power Distance,” Journal of Applied Psychology 103, no. 3 (2018): 315; Roger C. Mayer, James H. Davis, and F. David Schoorman, “An Integrative Model of Organizational Trust,” The Academy of Management Review 20, no. 3 (1995): 718.

27 Mattessich and Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 23.

28 Anand, Walsh, and Moffett, “Does Humility Facilitate Knowledge Sharing? Investigating the Role of Humble Knowledge Inquiry and Response,” 1223; Nielsen and Marrone, “Humility: Our Current Understanding of the Construct and Its Role in Organizations,” 805.

29 Mattessich and Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 23.

30 Mattessich and Johnson, 15.

31 Danielle D’Amour et al., “The Conceptual Basis for Interprofessional Collaboration: Core Concepts and Theoretical Frameworks,” Journal of Interprofessional Care 19, no. sup 1 (2009): 118,

32 Bradley P. Owens, Michael D. Johnson, and Terence R. Mitchell, “Expressed Humility in Organizations: Implications for Performance, Teams, and Leadership,” Organization Science 24, no. 5 (2013): 1527–28.

33 Mattessich and Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 18.

34 Mattessich and Johnson, 18.

35 D’Amour et al., “The Conceptual Basis for Interprofessional Collaboration: Core Concepts and Theoretical Frameworks,” 119.

36 Bart N. Green and Claire D. Johnson, “Interprofessional Collaboration in Research, Education, and Clinical Practice: Working Together for a Better Future,” Journal of Chiropractic Education 29, no. 1 (2015): 6–7,; Hue Pham and Kerry Tanner, “Collaboration between Academics and Librarians: A Literature Review and Framework for Analysis,” Library Review 63, no. 1/2 (2014): 22–23,

37 Mattessich and Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 23.

38 Mattessich and Johnson, 12.

39 Max De Pree, Leadership Jazz: The Essential Elements of a Great Leader (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 136; Peter F. Drucker, The Effective Executive (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 87; Peter Hernon, “Leadership and a Research Perspective: An Introduction,” in Shaping the Future: Advancing the Understanding of Leadership, ed. Peter Hernon (Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2010), 5–6.

40 Bernard M. Bass and Ronald E. Riggio, Transformational Leadership (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006), 36; John P Kotter, Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), 183.

41 Drucker, The Effective Executive, 153.

42 Wendell J. Walls, “Anatomy of a Collaboration: An Act of Servant-Leadership,” in Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness, ed. Larry C Spears and Michele Lawrence (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004), 128.

43 D. R. Garrison and Terry Anderson, E-Learning in the 21st Century : A Framework for Research and Practice (New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003), 22.

44 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, “Humble Beginnings: Current Trends, State Perspectives, and Hallmarks of Humility,” 826–27.

45 Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, 827.

46 Kevin Michael Klipfel and Dani Brecher Cook, Learner-Centered Pedagogy: Principles and Practice (Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017), 119.

47 Mattessich and Johnson, Collaboration – What Makes It Work: A Review of Research Literature on Factors Influencing Successful Collaboration, 18.


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