Preparing Pre-College Students for Library Research

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This article, from Library Journal, discusses collaboration between libraries and K-12 educators to ensure that students begin learning research skills at an earlier age. The hope is that, by introducing students, at an earlier age, to concepts such as the difference between “good” and “bad” information, those students will be better prepared to conduct research in college. In turn, the argument goes, this will make the job of academic librarians easier, as they will not have to spend as much time teaching new students “the basics”.

While the article covers collaboration between public libraries and K-12 schools in preparing students for college-level research, similar partnerships between academic libraries and local school districts could be beneficial for both parties. School libraries could benefit from access to online resources that they otherwise might not have the financial resources to provide, and college libraries would increase their market of patrons (and, in some cases, prospective students). More importantly, building these kinds of relationships with organizations outside academia could give college libraries a key role in bridging the “town-gown” divide, which is one of the more contentious issues facing many institutions of higher education. Playing such a role demonstrates a library’s vitalness to the long-term success of the larger academic institution that it serves.

As far as the benefits for individual students, the challenge for academic libraries will be reaching them at an early-enough age that any difficulties students might face, such as socio-economic disadvantage or learning problems, can be overcome, but maintaining that relationship until students finish high school. Also, even though general research skills remain the same over time, it might be harder to predict what technological trends will be relevant in five or 10 years, when students who are entering such a program will be attending college.

Probably the biggest challenge will be designing the program so that students who do not end up attending the particular college or university that sponsors it can still easily apply what they have learned at whatever institution they do choose to attend. (Students who attend a technical or trade school, for instance, might not conduct the same type of research, using the same resources, as students attending a four-year liberal arts university.)  Building programs through statewide, and even national, consortia and other organizations might be a way around this issue.

Would this kind of collaboration be feasible for academic libraries? Would they perhaps be shifting too many resources away from serving students at their own institutions? Do academic libraries risk losing some of their identity in doing so?

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