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High School to College: Resources for Librarians and Teachers: Visit an Academic Library

This guide is designed to provide practical and useful information for librarians and teachers interested in preparing high school students academically for college courses and research.

Contacting an Academic Library

Many academic libraries welcome visits from high school groups. Check library websites for program information. The first year experience librarian, outreach or public services librarian, or high school liaison usually coordinates these visits. You may also try contacting the head of instruction.

Book Shelves

Below is a listing of some high school outreach programs offered by academic libraries in Ohio.

Typical Visit to CSU

Michael Schwartz Library Cleveland State University

High schools that visit the CSU Library usually spend a half or full day on campus between 8:30 AM and 3:00 PM.  Visits are coordinated and hosted by the first year experience librarian. The day includes one or more of the following activities according to time limitations and needs.

  • Library facilities tour
  • Discussion -- Professor's expectations
  • Discussion -- high school vs. college
  • Instruction -- research databases
  • Lunch (on your own)
  • Individual work time

Contact Ann Marie Smeraldi for more information.

Planning a Successful Academic Library Visit

A successful visit to an academic library requires significant planning and clear communication.

STEP 1: Identify nearby college and university libraries with high school outreach programs and review the information that is posted on the library's website regarding high school visits.

STEP 2: Make initial contact with the academic librarian responsible for high school outreach to introduce yourself, express your interest, and gather information about the services and resources the academic library is able to provide.

STEP 3: Put together a convincing sales pitch and propose the academic library field trip idea at a faculty meeting or in-service, or to individual teachers. Share what you have learned about he academic library's services, explain the benefits, and demonstrate the need. 

STEP 4: Partner with a teacher that shows interest in taking his/her class to visit an academic library. Identify the class or group of students that will participate. Collaborate with the teacher to create an appropriate research assignment that requires scholarly, academic sources. Determine a time frame for the assignment's completion and select several possible dates for the visit. Create assessment(s) to evaluate the visit and collect feedback. Together with the teacher create a list of questions to ask when you call back the academic librarian.

STEP 5: Secure permission from your principal/administration.

STEP 6: Contact the academic librarian in charge of high school outreach to set up the visit. Provide the academic librarian with a copy of the assignment and ask for feedback. Be prepared to discuss:

    • Possible dates for the visit (have alternate dates ready)
    • Goals and learning outcomes for the visit
    • Assignment details
    • Specific information literacy skills you would like the academic librarian to cover 
    • Information literacy skills that will be taught before the visit
    • Students needs
    • Access to resources while on campus
    • Borrowing privileges
    • Your list of questions (i.e. directions, parking, fees, printing, food service, special accommodations, etc.)

STEP 7: Make transportation arrangements. Acquire parental permission. The high school librarian and teacher should both attend the field trip.  Recruit additional chaperons if necessary. Having one adult for every 12-15 students helps the day go smoothly.   

STEP 8: Prepare students for the visit by discussing how academic and school libraries differ, introducing the academic library’s website, and setting standards for respectful behavior.  Consider introducing the Library of Congress Classification System and how to search the academic library's online catalog.  Review the assignment students will be working on during their visit before coming to the academic library for instruction.  Be sure students understand the purpose of the field trip. Students should have established goals. Instruct students to bring their supplies (the assignment, pens, notebooks, note cards, flash drive, money for copies, printing, etc.) the day of the trip.

STEP 9: The day of the visit be prepared to assist when needed and oversee students. During the visit note what works and what does not; use this information to make improvements for future.  

STEP 10: After the visit, complete the assessments and compile the findings in a report that can be shared with administration, faculty, parents, and, of course, the academic librarian.

Additional Tips

College lecture hall

  • Contact the academic library well in advance.
  • It may be easier to contact the librarian via email.
  • Be flexible with dates.
  • Consult the institution's academic calendar and try to schedule your visit during break or intersession.  Please avoid midterm and finals week. In general it is easier to accommodate visitors during early spring semester.   
  • Understand the academic library’s policies and limitations.
  • Consider the necessity of borrowing privileges. Do the students really need borrowing privileges? If items are borrowed, will students have trouble returning them on ti me?
  • The ideal group size is 25 to 30 students. Larger groups are harder to accommodate.
  • Consider touring the entire campus. Contact the admissions or marketing Office to make arrangements.
  • Due to database licensing restrictions college/university libraries cannot offer off-campus databases access to high school groups