This month, we’re going to step a wee bit away from tech tips to address every librarian’s nightmare: Library Orientation. Every year, freshman teachers come to me and ask to bring their classes into the media center, just so I can show students where everything is located. This is great for kiddos who already love the library, but it’s a pretty tough sell for those students who avoided the library in middle school and have no intention of changing their ways. I’ve tried many approaches over the years, but really, as it’s not tied to a curricular goal, the standard library orientation can be a bit of a grind. This year, I’ll be working with all the freshmen through their required seminar classes, and I’m determined to kick it off right.
So, what’s the goal of this orientation anyway? First, I’d like all students to learn that the library is a friendly, welcoming place, a safe haven in the storm that is high school. Sometimes all a student needs is a place to hide out. Secondly, I want all students to really know what we have to offer them: fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, audiobooks, magazines, and reference books. I want them to actually log in and access our ebook collection. I want them to use the databases, save articles, and generate citations. All of this is a fairly large hope for a group of kids who’ll undoubtedly ask, “How many points is this worth?” So knowing my audience fairly well, I’ve decided to resort to outright bribery, and I’m going to convince my staff to be open and prepared for the chaos I’m sure to unleash.
I’m putting together a scavenger hunt. Yes, I know, this is not a terribly new idea. But I’m planning on throwing a few twists in to make it interesting and keep the students engaged. Students will travel around the library in groups of no more than three. To begin, each group will receive a clue, in the form of a Call Number, which leads them to a different print location so not all students are converging on the same spot at the same time. I’ll need to develop at least 12 different scavenger paths so students touch on everything fabulous in the library without tripping over each other. When students locate their book, they’ll find one of those old plastic VHS cases disguised as a book and containing candy (Smarties most likely) and their next clue, which will be one of a variety of things. Several will direct them to specific computer stations with directions to access a specific database. They’ll need to locate an article on a given topic, generate the citation, and email it to me along with their group number so we can keep everyone organized and on individual scavenger paths. I plan to have my assistant back in my office sending out the next clue when she receives correct emails. Other clues will lead to “books” containing QR codes linking to our website. One clue will direct them to check out an ebook. Yet another clue will lead them to iPads loaded with Aurasma videos demonstrating how to download newspapers and periodicals on their laptops and smartphones.
Ultimately, the real goal of this chaotic undertaking is to teach kids that the library is a place where questions are answered, passions are pursued, and where dreams are launched. Obviously, this is a work in progress, but as it takes shape, I’d love to hear what other librarians are doing to spice up their obligatory orientation.
For more ideas on how to spice up your orientation, check out Joyce Valenza‘s Orientation Inspiration post on her Neverending Search blog.
Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, Colorado.
Krista Brakhage is a teacher librarian at Poudre High School, Fort Collins, Colorado.
This article was featured in School Library Journal's SLJTeen enewsletter. Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month for free.