UW Tacoma Library and Tacoma Public Schools

A concrete, multi-story high school building with a row of glass windows.
Foss High School. Image by Gexydaf via Flickr.

It is no secret that students can struggle to make the transition from high school to college. As the First Year Experience Librarian here at UW Tacoma Library, one of my main focuses is to look at this issue from the perspective of the library and work on addressing issues systematically. As part of this effort, I began collaborating with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) this past fall, first by attending a continuing education training for the high school librarians, and now collaborating to arrange campus visits and programs that help TPS students engage with the UW Tacoma Library.

Students from Foss High School’s IB program came to campus in mid-December. We spent an hour and a half talking about college research, resources available and how to use them, and then having students performing research, searching in the stacks, and using the scanners and other technology in the library.

The Foss visit was intended to serve a few purposes. First we wanted to get students from TPS into the UW Tacoma Library and onto the UW Tacoma campus. We wanted to get them excited about research, college, and information exploration in general. Secondly, we want to start understanding how to support the transition students make when they come out of high school and into college. From these perspectives, the visit was a huge success.

It was also a delight, and the Foss students were engaged and energetic researchers. They had been tasked to find one source that related to their personal projects, and most of the students found three or more. The visit also allowed UW Tacoma Library to introduce the students to how they can get wifi access and how to search and use the physical library, introducing them to the Library of Congress classification since public schools, public libraries, and community colleges all use the Dewey Decimal system.

The visit raised a few questions about information literacy, and the different approaches which high schools and universities take to teaching their students how to find and evaluate information. Going forward, the UW Tacoma Library will continue to pursue opportunities to bring TPS students into the library, and we are excited to explore that difference, find ways to scaffold for student success, and make the transition from high school to college smoother.

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