Category Archives: High School to College Transition

Looking to the Future, While Reflecting on the Past

As the end of another semester and year approaches, I find myself looking to the future, defining new goals, and exploring exciting possibilities, especially since this is the new normal at the UT Libraries today! However, I recently received an email that made me reflect on a past partnership that has blossomed into something greater than I ever anticipated.

The email came from Lisa Hernandez, currently the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo College, Career & Technology Academy Librarian and the Texas Library Association’s Librarian of the Year. In 2013, Lisa had been one of ten Texas high school librarians selected to attend the UT Libraries Information Literacy Summit, a day long summit about information literacy. Information Literacy (IL) is broadly defined by the ability to find and think critically about information and is not only a crucial skill for life-long learning, it is also one of the six requirements of UT’s School of Undergraduate Studies Signature Course program, a required interdisciplinary foundation course for all incoming UT freshman.

During the Summit, high school librarians from across Texas and librarians from the UT Libraries Teaching and Learning Services department shared expertise, identified overlapping skills, and created mutually-beneficial instructional content in order to better understand the types of issues and needs we have at both ends of the high-school to college transition.  UT librarians shared real syllabi used in freshman courses and we worked collaboratively to design activities and assignments that would help augment information literacy development at both levels, a need identified in national research conducted by Project Information Literacy.

One of the goals of the Summit was to continue sharing resources and exploring partnerships beyond the day long information exchange and a number of the participants did stay in touch, presenting a poster entitled, “Partnering with High School Librarians To Create Information Literate College Students” at the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio in 2014.  Lisa Hernandez, who notes that her attendance at the Information Literacy Summit was the “highlight of her professional career”, used the concepts she learned at the summit to create an E-Research Plan Portfolio which helps scaffolds reading, writing, and research assignments over a period of time. It also integrates resources from her home library as well as from the UT Libraries and UT’s University Writing Center.

Lisa has shared her work with her colleagues, most recently on November 16th at a district librarian meeting and has been a steadfast leader in bridging the relationships between high school and college teachers and librarians. In our recent correspondence, Lisa gave me an update on her collaboration and the integration of the E-Research Plan Portfolio. She writes,

“Presently, our school library has a unique partnership with South Texas College Library.  Collaboratively, a STC librarian and I provide library services to college and/or HS students.  This semester, Criminal Justice dual-enrollment students were introduced to my e-Research Plan Portfolio as a resource to conducting research.  The success of the portfolio is professors and students are beginning to value it as a research tool; the challenge of the portfolio is constantly verifying electronic links are updated and working.  My future plan is that it will serve as an effective resource to better prepare Texas HS students for college academic success.”

Lisa’s work demonstrates how connecting with our colleagues outside of the University can have a real effect in local communities. When we accepted Lisa into the Information Literacy Summit, we had no idea that we would find such an invested advocate and collaborator. For that, we are truly thankful and grateful.

Two female librarian smiling.
Cindy Fisher and Lisa Hernandez prepare for their presentation to the Texas Association of School Library Administrators Conference on June 18th 2014.

RIOT: Latin@ Perceptions of the Library: Transforming our Space and Services

Dallas Long, Latino Students’ Perceptions of the Academic Library, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 37, Issue 6, December 2011, Pages 504-511, ISSN 0099-1333,

As we move forward with our new space considerations and campus collaborations, I am thinking of student perceptions of the library, specifically among our diverse populations. The literature suggests that Latin@ students report lower levels of library usage and do not ask librarians for help as often as other racial and ethnic groups. This group also exhibits lower levels of information literacy (see below studies from Solis and Dabbour and Whitmire).
Over 19% of UT’s student population self-identifies as ‘Hispanic’ according to UT’s Statistical Handbook. What are we communicating to these students as we build our spaces and transform our services? Why is it so hard to find information about the intersections between cultural support and learning support in libraries?

This study is the result of interviews with 9 undergraduate students from a large midwestern residential research I institution. All of the participants held an on campus job for 10-20 hours a week. All self-identified as Latin@ and were recruited for the study by the Latino Cultural Center (LCC), a university program created to support the cultural, educational, and recreational needs of Latin@ students. As such, the researchers acknowledge, the group of students interviewed may not be representative of the Latin@ population at this school or at other schools. These students identify with their Latin@ background and may therefore be “more engaged and better perceive the connection between cultural constructs of identity and educational systems more than other students who share their cultural identity”(507).

All of the participants began using the library after their first semester – sometimes years into their academic career. Many of the students only came to the library after being prompted by their peers. Some reported learning how to use the library catalog or databases from their peers. As with other studies we have read here in RIOT, the students interviewed here rarely ask librarians for help and often do not know what librarians can help with. Not much new information there.

Where the study got interesting was in talking about the participants’ experiences in the library as they related to their specific cultural identities. For instance, one participant revealed that she had felt on several occasions that staff members and student workers could not understand her accent and therefore raised their voices as if she could not understand them (509). Participants also intimated that they are more likely to approach a library staff member who appears to share their cultural identity. One participant is quoted, “It’s good to know who the other people are who are like you, even if it is just to say hello to.” (509)

Another participant felt that the lack of materials on display which reflect her culture make her feel alienated from the space. She said, “seeing materials that are clearly for me and not really marketed to other students…that really sends a message to me that the library knows that I am here and they recognize me and want me to feel included” (509). Her thoughts were echoed by two other participants who lamented the lack of Spanish-language materials, signage, and posters, materials which make them feel at home (509).

Interviews with the subjects also suggest that public and school libraries figure heavily in Latin@ communities. Those interviewed regarded these spaces as part of their community, spaces for cultural support and expression (509). Experiencing a library in this way would make the transition to the typical university library unsatisfying; we do not typically engage students on that level. The authors suggest holding performances, celebrations or showcasing traditions in the library or dedicating space to Latin@ student services (510) in order to make culturally diverse students feel more included.

In anticipation of the Learning Commons, one of the initiatives that I have been working on this semester is building fruitful partnerships with campus diversity organizations, like the Multicultural Engagement Center, the Gender and Sexuality Center and smaller student diversity groups (and credit is due to the hard work and inspiration from Kristen, Jee and the rest of the Diversity Action Staff Interest Group in facilitating this conversation). This article suggests building substantial partnerships with student orgs and support services and any other cultural groups on campus for shared library spaces. I think such efforts in our space could go a long way in communicating our values and promoting our inclusive attitudes, but the key is finding places where our services complement one another.

So, my questions for you are:

  1. Have you ever thought of this issue of students not feeling included in the library space? Do you have examples?
  2. What about in the virtual space – do you think there is a way or a reason to study diverse students’ perceptions of the library based on how they encounter us digitally?
  3. Moving forward with the Learning Commons, what diversity partnerships or initiatives would you like to see?
  4. The students in this study also work on campus. Do you see opportunities for our diverse student worker population in helping us create an inclusive environment?


Jacqueline Solis & Katherine S. Dabbour, “Latino students and libraries: a U.S. Federal Grant Project Report.” New Library World 107 (1220/1221) (2006): 49.
Ethelene Whitmire, “Cultural diversity and undergraduates’
academic library use.” Journal of Academic of Librarianship 29 (3)
(2003): 152.
Ethelene Whitmire, “Campus racial climate and undergraduates’
perceptions of the academic library.” Portal: Libraries and the
Academy 4 (3) (2004): 363.

Informed Transition Overload

In late January, I found out about a book that would be coming out in early February called Informed Transitions: Libraries Supporting the High School to College Transition because one of the members of the Library Instruction Round Table (LIRT) Transitions-to-College Committee had co-authored an chapter to be included and we were discussing it on our conference call.  This is the book I’ve been waiting to read for the last two years. You know all of those times we’ve sat around the conference table thinking, “Really? Is there nobody else talking about this stuff or thinking about how to partner with high school librarians, other local librarians, or graduate students for a teach-the-teacher model?”  Well. There were. And many of them have written chapters in this book.

This book has also been especially helpful as I try to come up with a curriculum for our Information Literacy Summit happening in just under a month.

I’ve read almost the entire book, but there are a few chapters in particular that align well with what we currently do as well as ideas we’ve had for the future. I also wanted to capture some of the resources that are mentioned in the book that have probably been pushed out via the ILI-listserv as various points in time, but that could be potentially helpful to evaluate again.

I would actually encourage everyone, at some point, to read the first chapter authored by the book’s editor, Ken Burhanna. Entitled, “The Transition Movement: From Blueprint to Construction Zone” it details the history of outreach and/or collaboration of high school and academic librarians in supporting their students.  In 2000, ACRL and AASL (the American Association of School Librarians) co-authored a Blueprint for Collaboration that was essentially a call-to-action for academic and school librarians to work together to better facilitate the integration of information literacy into the curriculum. Their recommendations lay the blueprint for a grant vision of information literacy world domination. As we know, it didn’t exactly come to fruition in this way.

What is igniting an new national interest in high school – academic library partnerships is the adoption of the Common Core Standards by 41 states (and Puerto Rico!) Of course, Texas is not one of them.  AASL has written cross-walks between Common Core and their Standards for the 21st Century Learner. These standards updated the previous ones by addressing multiple literacies and holistic view of learning – not just in the classroom but personal as well.  One of the major points that Ken Burhanna addresses in this introduction is the need for the ACRL Information Literacy Standards to be updated to address these multiple literacies — something that has been addressed over the past few years by research on transliteracy.  In addition, the ACRL IL Competency Review Task Force recommends that the standards be reviewed and extensively updated in the near future to, among other things, provide continuity is the AASL 21st Century Standards.

Among other things the book also describes other ways the academic and high school librarians are working together to bridge this gap, which include:  collaborative dialogues, professions development, preservice teacher education (in a way, what we do with Rhetoric) instructional experience.

Different chapters also details ways in which some HS students are receiving instructional content from an academic seating: HS students visit the college library; HS are participating in pre-college programs (upwards bound, etc), dual credit programs (enrolled in college level courses during HS)

One of the most interesting chapters, “Information Literacy & 21st Century Skills: Training the Teachers” I read came from a program in Minnesota, where they developed Metronet Information Literacy Initiative  for teachers & library media specialists. The goal of MILI is to provide support for teaching information literacy & 21st Century Skills. Metronet is a multi-county library system and it provides training and support for their participants. The program is very small program with just two  full time employees.

The trainers (the library media specialists) focus on  teaching the research process, rather than specific tools. So they teach the 3 R’s → Research, Reliable Resources, Responsible Use. As it’s note, “for the program to be the most effective, teacher participants must have a research project in their curriculum.”

Their mission and visions are very well-organized plan with the responsibilities, outcomes, and goals of the program all laid out (pgs 125-126). One of the materials that they developed to help the teachers to become more critical of their assignments was the ART Evaluation of Assignments. It asks teachers to view their assignment in the context of information literacy. The teachers are then asked to use the Research Project Calculator help teachers work backwards and scaffold the assignment over time. A full overview of the program and the materials that are used to to it are available at

So, just a few questions to spark discussion:

  • Should we be focusing on integrating transliteracy since it’s seems like it’s the natural progression from the AASL 21st Century Learner Standards? Are we already doing this?
  • Is the Rhetoric program a natural partner for continuing to teach the teachers about integrating information literacy (or transliteracy) skills?
  • How do we use the opportunities of outreach to high school librarians to address furthering a scaffold of AASL to ACRL standards?
  •  Are the ACRL IL Standards outdated?

Bridging the Overly Clichéd Gap

A couple of weeks ago we were meeting with our 398T instructors and we were discussing first year undergraduates’ exposure to databases prior to UT. Some of us had noticed that a lot more students seem to be arriving having already searched library databases than in the past. So I emailed four school librarians to find out a little more about this. Responses are summarized below.

Then this afternoon I saw an article from the most recent LOEX Currents about how they are addressing this issue in California. Here is a link to the article – Sequential Information Literacy Instruction (ILI): What, Why and How?

It is about a group of California librarians and their efforts to look sequentially between K-12, College and post college (Public libraries) settings, and whether and how information literacy can be addressed in a connected way. I thought he most interesting part of this article was the table that showed information literacy topics and how they are addressed by the different librarians.

I’m not suggesting we try a similar effort in Texas ourselves (although this might be something interesting for people within TLA to do), since we all have plenty on our plate, but I do think it might serve to inform us about whether our students are having similar or dissimilar ‘library’ experiences in high school, and how those experiences might affect their view of us and how relevant libraries are to research once they get here. And as I’m typing, I’m wondering if it might actually be relatively simple to do a survey like this and send it out to TASL (TX Assoc. of School Librarians) to see what kind of answers we might get on a larger scale? So with that in mind, here is the tiny, completely informal questions I sent and their responses:

Here are the questions I asked them

1. What do you do as far as instruction for your students? Is it formal (library instruction to classes), informal (whoever asks when they’re looking for something in the library), etc.? What percentage of your students do you see in these interactions (totally rough guesstimate)

2. What databases do you have, and how are they paid for – is there a common set among all TX public schools/high schools?

3. If not, do you decide which ones to subscribe to? If not, who does?

And here are the three good/interesting responses:

1. AISD uses the databases that were paid for by TexShare.

Here is a link to my webpage and it shows what we have access to.  When I taught middle school we would use it a lot too, but it was in a different state, so I don’t know if you are interested in that.

2. [this is from a librarian who works for Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, so she’s more of a support person for librarians in the schools, hence the somewhat sales-person type response] We are doing everything we can to get the databases into the hands of students, teachers, parents, etc., etc.! In our school libraries, we are exposing students through whole class instruction, on-the-fly instruction, and even parent sessions in the evenings. NISD has been invited to the TX Capitol School House in January where we’ll have two of our schools represented with students, librarian, technology instructor, and admin. I publish a quarterly newsletter spotlighting database use in the district called Database Showcase

We’ve also recently purchased a federated search product through WebFeat and have Elementary, Middle School, and Professional profiles, with each High School having an individual profile with their catalog and campus specific databases included.

Please take a look at our district database page to see our district-wide subscriptions:

We get some through K-12 Databases: TEA, our regional service center, and Texas State Library & Archives Comm. and some are purchased through Library Services.

3. Our instruction varies depending on the age of the student. Our pre-K Kinder librarian actually has lessons for the little ones on databases.

By the time they get to the high school, we usually teach them in context with their research, except for a lesson that I do for seniors at the beginning of the year on how our databases can help them with colleges and careers. We have collaborated with our technology department on a website called Research Central, where we pre-select the databases and steer the students towards them and away from pure Google:

I started a program called Pirate POWER (Parent Online Web Education Resources) that we put on the first Tuesday night of every month. We show high school parents how to access information on their students through our school web site, and how to use data bases. In 2 months, we have seen 3 parents (0 the first time, so it’s improving).

We have EBSCO and Brittanica, (A.J. all schools can access those for free right now – could be the reason that more of your students have recently been knowledgeable – we should use your letter to convince our legislators that this needs to continue to be funded), but we also subscribe to Facts on File and Gale (we get Testing and Resource Center and Opposing Viewpoints through them also). Our dual credit kids had a real revelation this year when their on-line professor required that they use academic journals. We pay for those through the library, but we code it to curriculum. The librarians have made these choices in the past, but this year we have formed a committee made up of librarians, tech. folks, and teachers. They will be making the decision for next year.

I heard yesterday that the new ELA TEKS have a re-newed emphasis on research. I expect that might also impact our use of databases. Now if I could only get my teachers to use them.

Conclusion: This is just to give us a little more idea about our undergraduates, and specifically what research/library-specific experiences they might have had before they came to UT. This is totally unscientific – would it be worth doing a short survey that would reach many more librarians in K-12, or even just in high schools, to see how they promote information literacy and/or library tools?