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Kids Need Libraries

As the library doors opened this morning at Queensborough Community College, I met my high school seniors as they arrived one at a time or in pairs. Each student was eager for the opportunity to be outside of school on a college campus ready to take their research to the next level.

Rather than arrive at school and travel together, we all travel from home and meet at the library. In less than a year, each of them will be done with high school and living their own college experiences and will need to learn to be independent.

In addition to demystifying the college library (which I remember being very intimidated by when I went to college), our trips to the local higher education libraries seek to allow students the freedom to make their own schedules and start to experience the autonomy that is fast approaching.

So our days at the library are often half structured and half free.

Each time, they have a lesson with college librarians, where they learn about how to use databases, access online resources and situate themselves in the Library of Congress system to learn how to find book resources.

Other topics we have discussed to ensure college preparedness are:

  • MLA citation (works cited and in-text citation)resource verification - what sources are trustworthy online

  • differences between the public library and an academic library

  • a crash course in periodicals, journals, reference and book resources

  • keyword and Boolean searches

  • developing their own thesis statements

  • tenacity and perseverance as research takes both

After the students endure the lectures (often much longer than the classes they are used to attending), they are free to use the resources to research for class projects. Today they researched current issues that matter to them in connection to Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. Each student will be writing a satire of his/her own on a topic of his/her choosing. In this way, they will show both research skills and deeper understanding of the genre of satire.

During the latter part of the day, I sit at a table, available to conference with students, but they are largely on their own, as they will be in the future. The informal conversations we have, help me check in with their progress, but also assure them that they are on the "right" track.

In addition to helping students ready themselves for the future, the relationships I've developed with local colleges have been beneficial for my teaching and it's always nice to run into former students when we visit the schools. Today was no exception.

Have you ever thought about taking your kids to the public or college library? What's stopping you?

Libraries are amazing resources that sadly aren't taken enough advantage of. Google's awesome, but it will never replace the expertise of a good librarian.

What will you take your students to the library to learn? Please share

This piece originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress in October 2014

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