Here we go again!  Another summer, another exciting RYSAG camp!  We are just a week and two days away from counselor orientation and then on Monday, July 19, about 60 middle and high school students from the Rochester City School District (RCSD) will descend upon SUNY Geneseo‘s campus.  This is the time of the summer when my organizational efforts really hit mach speed.

Thanks to the diligence and consciensciousness of one of our outstanding counselors, currently home for the summer and away from the hustle and bustle of confirming plans for the camp organization and storyline, I’ve been (positively) pushed to focus on finalizing schedules and google docs so that everyone involved will have the necessary information before arriving on campus.  Last night, I spent time refining the camp storyline in a google doc, adding notes from a previous meeting with the Camp Director as well as new ideas developed in a recent meeting with the camp’s faculty planning group.

Potential volunteer interviewees (faculty and staff from all different academic disciplines) have been contacted and most have responded with their availability to meet with our students to discuss personal experiences with conflict, difference and/or adaptation.  One more reminder should hopefully push the lagging interviewees along.  The hope is to have a nearly finalized interview schedule before our Monday (7/12) meeting with all camp volunteers.  At this meeting, everyone will be informed of the general camp plan, goals and expectations, putting us all on the same page.  We arranged for a similar meeting two years ago and that really helped for a smooth transition into the camp’s “theater.”

This year’s camp, whose theme focuses on peacekeeping and conflict negotiation, should be interesting with two teams consisting of brand new (to RYSAG) RCSD students entering seventh and eighth grades in the fall.  For the past two years, we’ve seen a lot of repeat students, many of whom have participated in every camp experience since the 2007 inception.  Our numbers for four-peaters are dwindling but we have still retained nine of the original RYSAG CSI candidates.  Understandable considering these students are likely to be entering the tenth grade this fall, where scholastic expectations and requirements are heightened and students are now at an age where they can begin working full-time summer jobs.

Our four-peaters, and even a handful of three-peaters, form one of our four camp teams and serve as CITs – counselors-in-training – where leadership skills and roles are stressed, placing the students in good stead for future counselor positions.  How amazing will it be if/when these students return in their pre-senior and even post-senior/college summers to assist with the running of the camp!!!!  Our first introduction to these students was when they were entering seventh grade!  How quickly time passes.

But I digress . . . the reasoning behind the title of this post refers to a recent SUNYLA conference presentation I offered.  I had two main reasons for developing the presentation.  First, to highlight the amazing RYSAG camp experience, which I’ve been wanting to boast about for a few years now.  The second reason was to encourage librarians, especially those new to the field, to identify their strengths and interests – both personal and professional – and promote them by joining campus projects and committees where librarian talents are seriously needed.

The strengths and interests I identified within myself at the presentation include:

  • organizational skills, especially where logic and scheduling are involved
  • technological knowledge and ability to make practical use of technological tools to bring people together
  • creativity
  • risk taking
  • pedagogical knowledge
  • team player, wanting to bring people together in meaningful and fun ways
  • mediator, using my contacts and knowledge among various academic departments

All of these attributes have come in handy when putting together the RYSAG camp infrastructure.  From creating rotating schedules for campers, instructors, counselors and interviewees to using a variety of social networking tools for the good of document and idea sharing (i.e., google docs, wikis, blogs), camper communication and training (i.e., gmail accounts, blogs, Truveo multimedia searching, interactive web scavenger hunt), and tracking volunteers’ availability (i.e., Doodle) to suggesting key players to the camp storyline based on a wide range of contacts in different departments due to library instruction efforts and other campus-wide committee participation.

As mentioned in the SUNYLA presentation, while I am well aware of the amazing skills and special talents librarians bring to the table, especially in campus-wide forums, I become downright giddy when I hear of stories where librarians lead the faculty/staff pack and offer a sense of unity, focus, organization, creativity and expertise.  It is these stories that remind me what a valuable service we provide to the campus community.

And again, I encourage all librarians to realize the unique attributes they have to offer, to get involved in campus projects and to promote the good that our librarian superpowers can foster.

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From Barbara Ciambor, Outreach Librarian, Rochester Regional Library Council

The Information Literacy Continuum Committee, working under the auspices of the Rochester Regional Library Council (RRLC), is an example of a collaborative group of academic, school and public librarians in the Rochester, NY area, committed to ensuring that students in K-12 and higher education institutions learn information seeking skills. The group has developed a continuum of information literacy skills needed for a transition from high school to college.

The committee was first formed in 2004 as a result of a Library Services and Technology Act funded, New York State Library Division of Library Development grant awarded to RRLC, to promote the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL) databases. The committee’s original charge was to encourage lifelong learning through the use of the NOVELNY databases but the group quickly broadened its scope to include students’ information literacy skills.

Area academic librarians were concerned that students entered their institutions lacking basic information literacy skills, yet school librarians knew they were teaching these skills. There was obviously a disconnect somewhere, and librarians were interested in working collaboratively to define the disconnect and discover what could be done about it.

The committee posed the question ‘What if we could develop a document that would assist students with the high school to college transition, introducing specific skills with reinforcement as part of the process?’”

A lengthy collaboration produced the “Core Library & Research Skills Grade 9-14+” document which outlines grade levels at which specific skills in each step are expected to be introduced and mastered. The document has been shared throughout the Rochester area, at a workshop hosted by St. John Fisher College, for the Rochester Area School Librarians (RASL) and feedback has been received from librarians in the U.S. and abroad. Committee members have had the opportunity to present at regional library meetings and conferences, including a joint presentation with the Buffalo area High School to College group at the Spring Sharing session of the School Librarians’ Association of Western New York (SLAWNY)

Information Literacy Continuum Committee members have organized and participated in a variety of programs to help educate school and academic librarians about information literacy instruction at the different levels. School librarians have attended academic library orientations, which include tours of library buildings as well as discussions about library instruction at the host institution. Academic librarians share their expectations for incoming students, and high school librarians discuss their experiences teaching students information literacy skills. An “Information Literacy Discussion Forum” was held, attended by both school and academic librarians.

Collaborative activities have included a panel presentation by academic librarian members to a faculty meeting at Brockport High School. The college and university librarians discussed what they felt were the skills students were lacking, and made suggestions as to what high school teachers and librarians could do to address these issues. Topics of discussion ranged from note taking and writing skills to research and social skills. Overall the resounding message was that incoming college students need to better understand the research process, including how to take adequate notes, identify or focus a topic and associated key words or phrases, how to evaluate web sources, and how to cite sources. The panel stressed that repetition and reinforcement was critical to success, all agreed that the more students wrote and researched in high school the better.

The panel discussion generated a great deal of positive feedback from Brockport High School faculty and administration, with one teacher observing “It was great to make a connection with people in the academic arena, they reaffirmed that we’re on the right track. I definitely gleaned some good ideas from their feedback.” The high school librarians have also stated that the experience of collaboration has added a level of credibility to interactions with students and teachers, sharing the realistic expectations of librarians and faculty at the college level.

Two new members representing public libraries have joined the committee. With their input, the committee will broaden its focus to learn how information literacy can be supported across a “continuum” of lifelong learning.

From Dean Hendrix, Coordinator of Education Services, University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library

Three years ago, the University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library (UBHSL) and the New Visions Honors Level Connection Program from Erie I BOCES began a collaborative program to teach practical information literacy skills to high schools seniors in the area.

Focused on health sciences careers, these students spent one day a week at a local hospital (Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital or the Buffalo VA Hospital) during the school year. At the beginning of the year, their teachers assigned the classes controversial questions in field of health sciences to research, and ultimately debated in a formal setting.

Students are expected to research both sides of an issue.

Past questions include:

* Should the United States government legalize medical marijuana?

* Should the United States government pay for universal health care?

* Should local, state or federal legislation ban unhealthy behaviors (riding a motorcycle without a helmet, trans fats in foods, smoking in public areas, etc.)?

* Should US citizens be allowed to fill prescriptions in pharmacies residing in foreign countries?

* Should the US government allow human cloning research?

In October, the classes came to UBHSL for hands-on training in some basic information literacy skills including the nature of different types of resources, the information cycle, database searching, evaluative methods and synthesizing information into a useful product.

The evaluative piece of the curricula was stressed heavily. Discussions were centered around the assessment of books, journals, magazines and websites as well as more in-depth delineations regarding study types (randomized controlled trials, review articles, editorials, case studies, etc.).

Due to the age of the students (read: attention span), interactive activities and group work were incorporated into the library instruction. Students were encouraged to come to the UBHSL, or patronize their high school libraries to refine their positions on the issues.

In November, students wrote a position paper with references culled from their previous research. The quality of their sources was assessed. The capstone to this collaboration was a formal debate held in the hospital in front of family, friends and hospital staff. Broken into teams of four, the students argued their assigned positions in a Lincoln-Douglas debate format. I served as one of three debate judges. It was extremely gratifying to see these students eloquently speak on these contentious topics. One student made a point to discuss the higher level evidence presented in a review article in order to add weight to his argument. It was a health sciences librarian’s dream to be sure.