Information Update - Fall 1998
Sometime you don't realize that you are doing something unusual until you come across an article written about a project similar to yours. This happened when I read a recent article by Beth Evans ("Building Bridges Between New York City Public High Schools and a College: The Cooperative Library Project," Research Strategies 15 (Spring 1997): 89-99), in which she describes the successful venture she undertook in making an alliance between Brooklyn College and selected honor students, their teachers, and the librarians from two New York City high schools (Clara Barton High School for the Health Professions and Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School). Evans's article is listed in the June 1998 issue of Library Instruction Round Table News as one of LIRT's "Top Twenty for 1997," and is certainly well worth reading.
The Weinberg Memorial Library has always had some high schools requesting instruction and tours, but never have these been as organized or focused as the alliance that has developed between the Library and Scranton Preparatory senior English classes. Scranton Prep students have done research in our Library for as long as any of us can remember, but, if instruction was given, it was done on an individual point of use basis. The current relationship started in 1994. Patricia Morgan, senior English teacher from Scranton Prep, was at that time working on her Master's in English at The University of Scranton. Because she taught all day, she would come to the Library at night to do research, and it was there that she met Joe Fennewald, evening librarian. Recognizing that students from Scranton Prep regularly use the Weinberg Memorial Library, Joe and Patricia felt their library skills and knowledge should be enhanced, especially to help them with their senior English projects. Joe approached me, as coordinator of library instruction, about doing library instruction for all of Patricia's senior English classes. My criteria for doing library instruction for such a large group were fairly simple: (1) We would only do library instruction for them during slow times in the Library. (2) Regardless of the day or time the teacher of that class had to be present. (3) Classes were limited in size to 14 so that all of the students could have hands on OPC, database and Internet computer experience. And (4) Joe organized the project and developed the curriculum.
For Scranton Prep classes the best time of day during the week was from 4:00 to 5:30 P.M. Since most University students are dorm residents and this is dinner time, it is also a slow time in the Library. For Prep students who could not meet at this time because of work or sports, two classes were held on a Sunday at 2 and 5 P.M. Students registered for the day they want to attend; presigning prohibited oversize classes. For students who might have an emergency "no show" there was one make up class offered- As an added incentive Patricia gave points to all who attended. That first year, 1994, Joe and I instructed 11 senior English classes in how to use the Library and how to find the best information for their assignment. Since then all of the senior English classes have been included, and some of the other University of Scranton librarians have helped do the library instruction. These are good classes for non-public service librarians to teach because they do not interfere with their regular daily schedules.
Results of this collaborative investment with Scranton Prep over the past five years have been:
1. We get high school students with a higher level of library understanding.
2. Community relationships are built as family members come in with these students.
3. Many learn for the first time that they can have library borrowing privileges.
4. Many of these students go onto become members of our freshman class and enter their first year with knowledge of our library and enhanced library skills.
5. Mutual respect is developed between the faculty members of both schools.
As Beth Evans says in her article, we are truly "building bridges" with this project.