It’s late May, and that means that many of us have just watched a group of students become alumni in a matter of minutes. Whether they are heading from your school to middle school, upper school, college/university, or the rest of their lives, one second they’re your students and the next they are invited to call you by your first name. (Sniff – they grow up so fast.) When it comes to preparing them for the next stage as information finders, users, and creators, our job, for better or worse, is finished.
So I usually spend at least part of commencement exercises thinking, “Well shoot, do these kids know how to do research? Can they suss out misinformation? Do they know how to construct a non-ridiculous search query? Can they ask good questions? Are they going to provide proper citations in their first college research papers, or will they learn hard lessons? Will they ever use a library again? Will they read for pleasure? Did I do enough? HAVE I FAILED THEM???”
I am pretty sure the answer to the last one is no, at least I hope so. First of all, I happily recognize that I have colleagues who also value inquiry, reading, and approaching information with a discerning eye, and the development of our students’ information literacy doesn’t rest solely with me. I also have hope that the information literacy instruction they receive in college will ring a bell – (as in, “oh, right, that’s what Ms. Hammond was always going on about.”) I also know that many of them, but not all of them, will go into those first year library instructional sessions knowing exactly what they’re about to see. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.
As we close out 2021-2022 and put our minds to next year, I remember that our job, for our young alumni, is actually not finished. We’ll get emails or calls from college asking for help, reassurance, and guidance. We’ll see them at Thanksgiving when they come back to a campus that feels so much smaller now, and they’ll tell us about how that first research paper went, or that they love their college library. They’ll post a video to YouTube that gets flagged for possible copyright infringement, and remember to consider Fair Use. They will push back when their social media connections do not check their sources before spreading outrageous information. They will take their kids to storytime. They’ll stand up for intellectual freedom. They will be fine and do good, and when they hear the phrase “school library”, perhaps they’ll associate it, even unconsciously, with support, belonging, and learning.