Helping Students Make the Jump to University Level Research

Article excerpt

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 one-room 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. …