Columbus State Community College’s Delaware, OH, Campus Learning Center starts its information literacy outreach early—really early. The library doesn’t just reach out to new students, or even prospective students. It’s starting with elementary school students, thanks to a campus-wide partnership between the college and the Delaware City School District.
More than 70 fourth graders from Laura Woodward Elementary School experienced a day at college on May 25, 2012, according to Dana Knott, library coordinator, and Kristine Szabo, reference and instruction librarian. Knott and Szabo had to design a library project to grab the attention of the students, and got their topic from a primary source: a librarian with a son in elementary school suggested Bigfoot.
Knott and Szabo decided to focus on information literacy and the evaluation of sources, they wrote in College & Research Library News, specifically, to how students should use the CRAP test (Currency, Reliability/Relevance, Authority, and Purpose/ Point of View) to evaluate Bigfoot. To introduce the CRAP test, the instructional librarians likened the hunt for Bigfoot to the hunt for appropriate sources and connected Bigfoot’s strong odor to students using the CRAP test to identify “stinky” sources they should avoid.
They created a Bigfoot Field Guide folder for the students to record their findings and evaluate their sources, a PowerPoint presentation that identified terminology, polls, a Wordle, and a LibGuide. Knott and Szabo found that “students loved the mood pencils and Bigfoot Field Guide folders, and the clickers [used to vote in the polls] fascinated them almost to the point of distraction.”
They had about two months to prepare for the project, Knott told LJ. The work mostly consisted of constructing the supporting materials and meeting with the teachers in advance; about 30 hours all told. Costs were minimal, about $60-$75.
During the course of the lesson, the librarians found that students trusted eyewitness accounts given by adults over those given by children, and that the more sources they evaluated, the stricter they became. “In fact, there were some sources that the librarians thought were good that the students did not,” they wrote.
In addition to teaching information literacy and promoting college attendance, the collaboration also educated the elementary students about the evolving role of librarians. At the beginning of the lesson, “most of the students believed that librarians mainly recommended or checked out books,” Knott and Szabo wrote. “Happily, by the end of the day their perception had completely changed. Librarians now were considered smart professionals who helped people get ‘good’ information and navigate the Internet and databases.”
Knott and Szabo again presented Bigfoot to fourth graders from the same elementary school this year, and will do so again to CSCC students’ families and children from the Columbus community in October. Jessica Crossfield McIntosh (who is now at Otterbein) also helped with the initial presentation; Bree Miller, helped with the encore, and will be helping present again in October.
“We wanted to add even more fun, so one of our IT colleagues created a Bigfoot foot cast that the students were able to touch and marvel over. We also had more fun Bigfoot signs and Bigfoot feet cutouts on the floor leading to the classroom,” Knott told LJ.
In addition, Knott and Szabo have shared their materials and advice with two other academic libraries interested in increasing their community outreach to local elementary schools. One of those libraries has decided to focus on UFOs, Knott said. Many others have accessed the LibGuide and may have built out their own programs around Bigfoot (Knott also recommends the Loch Ness Monster or historical mysteries). And Knott believes there’s room to expand beyond academic libraries. “Our program can be readily modified to suit the needs of an elementary school classroom, school library, or public library,” she said.