K-12 Assignments in the ASU Library - Guide for Teachers

Please carefully review the ASU Library's policies on K-12 Group Tours and Class Assignments/Projects and on Children: Library Facility Access and Use.

The ASU Library, with multiple large facilities, over 3 million volumes in print, micro, video, audio and electronic formats and all of these resources geared toward those with advanced knowledge in the field, can be a challenging, even intimidating experience for students who have limited information literacy skills. Obviously, students who arrive at ASU already comfortable with using a large research library or library system will be better able to cope with the undergraduate library assignments they will encounter. Conversely, students who have learned (whether intentionally or not) that library research is frustrating, unpleasant, and/or unrewarding, will be at a distinct disadvantage in their college career.

The ASU Library would like our potential students to have both meaningful and pleasant experiences in our libraries, so we have prepared this document to help K-12 teachers to:

  • Determine if using the ASU Library is appropriate for their situation,
  • Provide the necessary tools and information to adequately prepare their students for using the ASU Library, and
  • Devise a library assignment that will provide a successful opportunity for the student to learn information literacy skills at the undergraduate level.

Is the ASU Library appropriate for your students and/or assignment?

When deciding to require students to use the ASU Library, please consider the following:

Are the students at least 15 years old?
If the answer is no, please reconsider your assignment.
  • All children under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult while in the facilities of the Tempe campus libraries. The limited exceptions to this rule are: (a) children under the age of 15 who are currently affiliated with an ASU Program as reflected in University records and (b) children who are in a library facility to use their Parent Borrower's Community Card. Unescorted children will be required to leave the premises. All users of the facilities of the Tempe campus libraries are subject to the provisions of the ASU Library's Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy. Access to, or use of, the Internet by minor children is solely the responsibility of the parent or legal guardian.
Are you teaching a high-school, advanced placement class?
If the answer is no, please reconsider your assignment.
  • The ASU Library collect resource material only at the undergraduate college level and above, therefore students must have reading skills and knowledge of the subject at this level in order to understand the information they will find in the library. Students unprepared for this level of material will be frustrated at every point in their research.
  • Information that is below the undergraduate level appears in the ASU Library in encyclopedic works or on web pages but not in books or journal articles. To ask students to find books and/or journal articles in the ASU Library on introductory topics/subjects is setting the students up for failure.
Are your students proficient at using their school library and local large public library?
If the answer is no, maybe, somewhat, or I don't know, please reconsider your assignment.
  • Going from a small library (school or public) to a large public library, then to an university library is both the natural progression for learning information literacy skills as well as for doing research. If your students would find a large public library difficult to navigate, then they are not yet ready for the even larger and more complex ASU Library.
  • Your students must have a strong foundation in basic information literacy skills in order to move up to the next level. Take advantage of your in-house expert - your school librarian. S/he will be able to provide information literacy skills that will make your students proficient at using school and public libraries and prepare them for using the ASU Library.
Have you pretested the assignment in the ASU Library?
If the answer is no, or not within the last year - please do so now! Pretesting will:
  • Assure student success
  • Identify potential stumbling blocks that can be eliminated in the assignment or accounted for in the student's orientation to the assignment
  • Position you to be able to orient your students to their assignment and to assist them if they should have difficulties.
  • Keep the assignment up-to-date.
    The availability of information in electronic format has greatly changed what services the ASU Library provides and how they are provided. Don't lose credibility by asking your students to use a resource that no longer exists!

Information Literacy - give your students the means to succeed

To be successful using the ASU Library, students need to have a basic set of information skills. Instruction must be given to the students prior to coming to the ASU Library - the Library does not provide instruction services or classroom facilities to non-ASU affliates. We strongly encourage teachers to involve their school librarians in the instruction. Although the ASU Library has reference services available in each library, staffing for these services is limited and most transactions at our reference desks last no longer than 10-15 minutes per individual. This is not enough time in which to introduce a student to the range of concepts and skills involved in the library research process at the university level.

The following tutorials may be used to not only help students develop the necessary library skills but also show how those skills are specifically applied in the ASU Library.

Topic Availability - give your students the opportunity to succeed

  • Does each student have their own topic?
    The ASU Library generally buys only one copy of a book. Assigning several students or the whole class to the same topic will frustrate every student except one.
  • Are the assignment topics in an area supported by the ASU Library's collections?
    The ASU Library obtains material in a variety of subjects but only those for which there is a need dictated by our courses and faculty research. If students are selecting their own topics, please guide students to appropriate subjects or allow students to change topics.
  • Are the assignment topics focused on a specific aspect of the subject?
    If the topic is too general or introductory, the only material in a university library covering the subject at that level will be encyclopedias and the Internet. Scholarly journal articles focus on specific or in-depth issues within a subject; they do not provide an introduction to the field.

Design a meaningful library assignment

  • Integrate the assignment into the curriculum and classroom activities
    Avoid a "stand-alone" library assignment. Very few students get excited about library research in and of itself; most will quickly decide that library research is boring and has no meaning other than being "busy work". Students do respond positively when the library research expands upon a classroom activity or information presented in class -- the library research now has a purpose. Obviously, the more interesting the activity or information, the more likely the student will enjoy finding out more about it.
  • Utilize appropriate library research strategy
    Does your library assignment promote the research strategies outlined in our tutorials? In their desire to expose students to advanced-level, scholarly material, some teachers inadvertently emphasize inappropriate library research methods.

    For example, a common goal for many teachers is having students use scholarly works as resources. Compare how the two teachers below decided to achieve this goal.

    Scenario A

    Desired learning outcome: students will find scholarly works on a topic.

    In class: students are told of the importance of using scholarly works; examples of both popular and scholarly works are shown; teacher gives students a set of criteria and discusses how to use the criteria to distinguish between the two types; students search a topic in a journal indexing/abstracting database to obtain a list of articles; students apply the criteria to the articles obtained from the search.

    Assignment: Find 5 journal articles on topic X - at least 3 of the articles must be scholarly. Make a copy of each of the articles and for each determine whether it is a popular or scholarly work. Determinations are to be based on the set of criteria discussed in today's class.

    Actual Outcomes:
    • Students will use an index to find 5 journal articles on topic X.
    • Students will distinguish between popular and scholarly works among the 5 articles.
    • Given a new situation, students will be able to search an index to find journal articles and determine which articles are scholarly.

    Scenario B

    Desired learning outcome: students will find scholarly works on a topic.

    In class: students are told of the importance of using scholarly works; a list of 10 scholarly journals in the field are given to the students.

    Assignment: Find 2 journal articles on topic X. Both articles must be from the list of journals given out in today's class. Make a copy of each of the articles.

    Actual Outcomes:
    • Students will use the list of journals to find 2 scholarly journal articles on topic X.
    • Given a new situation, especially one in which a large collection of journals must be covered, students will have difficulty in:
      • finding a substantial number of articles on the same topic, and
      • distinguishing between popular and scholarly works.
    In Scenario A, students will use a journal indexing or abstracting service to find the articles; they will complete their assignment in relatively short order and will be using a research method they will find appropriate in their career at ASU and beyond. Using a journal indexing/abstracting database is the appropriate way to find journal articles within a large collection of journals such as those found in university libraries.

    In Scenario B, however, the tendency of students will be to find those 10 journals on the shelf and then flip through the pages until they come across two articles on the topic. Scenario B students will take longer to complete the assignment and few, if any, will have learned how to efficiently (or effectively) find information within a large collection of material. Indeed, if the Scenario B students retain anything at all from this assignment, it will be the reinforcement of using the browsing technique to find articles. Browsing is a viable method of retrieving information from a small collection but is impractical for large collections such as those in university libraries.
  • Involve critical thinking and active learning techniques
    Information gathering is a process of evaluation and choices. What tool do I use to find this information? What is the best search method for finding it? Do I need to find everything about the topic or do I just need a few items? Which of these books/articles/reports is the best, most accurate, most valuable to my need? A meaningful library assignment will have the students making informed choices.

    Returning to the two scenarios described above, compare how critical thinking and active learning were employed in Scenario A. In Scenario A, the teacher has the students evaluating material and making informed choices both during class and with the assignment; not only will the students achieve the desired outcome, they will have been provided the opportunity to exit this assignment with a skill (distinguishing scholarly works from popular works) that will be a necessity in their college career. In Scenario B, the teacher has also achieved the desired outcome but will the students be able to recognize scholarly works outside of this assignment? It's highly unlikely - they weren't given the opportunity to think for themselves.

Please provide your students with the following information:

  • Which Library or Libraries to Use and Where They Are Located.
    The ASU Library consists of 7 facilities spread across 4 campuses. Although most of our electronic resources are networked to be available from all the libraries, students should be directed to the library or libraries that will contain the print and microform collections for their topic as well as electronic resources. Determining the appropriate library or libraries should be part of the assignment pretest.
  • Checkout Rules and Privileges
    Checking out books requires the purchase of a Parent's Community Card. See Eligibility and Cost for details. Journals are for in-house use only and may not be checked out.
  • Printing and Copying information
  • Parking and maps