On Upper School Students Leaving the Nest

One of my favorite days post-conference is the day when I get to test a new idea on my community. Sometimes these ideas come from “big” presentations, keynotes, workshops and such. Sometimes they come from bus rides or a mealtime conversation. Oftentimes they come from a pajama-clad late night conversation with my roommate. Today, thanks to roommate and librarian extraordinare, Shelagh Straughan, I got to put a new idea into practice and it was so much fun!

Shelagh calls her work with seniors “Graduate Guidance”. She works with them en masse during their “guidance period”, a time built into their schedule that is used for college counseling and such, which becomes free time once college acceptances and commitments have been made. I don’t have such a period, but I do have a two-day senior retreat where our girls go as a class to sleep in cabins and to participate in real-life workshops–everything from changing a tire to cooking to budgeting in college. Before I throw my hat in for a coveted retreat slot, I decided to test Shelagh’s exercise on my Senior English class this morning.

It’s all about transitioning from our smaller space, collection, and program to the grand world of university libraries. It’s a new way of thinking about librarians as subject specialists, about physical libraries spread throughout campus, each with unique attributes and study environments, many focused on a specific discipline. It’s teaching them about the human floaties that they will use in the ‘information tsunami’, librarians who will happily help them explore massive print & digital collections to find the best sources. It’s also a new world of paying for things!! CHA-CHING! To print, to make copies, for late fees.  For some, it’s a shift from Dewey to LC. It’s a world of chat reference,  study spaces in varying shapes, sizes, and in close proximity to caffeine; there are innovative information commons spaces, loft desks, presentation practice spaces and more! Exciting stuff!!

I love that it’s a real, candid conversation about the future.  I especially love Shelagh’s suggestion that I set it up so that the conversation continues with regular feedback from a select group about what they’ve found once they arrived at college–what they were well prepared for, what they wish they had known, and what advice they can offer future seniors. I added on a request for  some library design reconnaissance.  Girls have promised to send me pictures of cool furniture, space design, etc. for my idea book. 🙂

Shelagh graciously emailed me her materials.

Here’s how I spun it:

1. I asked my students to read this article before class. Pointers to the bathroom, really people?

2. I tweaked Shelagh’s slides to fit my audience (had to remove those crazy Canadian spellings 😉 ).

This is my presentation, merged with Shelagh’s.

3. Following the discussion, I distributed this  handout. Students examine their own university library’s web site, or if they were undecided or planning a Gap year, they looked at several universities of interest. This generated tons of good discussion! So much good conversation that we are continuing this into our next class!

Conclusion: This was an excellent exercise. At one point, I noticed that my students were looking a bit ‘deer in headlights’. I asked them what was wrong. They said that it made this next chapter “feel more real than it has before”. Like, this is really happening and they need to get ready for it. We talked a lot about all the adventures that await them, of the abundance of support that will be provided to help them learn about new resources, of the fun in checking out innovative spaces, seeking out study nooks that feel right for them.

They were so excited about images of collaborative group spaces and the concept of the information commons. They were affirmed to acknowledge  the pieces that they already know–Libguides, LC, printing, scanning, ILL. They were excited to learn about all the ways that they can reach out–they liked the ability to chat, to request items via a much larger ILL consortium, and to access course reserves. Some noticed exciting features such as a text reference feature, a college library that offered to edit students’ papers(?!), and more going on at their respective schools.

Again, a big shout out and “thank you!” to Shelagh, who humors my incessant late night talking at AISL conferences, and to the presenter at AISL Nashville who inspired her to create this program.

Now tell me, Upper School Librarians, do you offer a similar program at your school? I would love to learn more! It’s been a long time since I used a university library. What else do you share with your students?

One thought on “On Upper School Students Leaving the Nest

  1. Great idea, Katie (and Shelagh!). I’m pledging to put this on my calendar for next February, when I can jump into some of that “post-college-counsellor” time and finally do something like this. Our challenge is on having perhaps 270 seniors, which makes logistics a challenge. I’ve been offered all seniors in the auditorium for a lecture approach, but I can NOT think of anything more deathly dull sounding. It really does need to be in a small setting. Will work on management, but thanks, Katie (and Shelagh!) for the inspiration to approach this possibility one more time.

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