Rethinking What We Do: College Transitions

In our second week of school, we had our first 2013 graduate return from college to visit.

She had popped in on her way from work — she is working a morning shift at fast food and taking 15 semester hours at the community college — and as she looked around our temporary space, she wanted to know when the new school library would become open. “And will it be public?” she said, “I remember they said the library would be public…”

The construction is barely underway, so I told her it would be a while. While the planned space would be available for the community, I wasn’t certain if the library collection would be.

Photo, Tom Saint

Photo, Tom Saint

The problem with the library at the community college, she asserted, was there wasn’t anything good to read. “It’s all encyclopedias,” she said.

As I looked at this book-loving girl, a girl who dressed as Effie Trinket for costume day during homecoming week, who was thrilled to tell me that she has the sixth Mortal Instruments book preordered, and I realized I didn’t prepare her for the community college library.

We school librarians tend to worry so much about hoping out students can craft (or generate) the perfect citation, and on inculcating skills like database retrieval and website evaluation that they will need for their college coursework, that we sometimes forget that leisure reading will be along a continuum as well. For students thrust from a library supporting adolescent literacy to a college library organized around the curriculum, those distinctions must seem a rude awakening.

Part of this is my own fault. Beginning my second school year here, I’m still new to the school and the community. I knew more about the resources in the local colleges where I was before, but I have yet to forge that relationship at my new school.

I need a better idea of what the community college does hold, and a contact there with whom I can put our graduating students in touch.

I need a way to wean our graduates off our collections and reader’s advisory, moving them to the really top-notch local public library.

And I need to maintain our digital presence for recommendations, recommendations that might be just as applicable for graduates as current students.

And, actually, I don’t think our school is in a bad situation for transitioning students. Our retired school librarian works at the public library, which is geographically close to the school.

I regret that I let our former student get away without something to read, realizing after the fact that I could have made her a community patron record…but I dropped off The Fifth Wave at her  drive-through later, to keep her reading in the meantime.

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