As an English graduate student and teaching assistant, I teach many freshmen their first college writing course, and I am always disheartened by how few really know how to use a library. And it’s not always just the freshmen who lack knowledge about these houses of information. I remember being a senior English major preparing for a paper and having one of my classmates, upon seeing a stack of library books for research, ask me, “You actually check out books from the library?!”
For me, libraries are wonderful places. When I was young, I would browse through the elementary school library and check out every book I saw with a colorful cover. Although a somewhat shallow way to choose books, it worked to get me excited about browsing and picking out just the right book. I still get excited to go into a library, and it is usually one of the first buildings I visit when I find myself on a college campus.
For many students, however, libraries only inspire anxiety and intimidation, particularly since university libraries tend to be much larger than high school libraries. This is why I think that there is nothing better to help prepare students for collegiate life than to get them acquainted with libraries. Regardless of a student’s future academic and career path, libraries are one of the most helpful areas on campus. Libraries are full resources to help students find valid information (and no, just because it is online does not mean it is true), and librarians are trained to help with any research a student has. Too few students take advantage of libraries in college even though they offer many tools for success.
There are many ways to get students acquainted with libraries. One of my favorite ways is with a project that involves checking out random books. I have my students complete a catalog search using several random keywords. Then, I have them select and find four or five books that came up while searching. Finally, they have to use the books to create a short, unified writing project. Whether they write a poem, a short story, a funny research paper, or a persuasive argument, they are learning how to use the library, as well as the many different kinds of resources available in it. Most importantly, they become comfortable finding and checking out books, a feat in some of the larger university libraries. This is a project that can be adapted for any age group, and the results are entertaining to share with the whole class!
The best way to eradicate library fear, however, is to start young. Parents should be sure to take their children to the library. Spend some time once a week or even once a month just going to the library, taking out books, and reading. Not only will this help set aside time to build important reading skills, but it will also allow them to feel comfort in a library, as opposed to the unease that I see too often in my students. You will be providing them with a lifetime of memories and skills that will not be regretted.
Written by: Editorial Team, My Learning Springboard, Inc.