“Can’t you just give us 2 sides of A4?” Stepping up Library use from school to higher education

People who work in libraries love talking to other people who work in libraries about good ideas and good professional practice. And school libraries and school librarians are key to helping pupils learn and succeed, both at school and in later study and life (as the #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign is currently pointing out!) So when I was asked to give one of the keynote presentations at JCS Resources’ first school libraries conference at Aston University, I jumped at the opportunity. Why did they want a speaker from Brookes Library?  Well, they wanted to hear a personal perspective from a University library on what students stepping up their Library use from school to University currently struggle with.

The main keynote speaker, Jane Secker, is an internationally renowned speaker and researcher on information literacy (the skills of searching for, evaluating and using information) and I knew she would pick up on all those issues, which we help students with in the Library. And Library search systems (like our new LibrarySearch) are making it easier all the time to find relevant sources. So I decided to focus on something quite specific I’ve been working on in the last year or so – supporting students who, like many of their peers around the world according to research, struggle not so much with finding academic sources but with reading and understanding these often dense, complicated and lengthy texts once they have found them.

I framed my presentation in terms of Brookfield’s four lenses and the Rolfe What-So-What-Now What reflective cycle; looked at current student behaviours, what librarians see, what academic colleagues tell us, and the wider research; talked about Brookes Library initiatives such as Dan Croft’s What is a reading list for? guide and article; and introduced the concepts of the “information ladder” and the “reading iceberg”…

This really resonated with the audience of school librarians, judging by the questions, conversations over lunch and mentions on the conference Twitter hashtag #jcs2018. And there was certainly common ground – as well as fertile debate! – between me, Jane Secker and the third keynote speaker, Dr Graham Gardner, who’s the librarian at Abingdon School and presented on key mindsets for school librarians, including “talking the way teachers talk”. If anyone’s interested in finding out more, check out #jcs2018 on Twitter, Elizabeth Hutchinson’s blog post or my presentation on RADAR. And if you have your own thoughts about what the key Library issues are for students moving from school to university, do let us know in the comments!

— Hazel Rothera (Academic Liaison Team Leader)

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