Three short months: the college transition

Should school librarians prepare students for the college transition?

You are probably very familiar with the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Standards for the 21st-Century Learner published in 2009.  However, unless you work at a University, you may not be familiar with the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education.  Even though I am a school librarian, I pay close attention to best practices at college and research libraries.  Let’s face it, those three months that separate a high school senior from a college freshmen are very short.  I tell my students that it would be remiss of me if they leave without knowing how to conduct college-level research.  In fact, I often quote Seth Godin when challenging them to research.

“This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate without being a first rate data shark” – Godin

We do this already

AASL Standards –

Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge;

Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge;

Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society;

Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.

But is it enough?

According to a recent survey “Neither university faculty nor employers believe that American public high schools are preparing students for the expectations they’ll face in college and career. ” 


College Transition Infographic from Achieve Survey

Info-graphic from Achieve Survey

Jeff Henry – Research and Instruction Librarian and Assistant Professor at Murray State University in Kentucky presented this past July at the KASL summer refresher.  His session that was especially helpful to me, was about the differences between AASL standards and the ACRL framework. The presentation included his observations about the literacy gaps between high school seniors and college freshmen. He compared the two sets of guidelines and pointed out some areas we might be missing in college preparation.

One of the many ways that we work with our seniors at The Webb School on the transition from high school to college is through a capstone research project.  Our seniors research the works of others and then create their own quantitative and qualitative research.  With this project we attempt to weave in some of the ACRL framework so that this is familiar to students transitioning to college/university.  In the paper presentation the student explains the research question or thesis statement, shows extensive research and critical thinking, and provides appropriate and supportive details.  In addition to the literature research, the students also perform research so that they have a personal engagement with the topic.

We should try to add this

ACRL Framework –

  • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual   (Wikipedia is not always the devil — I will get back to you on Buzz Feed)
  • Information Creation as a Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry (I teach “Pre-search” as a precursor to Research)
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration (Research is a journey not a destination)

I encourage other high school librarians to take a look at this framework from ACRL, to see where you can close some of the gaps for your students as they transition to college and the work place.

Here is a new book with lesson plans that is recommended for both high school and academic librarians from ACRL.

Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians  Edited by Patricia Bravender, Hazel McClure, Gayle Schaub for ACRL


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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