What can public libraries offer to students? As was mentioned in a previous blog post; 13 community segments that public libraries are targeting to visit their local library; students came in at number 12 on the list. Of course, many students have access to academic libraries, which is a great resource as well but there are some important benefits that public libraries can offer to high-school and university students that may not be known or provided at other institutions.
It’s important to emphasize that libraries, no matter the type, are a great resource for students and should be a place frequently visited to increase knowledge, develop skills and help achieve goals. Data reflected in the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) show students who report using library resources tend to be more highly engaged with their studies.
This post will discuss why students should visit public libraries and what they will gain by doing so.
With advancements in technology, information is now found easier and faster than ever before; however, these advancements come with new issues around finding relevant and trustworthy information. Public libraries support visitors in finding their own answers through research. As stated in the ALA report on Information Literacy
“Information literacy, therefore, is a means of personal empowerment. It allows people to verify or refute expert opinion and to become independent seekers of truth. It provides them with the ability to build their own arguments and to experience the excitement of the search for knowledge.”
Information literacy is important at any age but perhaps specifically important for students as they are learning to develop and express their own thought processes and formulate opinions in their various academic papers.
Public libraries have many shared spaces that can be used for students to read, study or complete assignments. Public libraries also provide reliable Wi-Fi and sometimes a space to grab a coffee. This is nice for the students that may be spending extended stretches at the library finishing schoolwork.
Many libraries also provide a private space that can be reserved for individual studying, a group project or meetings. For example the Toronto Public Library offers rented library spaces for visitors that in some cases come with access to a projector or even access to a shared kitchen. Similarly, Cheshire Public Library in Connecticut offers their patrons access to study rooms. The library has rooms suitable for groups of 2 to 6 and can be reserved for specific days.
Public libraries are also a great place for students to visit to study and complete assignments in a group. There are 15 public libraries in Kenya National Library Service that facilitate study groups at the library to help “learners” complete their online courses.
At Torrance Public Library in California, Individuals or groups can receive help on homework or assignments from tutors but can also submit homework questions and it will be reviewed by an expert who provides guidance to the person(s) submitting the question.
Somerset Public Library in Massachusetts provides their students with access to databases and various materials that will help them with assignments and student projects.
Accessibility & Familiarity
Public libraries tend to be a more familiar space to students. Many parents bring their young children to libraries for the resources available to their families which is instilling library visits as a fun, positive event for their children. So, when these children are in high school or university, they will have a strong familiarity with public libraries and the resources and spaces provided that make them a great place to work on school tasks.
The relationship between students and libraries is also discussed in Karen Antell’s journal “Why do College Students Use Public Libraries? A Phenomenological Study” where the article presents interviews with college students who provided reasoning such as familiarity to their public library as motivation for using it over academic libraries.
Another reason cited in Karen Antell’s article was that accessibility at public libraries made them the preferred choice over large academic libraries. Public libraries tend to have more parking availability and were said to be less intimidating than academic libraries as mentioned by the people interviewed in the journal.
Even though school assignments, papers and presentations are completed through online platforms, printing materials for review or to hand-in for marking is inevitable. Hard-copy documents will be required at some point throughout the school year. Because many students do not own a printer themselves they can do all their printing at public libraries.
Many public libraries have mobile printing solutions or a printing solution that would allow patrons to print from their own device (fx. laptop, phone, tablet). This type of solution is perfect for students who tend to prefer using their own device from which they are accustomed to completing their work and printing. We at Princh, provide an easy to use mobile printing solution that allows patrons to print and pay from any device, thus enabling students, and all patrons, to seamlessly complete their work from their own device and print without interruption. You can read more about it here.
Another motivation for students to visit public libraries is the classes that are provided by many public libraries. For example, The Seattle Public Library offers homework help classes and college and job readiness classes. This allows students to seek answers and help with difficult homework assignments which helps them learn and complete their assignments. The college and job readiness classes involve trained volunteers who help prepare students for college and/or graduation.
The Rochester Public Library in Minnesota provides exam prep resources for their patrons. They offer access to many different career tests as well as skill development tutorials.
Libraries Support Students
As stated above, all libraries play an important role for students and the overarching message is that they should all be used to help students achieve their goals. However, Public libraries should not be overlooked by students in high school or university, because of the unique resources and programs available there. Raising awareness in the student community will help increase the number of students engaging with their public library for schoolwork.
A quote from an article on libraries and students from the Guardian, sums up the relationship between students and libraries perfectly.
“The library is not an idea, it is not an archetype, it is not endowment. Libraries are rooms. Rooms of hope, rooms of concentration, rooms of dreams and study. They remain the last public spaces reserved for the free and equal learning.”
We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!
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