The Importance of Access to Librarians in High School

Post written by Janell Verdream, Instruction Librarian at The Ohio State University- Newark and Central Ohio Technical College.

In 2021, I joined librarians from Miami University, Abigail Morgan and Jerry Yarnetsky, as they built on a study they conducted in 2019. We surveyed first-year students at Miami and OSU-Newark who attended high school in Ohio before coming to college. The main focus of our research was to investigate how access to librarians in high school may impact feelings of preparedness for college-level research. We were also interested in comparing high school typologies (district size, poverty levels, and district type such as rural, urban, etc.) as we viewed our survey results.

Overall, students reported feeling anxious when it comes to conducting college-level research and using their university library. Only 41.4% of the respondents reported feeling prepared for college-level research. We found that students who attended high school remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic felt especially less prepared.

The good news is that instruction from librarians in high school did seem to make a difference. Having learned research skills from a librarian (instead of another person, an online module, or not at all) was correlated with feeling more prepared. Additionally, the smallest amount of help from a librarian in high school makes a huge difference. Only 27% of students who never received librarian help reported feeling prepared. This percentage nearly doubles when students “rarely” received help, with 50% of those students feeling prepared. 62% of students who “occasionally” received librarian help felt prepared for college-level research, and the students who felt most prepared (83%) were helped “frequently” in high school.

The unfortunate news is that 54.5% of our respondents reported never receiving help from a librarian in high school. This percentage is even higher among the students who attended a small-town high school (72.4% never received help) and those who attended rural high schools (58.8% never received help). Furthermore, it is those students who received the least help that reported feeling the most intimidated by their college libraries.

Inspired by our study results, Abi, Jerry, and I have made some changes to our day-to-day interactions with students. We are reducing library jargon on our signage and websites, as well as going back to the basics (how to access the library website, how to read call numbers, etc.) in our one-shots. We encourage you to consider your students’ perceptions of their research abilities and their levels of library anxiety as you plan future instruction sessions.

If you would like to learn more about our study, you can find our presentation at ALAO Annual 2022 here. NEO-RLS members also have access to a recorded webinar from earlier this month. We will also be presenting our research at ALA Annual this summer with additional updates based on conversations we’ve had with other library-related professional organizations around the state.

Taking the Easy Way Out Leads to Poor Information Literacy

Post written by Danny Dotson, Associate Professor, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist, and head of the Orton Memorial Library of Geology & the Gardner Family Map Room at The Ohio State University

At some point in their lifetime, many current university students have been given bad rules to use in their information seeking and use behaviors. I’m going to give some examples of these rules, why they’re bad, examples, and alternatives.

I’m going to make this graphical – that way, I won’t ramble (or rant).


So there you have it. Several rules I’ve heard over the years that, while good intentioned, end up doing some harm. They result in students making mistakes or not fully understanding they nuances or the WHY of what they’re doing. So let’s go more into those shades of gray.

I’m Using EBSCO

Post written by Danny Dotson, Associate Professor, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist, and head of the Orton Memorial Library of Geology & the Gardner Family Map Room at The Ohio State University


So have you ever had a student tell you that they’re using EBSCO or ProQuest – or some other “database” for their searching? If you’re a librarian, you’ll know this isn’t useful info. But I’m going to help demonstrate just HOW unusual it is.

For those that may not know why at all, a background.  EBSCO and ProQuest are database vendors. They sell many different databases. Many many databases.  And while their branded platform may make most, if not all, of their databases look the similar (if not the same in some cases), what these databases search for and their search features can vary.

Imagine if you asked someone what they were eating. And they replied “Nabisco!”  That’s not very informative. Are they eating Chips Ahoy!? Ritz crackers? Easy Cheese?

Using what Ohio State has to offer, here are the possibilities for when people name a vendor rather than the actual database:

Now let’s look closer at EBSCO’s database.  I mean, real close.  How small does the font have to be to get all of the databases to fit so that this blog can be drafted in just a 1 page Word document (1/2 inch margins)? Even using 4 columns, the Arial font has to be at 4 pt!

This just addressed two vendors. There are others with multiple databases..

So next time you have someone say they’re using EBSCO or ProQuest, let them know you had some Nabisco earlier!

Principled Uncertainty as Catalyst for Learning

By Craig Gibson, Professor and Professional Development Coordinator in the Libraries at The Ohio State University


On Wednesday, April 20th, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST, The Ohio State University Libraries (OSUL) will host a virtual chat entitled, “Principled Uncertainty as a Catalyst for Learning: A Conversation with Barbara Fister.” Barbara Fister, a well-known information literacy advocate and the Scholar in Residence at Project Information Literacy (PIL), will join Michael Flierl, the Information Literacy and Research Engagement Librarian at OSUL, who will moderate the 90-minute session, to discuss how librarians and educators can help students deal with uncertainty by developing ethical curiosity as an everyday life habit.

As academic librarians, how do we develop dispositions like curiosity in order to enable “principled uncertainty,” especially at scale? How do we work across curricula to develop this habit of mind in assignments and courses? How do we work with faculty and faculty developers to accomplish this shift in mindset over time? How do we leverage the “one-shot” instruction session to encourage more open-ended exploration of complex subjects on the part of students to encourage more open-ended exploration of complex topics as learning trajectories, to resist the drive for “settled answers”?

During a virtual conversation with librarians, faculty, staff and students from the OSU library system, Writing Center and the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning, at OSU as well as members of the statewide ALAO organization, Fister will explore these questions and draw from both her depth of experience leading an academic library and her recent article, “Principled Uncertainty: Why Learning to Ask Good Questions Matters More than Finding Answers,” for the PIL Provocation Series. Fister, Professor Emerita, Gustavus Adolphus College (MN), designed workshops and taught courses on information literacy at the college level for over 30 years. She is the Contributing Editor for the PIL Provocation Series, and has been PIL’s Scholar in Residence since 2019.

The virtual discussion is limited to 60 – 65 participants who may register in advance hereALAO members are invited to attend.