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.

How to Keep One-Shots Fresh

By Janell Verdream, Instruction Librarian at Ohio State Newark and Central Ohio Technical College


At the Newark campus, we’ve become familiar with a number of classes that we visit regularly: mainly introductory English, History, and Biology courses. We’ve answered countless questions about the same research projects assigned in these classes semester after semester. Essentially, we could probably teach these one-shots in our sleep, but how can we keep these sessions fresh and engaging so as to not put our students to sleep?

Make a new presentation each time

It may seem tedious, but I’ve found that making a new PowerPoint presentation for each class keeps me from going on autopilot while I’m presenting. I switch up the order of topics, the example search terms I use, and the GIFs I include (did you know you can put GIFs in a PowerPoint?! It’s a game changer!). These little changes help to keep me in the moment during each presentation.

Break up your time wisely

One-shots are never as long as we’d like them to be, so it’s important to use our time wisely. Whether I have 30 minutes or 55 minutes, I never plan on lecturing for that entire time. Personally, I try not to lecture for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. The students like to talk with their peers and play games, so I like to do partner activities and review games. In pairs or groups of three, I sometimes have the students help each other come up with search terms for their individual research questions. Another small group activity could be asking each group to find one or two articles about an assigned topic.

Use apps

Along the same lines of group activities and review games, education apps are a great way to keep students engaged. I always try to leave room at the end of my one-shots for a short Kahoot! review game that goes over topics I discussed. The students get competitive with each other, and they always come up with funny usernames!

Another app I use often is Mentimeter, where students can vote in polls, post questions during my lectures that I can address later, or submit permalinks to articles they found during group activities. There are tons of different tools on Mentimeter, so explore it and get inspired to create new one-shot activities!

Constantly learn and experiment

If you come up with a new activity for one-shots, share that idea with your colleagues! Ask them what they’ve tried during one-shots. What worked? What definitely didn’t? Talking to your peers is a great way to discover best practices.

Don’t be afraid to experiment either. I keep a spreadsheet listing each class I visit, the activities we did, what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. Then, I can look back at my notes for ideas when I’m feeling stuck, or to remember why an idea I had failed.

Have fun!

If you’re not engaged and having fun, you cannot expect your students to be engaged and have fun. Like I said, I like to throw GIFs into my PowerPoints, and I’m sure there are tons of other ways to add personality to your presentations. My main goal for a one-shot is not for each student to remember every single thing I said. Instead, it’s to show each student that I’m a resource on campus (or online) that they should feel comfortable approaching for help. The best way to do that, I’ve found, is to have fun together during the one-shot.