I have a basic belief that I am emphatic about: all research should start in the library. Several large studies of college students have shown that those who use the library for research experience greater academic success and retention. Sadly, though, most students will flounder and even fail in their research before they ask a librarian for assistance, while those who do, say that the librarian is the most helpful adult on campus when it comes to research. But when we don’t use the library in elementary and high school as part of the research process, we implicitly let students know that they can be successful without it, that Google is the singular route to research, and that libraries and the staff who work there are extraneous, ultimately setting them up for poor research practices when they reach post-secondary schooling.
When we start student research in the library, our students become comfortable with asking librarians for help, using books and periodicals, and accessing online library resources like databases. Even if the project does not entail using a physical book, it sets the tone: the library is always connected with research endeavors.
I am always stunned when I hear a teacher say that he or she doesn’t need a library’s services. Because here’s the simple truth: using the library and librarian when taking on a research project will always make their lives easier.
How do we make this happen in our schools? Remind teachers of these library basics:
- The librarian is the only person in the building who sees students, academically, every year throughout the child’s time there. He or she knows every student and can provide them with invaluable information about the student’s research skills.
- The librarian sees all content in all grades and can help ensure that teachers’ research expectations reinforce previously learned skills while pushing students to the next level.
- Librarians are experts at information curation and sorting and can help teachers with the monumental prep that goes into a research unit.
- Co-teaching with a librarian halves the student-teacher ratio, making the monumental task of conferencing with students about their processes much more manageable.
- Co-teaching always improves our practice. I have never worked with another teacher and not walked away a better teacher myself. Collaboration is essential for improving what we do. Two brains are always better than one!
- Librarians can dig in and save you a monumental amount of time by researching different project ideas like how to record podcasts, how to flip instruction, or how to make short documentaries.
Collect a list of research topics undertaken by your staff and start offering resources. Open the door for two-way collaboration; show how your services are grounded in the interest of preparing our students for college, and dig in!
Author: Angie Miller
Angie Miller is a 7-12 school librarian in Meredith, NH. The 2011 NH Teacher of the Year and the recipient of the 2017 NH Outstanding Library Program of the Year, Angie is a TED speaker, National Geographic teacher fellow, and freelance writer who writes for her blog, The Contrarian Librarian, and is a regular contributor to sites like EdWeek and the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet. As a co-founder of the initiative, Let the Librarians Lead, Angie leads professional development, speaks to audiences, and advocates for school leadership through librarianship. Her book, It’s A Matter of Fact: Teaching Students Research Skills in Today’s Information-Packed World, published by Routledge, will be on shelves in January 2018.