Yesterday I took my AP students to the University of Oklahoma Bizzell Library to do research for their critical perspectives paper. Their assignment is to read a canonized novel of their choosing and then write an analytical research paper viewing that text through a critical lens (i.e. Marxist, Feminist, New Historical).
Each year I take a group of high school students to the library in order for them to have a true college experience. Our school library is small but adequate, but in no way is it as big as the OU library. They go on a tour of the library and then a research librarian shows them how to use the databases, the online card catalog and other wonderful tools.
This year was the first year that my AP Literature seniors went as mentors for my AP Lang. juniors. I felt that if they had a student mentor to help them find the scanners, the desk where they procure a guest log-in and general navigation through the many floors of the library, they would not be so overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, like so many squirrels trying to cross the road some of them were still drowning. They arrived at a college library, many of them for the first time, and were flabbergasted at the size of it and even though we painstakingly told them how to use the search engines they still said “I can’t find anything on my book.” After some helpful guidance as to how to enter the proper search parameters, many of them were off and running, but it was still like herding the squirrels running around the campus grounds. Between lunch, the bus ride and other distractions only 2.5 hours were spent doing actual research.
I feel that it is very important to teach our students about the use of a college library if they plan to attend one, but I also feel that many of them are too young to appreciate the true scope that a good library can represent for them. They do not see a library as a treasure trove of information, but just another assignment this bald old teacher is trying to push on them. Some of them even considered finding a Starbucks the highlight of the trip.
I am not discouraged, even if I am a little put out with some of them for their nonchalance. I know that one day maturity will kick in and they will finally say “I’m really glad Mr. Colby took me to the college library.” Fortunately, not all of them were like this. The larger percentage of them found tons of literary journals which will help them narrow down their thesis and really give them a fine understanding of their novel.
I have taken this trip each year, and having the seniors there as mentors was fruitful, but as with all teaching exercises, we worry about their education much more than they do. In an age where more teens have a plan for what they will do in case of a zombie outbreak than plans for college, I choose not to give up hope, and will teach both the ones who have a plan for after school and those who don’t. They will thank me in the end. They always come back, knock on my door, and tell me about how well they are doing, as countless others have done in the past.