What do we want students to know about our databases?

It has been just over a year since I emailed the AISL list, looking for a truly representational news database aimed at the K-12 market. The push for such a product is ongoing, and I hope to be able to update you more on that process soon (and please contact me if you would like to get involved in the campaign to drive change).

In the meantime, our library decided to assure that students would see themselves and each other in our digital resources, even if it did require accessing multiple databases to do so.

Having a larger number of databases is a challenge, as we all know, and we need to take a multi-pronged approach to ease adoption. Among our strategies are:

1. Recruiting student “Database Ambassadors.” Our students have grade-wide, homework-related group texts and so the Ambassadors will be on the scene when homework is hard to complete. They will remind classmates to reach out to librarians for help. I set out to have a few ambassadors in each grade, but students started asking if they could join the cadre and fully 10% of our 8th-12th grade students have asked to volunteer for this project.

Training starts today, and I am trying to figure out the few ideas I have to drive home. No use trying to familiarize them with a substantial number of databases during a study hall! My Research TAs tell me that the bare bones of the class I taught our Juniors are a critical part of the lesson….

2. The lesson/lecture for all 11th grade US History classes was an introduction to working with primary sources. The theme was “database business models as systemic injustice.” Some colleagues have asked me to share the slides from that class. Though they are not at all pretty, you can find them here. Honestly, I never thought to get emails with words like “moving” and “fascinating” related to a database lesson!

To be frank: none of the systemic issues with databases were news to students who have aspects of their identity that have been minoritized. It has been painful for me to realize of the substantial number of students who have felt alienated by our collection for so long.

Nonetheless, we move forward with anticipation. We believe that our students can both thrive on our more inclusive collection and simultaneously look at it with a critical eye. It is our job to help them do so.

If such a lesson feels like a bit more than you can bite off, check out Rebecca Hall’s graphic novel, Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts. Actually, read it whatever the case. In addition to history I never learned, it talks about silences in sources and how they impact our understanding of historical events.

Have a lovely week!

NOTE: This database work is a group effort that currently involves Sarah Levin (Urban School), Alea Stokes (Thayer Academy), and Sara Kelley-Mudie (Beaver Day School). Also, my awesome Library Director, Jole Seroff, who is supporting this work as an integral part of the program we provide our school. I’m just the only one who cannot stop talking about it. It is how I roll. 😉

2 thoughts on “What do we want students to know about our databases?

  1. Thank you for sharing your work in this area, Tasha. I’ve been intrigued by this since you began posting about it on the listserv. It’s been important for me to acknowledge my horror at the dichotomy of my constantly fighting “the white default” in fiction for years, yet NOT seeing that same issue in database coverage.

    On reflection, I think I’ve always heard the Darth Vader theme song whenever I’ve logged into most databases because of their issues of poor customer service, high cost, and their constant changing the goal post in terms of what we have access to year to year. It’s always been clear they represent a corporate view of information which I associate with white, dominant culture so I just have rolled my eyes and shelled out money for more representation in electronic sources bemoaning not . NO MORE! I am on the bandwagon and would love to help in any way I can with advocacy. Tell me what I can do.

  2. This sheds a light on something that has really been overlooked far too long, and I know we’re all grateful for it, Tasha. I hope that database vendors listen up and recognize the systemic alienation that has been perpetrated – and then take steps to fix it.

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