ASU Librarians Bridging the Gap

The following post is the first of what we hope to be a continuous stream of information highlighting what’s going on at academic libraries in Arizona. What’s happening at your library? Let us know!

In August of 2008 Ann Ewbank, subject librarian from ASU and former AzLA President, was approached to do a presentation about college readiness to the English teachers in the Scottsdale High Schools at their fall In-Service day.  Ann willingly agreed but proposed that she invite several colleagues and turn it into a panel presentation on how university librarians and high school librarians and English teachers can collaborate to help their student be better prepared for college-level research. The other panelists, some of Ann’s colleagues at ASU, were Melissa Guy, Bianna Ine, Julie Tharp and Ellen Welty.  Our first presentation was well received and was followed by an invitation to develop a similar presentation for the AzLA conference the following year.

While developing our presentation for AzLA, we discovered that the annual conference of the Arizona English Teachers Association would be in October of 2009, a couple months before AzLA.  Submitting our proposal to AETA seemed like a good opportunity to target English teachers from all over the state and would give us a trial run for AzLA.  Our colleague Bianna had moved out of state by this time, so we had four panelists.  The presentation at AETA was scheduled at the same time as a couple of popular local authors at the conference so it wasn’t well attended.  Nevertheless, the teachers who were there expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to exchange ideas with us.  In contrast, the presentation at AzLA was well attended and produced a lively discussion.  By this time, we were receiving invitations from school librarians to visit their schools and present to their teachers.  In order to maximize our time, we decided to apply for an LSTA grant and produce a couple of all-day workshops to which we would send invitations to all the teachers in several school districts in the Phoenix metropolitan area.  The schedule would consist of a keynote speaker who has done extensive research on the “12-13 gap”, a deconstruction of a typical freshman writing assignment and a hands-on workshop using the databases provided to Arizona residents by the State Library.  The panel discussion followed by closing remarks would round out the day.

The first of these two workshops was October 16, 2010 at ASU’s West campus.  We had 65 teachers in attendance and the response was almost uniformly positive.  We will repeat the basic program at a second workshop scheduled for April at the Tempe campus.  We have taken the show on the road three times this winter as well; once in Blue Ridge district in Pinetop, at Tolleson Union High School district and Tempe High School.  One thing we are hearing at every presentation is that the outreach needs to begin with the junior high school teachers; waiting until the students are in high school doesn’t give them enough of an opportunity to develop the information literacy skills that college faculty assume they have.

In concluding, I would urge all of us in the library business to keep the conversation going.  Any opportunity we have to engage with teachers is golden – take advantage of it!

Ellen Welty, Associate Librarian
Arizona State University Libraries

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