Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tonight's Patrons

It was busy at the desk this evening, and after the pre-holiday weeks of it being deadsville, I'm always happy when it's busy.

Some "interesting" issues:

I had a slew of parents with their fourth-grade children in for a homework assignment. Apparently the kids are doing a project on a RI "landmark" or tourist attraction and they need to gather info on the assigned locations. Sounds like fun. Of course, most of them did their initial research online, gathered some data, and were then told that they needed print sources to bring to class. OK, that's great, but unfortunately this teacher is way overestimating the amount of print information available on most of said landmarks, and also overestimating how much info we have here at our library (kids needed the books for tomorrow). All of these parents and children expected to come in and leave with armloads of books about their topics - and that just wasn't happening. First of all, many of these places are NOT written extensively about. Most have garnered a brief mention in the local travel/tourist guides, and that's about it. The kids who were assigned a lighthouse were the luckiest - we here on the New England coast love us some lighthouses, and I was able to find decent length articles for them in our bevy of lighthouse books. But others left empty-handed and frustrated - especially since all of our RI tour guides were snatched up in short order. It was painfully obvious that this teacher had NO IDEA what kind of print materials were (and were NOT) available for her assignment.

In a similar vein, an 11th grade boy came in looking for primary and secondary print information on the Trail of Tears. Yeah-huh. I had one (adult) book on the Trail of Tears, and no primary source information (in print). Naturally he needed this for tomorrow, so ILL was not an option. Now, first of all, he could not tell me the difference bewteen primary and secondary source info. He did not have his assignment page with him. He had NO CLUE what he was looking for. He also said that he could use "online" info, and that he planned to simply Google it when he got home. I asked him if his teacher had SPECIFIED what she meant by "online" info, and he said, "no." I asked if he knew what the different was between accessing academic (ie journal) info online and Googling a webpage, and he said, "no." I did manage to find him some good primary source info online, but it was very clear that he didn't know WHY it was primary source info, and he had even less of an idea as to what made a website a "good" source vs a "not so good" source. Sigh. This was an 11th grade assignment!

I get frustrated because I have, on several ocassions, sent teachers information on our collection, told them what I am able to offer them in terms of help (customized lists, bookmarks, library tour, etc) and requested that they contact me if the whole class is doing an assignment on one topic so that I can secure extra sources. I have reminded them of the ILL service and the fact that it takes a few days to get requested material. I have sent them flyers outlining our online databases, and suggested that they be very clear about what is acceptable when telling kids that "online" content is OK for an assignment. I have NEVER heard from any of the teachers. Now, I know that it is entirely possible that this kid's cluelessness was completely his fault, but I have to say I fear that many teachers have no idea what the difference is between Googling up some webpages and using a database (and I am so not knocking Google - I use it 100 times a day).

But, as depressing/frustrating as all that was, I was more horrified by this exchange that took place at my desk as two teens signed up to use the internet:

Girl (age 15) - "Hey, Johnny, haven't seen you in a long time."

Johnny (also 15, who just told me that he didn't have a parent or legal guardian to sign his Internet Use Policy form because he lives in a "semi-independant" living program) - "Hey, you never call me."

Girl - "Oh, my boyfriend went through my cell and found your number and deleted it."

Me (Before I could shut my yapper) - "Tell him he has no business being in YOUR phone."

Girl (Giggling) - "He loves me - he's jealous like that."

Me (banging head on desk) - *sigh*

1 comment:

Kaijsa said...

It won't make you feel any better, but this happens at colleges and universities, too. It would be nice if teachers would do the research they're asking their students to do. I know how frustrating it is to actually have people come in to the library, only to leave disappointed. If they weren't given unreasonable expectations, it wouldn't reflect badly on us.