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A high school English teacher asked me to show her students ALL of the print
resources available in our library dealing with literary criticisms.  Today
they came in for a 30 minute "quick review" of the resources.

I quickly told them about the Contemporary Literary Criticisms (Gale), the
Dictionary of Literary Biographies (Gale), and the rest of the 800's in our
reference section (we have several sets of these) ---stopping only to share
specific information about what might be contained in each (specific times
in history, specific genre, etc.)  Most realized that the print resources
contained what they could also find in the online databases (same
materials), but some wanted to browse the print material later and did.

We then moved to the OPAC and I asked how many knew we had this
available--at least 2-3 students in each class didn't even realize that we
had an online catalog--our class sizes are around 15-18 students!  Many knew
we had an OPAC but had never used it.  When we began using it, they suddenly
realized how they could manipulate the keywords, subjects, etc. to locate
information.  Many began printing their "marked lists" of books and went to
locate the books on the shelves...and many got lost in the process there

I walked with three girls to the area where John Steinbeck's works were and
while we were looking for a specific title, another girl who came by with
her list stopped and pulled a book.  It was a Harold Bloom lit crit on
Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."  She asked, "Is this THE book or
is it something else?"  I said, "No, this is an entire book containing
literary criticisms about "The Scarlet Letter."  She suddenly grabbed it
back from me and yelled to her teacher (who was just approaching us in the
stacks) and said, "Look!  Look what we found!  Books written about THE BOOKS
we are reading!!  These are all literary criticisms!"

I don't know if I should laugh or cry....these are JUNIORS!!! (at least I
caught them, right?)  They have never been taught HOW to use an online
catalog to locate materials until NOW!!  Before the day was over, I actually
had students using their IDs and passwords to put HOLDS on books that had
been checked out earlier in the day--they thought this was a cool thing to

Can I cry now?

I'm tempted to send a note to my administrators telling them, "The juniors
learned how to use the online catalog today!  Many became excited when they
realized that there were actually books written about other books (called
literary criticisms) AND that we owned them in our library.  Had these
students and their teachers been required to use the library for research
assignments (which would have involved including the librarian in a
collaborative teaching project), this "day of discovery" may have actually
occurred many years ago...."

I'm sorry for being so cynical, but my students and teachers really don't
understand how much libraries / librarians have evolved in the past 50
years.  Doing "average" library instruction becomes like "walking on water"
for some of my teachers....I'm really worried about how much my teachers
know about this stuff ---and I'm VERY concerned about my administrators
because they are the ones who control what can or can't be taught to my
teachers (professional development) in this area.  If they see no need, then
I won't be able to do much more than win one teacher over at a time...not
very productive for a private, college prep school.

Should I share this "new discovery" with my administrators (in a much nicer
way, of course) or should I just continue moving along in a "Johnny
Appleseed" sort of way...planting slowly as I go...not disturbing the
surroundings....(heaven knows, I've been reprimanded for making too many
changes...I'd hate to change their whole approach to research ---using their
OWN library's print resources by accessing the information through the
"snazzy new online public access computers"....that we've had for almost a

I don't think our administrators  realize that our students (and teachers)
don't know how to use the library and its resources---and I won't even lay
odds on what they understand about the library.

Laughing through my tears,

Shonda Brisco
Trinity Valley MS / US Librarian
Fort Worth, TX

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