It’s Not About the Collection: Homework Help Solutions

In our first post on the topic of public library homework help, we provided an overview of why we think it’s important to spend time talking about what many teen librarians take for granted: homework help. Because this service is often assumed to be a requirement of high-quality service, librarians serving young adults do not often take the time needed to evaluate homework services and consider whether they are as valuable and worthwhile as expected. In this second post on the topic, we talk about homework help services that can work and how public librarians can start to re-think how they provide homework help.

Let’s start with the idea that many public libraries assume they have to provide a full array of materials to teens that support homework needs. These might be physical library materials that are on fiction and non-fiction shelves or web-based materials that live as links on library website homework pages.  What if we said instead that the first requirement of successful homework support should be to focus on space for teens to use resources (maybe resources from the public library and maybe resources from the school library or some other location) and collaborate, which includes giving them the opportunity to:

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Homework Help in the Library: What’s it All About?

Does your public library provide homework support for teens? Chances are the answer is “yes.” Many (or most) public library websites offer a homework help section, full of links to databases, websites, and librarian-approved search engines. You may offer other homework support services as well, like subscriptions to student-friendly databases, a collection of print materials specifically for school assignments, or special programs (for example, late night hours during exam times) for studiers. Some public librarians work hard to connect with teachers and media specialists in order to learn what’s happening in the classroom and supplement and support what’s happening in the schools.

On its face, homework support is a positive and obvious service for a public library to offer. School libraries are not usually open late in the day, which means students often need a place to work on homework and access resources. As a publicly funded institution, shouldn’t the public library be spending some of its dollars on homework-related activities that complement what happens in the school library and the classroom?
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