A friend recently expressed some frustration with the back-to-school tradition that is Open House, and wondered if it made her a “bad parent” to think this way. I assured her that teachers too don’t always love Open House, and that they might be some better ways to welcome parents to the new school year. Even teaching in the graduate setting now, I enjoy the freshness that comes with all the welcome and introductions in a new semester, but what I really like is the rhythm of the class that sets in by about the fourth week or so, when the students and instructor know one another, and you can really get into the heart of the learning.
Back to school in the library has its own traditions too, and for many schools, this includes some kind of orientation, for some segment of the school. School library orientation can be exciting– it’s a great chance to showcase new materials or recently rearranged areas, catch up with the students, and meet the newest kids in the building, all while preparing students to visit the library throughout the year. But orientations can also be exhausting for librarians, especially if you teach at a big school and find yourself reciting the same information day after day until you’ve cycled through the new ninth graders, all of the kindergarten, or the senior research class (or whatever your designated groups may be.)
And as Judi Moreillon points out in the November 2012 SLM article, Policy Challenge: Orientation versus Access, teachers and students also have varied perceptions on the value of orientation. For some groups- like those kindergartners – exploring the library and experiencing the thrill of checking out books may be all that’s needed to start the year off right, with library lessons integrated throughout the year to introduce information in appropriate doses.
For other learners, online or just-in-time delivery of introductory information (during inquiry projects, for instance) may provide more fruitful orientations, and allow you (as librarian) to start off a more open schedule of classes and collaborations– that rhythm of the learning community that I mentioned before.
What do you do to orient your students to the library? What strategies are working for you, and what might you try as the year goes along? Post in the comments!