MANY students experience "library anxiety" when making the switch from high school to college. While school librarians do an excellent job teaching information literacy skills to their students, they may find themselves asking, "What other skills are important for my students to learn before they leave high school, and what resources are available for them?" Having worked for years as a librarian [Carrie] and with librarians [Amy] in school and academic settings, we hope our experiences offer some tidbits for school librarians to help students bridge the gap between the high school library and academic libraries.
BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP
School librarians often have close relationships with their students. This can be a key for students to continue to succeed at the university level. Students should be reminded as often as possible that librarians are their friends. A new student on a college campus will have questions, many of which will probably arise after 5 p.m. The university library is frequently the only place to get answers after 5 p.m., and students should know a librarian is ready for questions. Nearly all university librarians have vertical files at the reference desk that include class schedules, campus maps, and even copies of professors' assignments.
New students may fear looking stupid in front of the librarian, so building a firm foundation now between student and librarian at the school level is even more important. A well-informed student who is familiar with library resources understands the role of his/her school librarian. The student who feels comfortable asking help will be less intimidated later at the university library when needing assistance. University libraries report that the two questions most often asked are: "Where is the bathroom?" and "How do I print my paper?" Imagine the mutual delight if the librarian is actually asked, "How do I start researching this topic?"
School librarians can also help students build this a relationship with library resources by pointing students to an online chat with librarians. Many universities have online chats, such as QuestionPoint or Ask a Librarian, in which students can instant message with a librarian, even before they begin their university career. An online chat is an excellent free resource for students, which can satisfy the need for information and alleviate any anxiety a student may have about asking a librarian for assistance. Many public libraries offer online chat via their Web site, which is a good site to bookmark and demonstrate to students.
FROM MINI TO MEGALIBRARY
Once students begin their university careers, they may be in for a shock at the size of their university library. Most high school students will go from a oneroom library media center to a university library system with multiple buildings across a sprawling campus. This is an excellent opportunity for school librarians, who can minimize this shock by preparing students for the big change. School librarians can develop relationships with local colleges and arrange field trips. If this is not geographically possible, the school librarian could teach students to search the college or university OPAC. Or, better yet, teach a student to search the OPAC of the college he/she plans to attend. After successfully searching the OPAC, the student will see there may be different collections in different buildings on the university campus. (Many university Web sites will have campus maps so students can find books at different buildings.) More importantly, the familiarity a student gains from searching the OPAC will reduce the initial shock of the university library so it is more a facilitated step for the student.
Along with having to learn to navigate their way around several different library buildings on campus, new college students will face a different library classification system. School librarians should prepare students for the Library of Congress Classification System. After years of memorizing that history is in the 900s and dogs are in the 600s in a school library, a prospective college student needs to know that this is just one book-shelving option. Students don't need to memorize Library of Congress numbers, but they should understand how to find books with a map as well as how the system works with more than three numbers in front of the decimal place. A student can spend hours looking for a book, not realizing that E183.8 will not be next to E18.38 or E1838 because these books can actually be rows apart. Here is another great opportunity for school librarians to help students.
Dealing with the differences in classification systems can also be exacerbated by the plethora of new media sources available to college students. Internetage students are very accustomed to, and comfortable with, finding full-text information online through Google and other search engines. At the university, they suddenly will have to learn to search through microfilm or microfiche, bound periodicals, current periodicals, online resources, and a possible first encounter with interlibrary loan. A student will have to learn how to recognize and differentiate between these sources while searching the university OPAC and how to locate them on different floors, different buildings, and different campuses. (Again, this is a good time to remember that librarians are your friends!)
University professors can also be a student's friend. However, professors will have very different expectations than school teachers. Students may be used to handing in homework every day. They will still be assigned homework they need to do, but they may not necessarily have it graded or even have to turn it in. They will also be expected to synthesize concepts between textbooks, class readings, class lectures, and the real world on their own.
In addition to homework assignments, university professors will also have research expectations for their students. Professors will want students to understand the difference between scholarly academic journals and magazines. They will expect their students to understand peer-reviewed, refereed, and scholarly research and to use these sources in their research rather than magazines. Students will also be expected to evaluate their sources, knowing how to critique source and authority, purpose, content and coverage, currency, and bias. The student must be ready to defend his/her choice of sources to the professor. Finally, professors will require students to cite resources. While students are taught how to site sources in high school, in the university setting, students will be asked to use different styles guides based on the academic discipline. They will be introduced to APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian styles. Failure to cite sources within the university setting can lead to an expulsion from the school or the end of an academic career.
One of the best ways a school librarian can help students succeed in doing research is by exposing them to these larger academic expectations and demands. School librarians can also teach transferable skills to their students. Like the maxim "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life," librarians can teach their students to apply skills rather than simply memorizing how to do tasks. For example, teaching a student to use the Help or FAQ section of a new database might be more beneficial than teaching the student to use the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT.
MORE DATABASE EXPOSURE, AND OPEN WORLDCAT
Librarians can also increase students' exposure to university-level research by showing more databases to students. Many databases are available to school libraries at no cost, low cost... and at considerable cost. Of course, cost is always relative to the individual school library or district budget. In any case, using various interfaces and search functionalities in different databases can arm students for college-level research.
There are literally hundreds of student-friendly, free resources on the Internet today. One quick and easy way to find these resources is to look at what other school libraries are offering. These are just a few of the free resources available to school librarians at no cost. There are also several scholarly subscription-based resources suitable for students. A larger array of databases is available from aggregators, employing a single interface to search across several databases. Many of these database providers not only offer middle to high school resources, but university level content as well. (For more on these, see the several information boxes in this article.)
Open WorldCat is another free resource for school librarians and students. In brief, libraries with holdings in OCLC's WorldCat can be accessed via Open WorldCat when searchiing the Web. Through Open WorldCat, OCLC makes 3 million of the most widely owned items cataloged in WorldCat accessible (a subset of more than 62 million bibliographic records). From a library's perspective, Open WorldCat is an excellent opportunity to publicize its holdings on the Web, draw Net surfers into the library, and tie the library into the popular Google and Yahoo! starting points. Many school libraries are not yet participating in the Open WorldCat initiative; however, any school library can publicize the functionality of Open WorldCat to its students and connect patrons to locally available resources. To date, about 17,000 libraries are participating in Open WorldCat. More information is available about Open WorldCat at http://www.oclc.org.
Making the jump to university level research can be a daunting task for students. As a school librarian, you can ease the transition by familiarizing your students with alternate library classification systems, teaching good search techniques, demonstrating the difference between magazines and scholarly journals, and using both free and subscription resources to bridge the gap between high school and college. Most importantly, you have the opportunity to say, "Librarians are your friends."
Many students experience "library anxiety" when they graduate from high school and start college. While school librarians do an excellent job teaching information literacy skills to their students, they may find themselves asking,"What other skills are important for my students to learn before they leave high school, and what resources are available for them?"
MOST POPULAR FREE RESOURCES
Directory of Open Access Journals
High School Ace
The Internet Public Library
StartSpot Mediaworks, Inc. Homework Spot
Information Please FactMonster
TheYuckiest Site on the Internet
The World Fact Book (CIA)
Who Named It?
National Geographic Kids
How Stuff Works
Astronomy Picture of the Day
POPULAR SUBSCRIPTIONBASED SERVICES
ACLS History eBook
Big Chalk/Electric Library
Columbia University Press
Facts On File
Oxford University Press
Pro & Con
World Book Online
"Project-focused library instruction in business strategy courses," Prince, William, Helms, Marilyn, Journal of Education for Business, Jan/Feb93, Vol. 63 Issue 3, p. 179
"What do they know? An assessment of undergraduate library skills," Kunkel, Lilith, Weaver, Susan, Journal of Academic Librarianship, Nov.96, Vol. 22, Issue 6, p. 430
"The Academic Library/High School Library Connection: Needs Assessment and Proposed Model," LeClerq, Angie, Journal of Academic Librarianship, 1986, Vol. 12, Issue 1, p. 12
"Student Library Skills and Attitudes and Their Change: Relationships to Other Selected Variables," Hardesty, Larry, Wright, John, Journal of Academic Librarianship, 1982, Vol. 8, Issue 4, p. 216
Carrie Esch is the BioOne representative for Amigos Library Services. She also served as the user education librarian at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
Amy Crawford is the electronic resources manager at the OCLC Western Service Center. Before moving to California, she worked for the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET) in database licensing. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.…