Students in library

Keana Robinson, Meigs High School senior, 18, carries an armful of books to a reading table in the fine arts section of Alden Library during her school’s visit on October 17, 2012.

Photographer: Lauren Pond, Ohio University Libraries

Lorraine Wochna

Lorraine Wochna, reference librarian, discusses Ohio University Library’s online catalog with Meigs High School seniors.

Photographer: Lauren Pond, Ohio University Libraries

Meigs High School students

Haley English, 17, and Jessi Meadows, 18, Meigs High School seniors, conduct research in a computer lab in Alden Library.

Photographer: Lauren Pond, Ohio University Libraries

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Appalachia Rising

OHIO Libraries helps Meigs High School students transition to college

With five books to check out, seven floors to wander around and several collections to chose from, students from Meigs High School were bombarded with choices during a recent trip to Alden Library. But after the visit, they were one step closer to collecting the necessary sources for their research and a few steps closer to their transition into college.

Although this trip is intended for research, visiting Ohio University Libraries annually allows Meigs High School to fight the statistics that work against them. Meigs County, like all Appalachian sub-regions, falls behind the national average in college attendance and completion, according to the 2010 Regional Development Initiative Report. Because of these limitations, Meigs High School students make a point of utilizing the resources available to them.

"Each year they just realize the size of [Alden] Library and the scope of what is available to them," said Denise Arnold, librarian at Meigs High School. "Whereas, they are so used to limited resources where we are, it gives them exposure."

Every year for about ten years now, seniors and faculty from Meigs High School have visited Ohio University to access the Libraries’ databases and to learn from the librarians how to best conduct research. Each student is responsible for completing a research project for the school's senior English College Prep course, a six-to-eight page paper explaining his or her findings.

Based on preliminary research at the high school library, many students had already chosen topics, including: UFOs, Auschwitz, serial killers, and media effects on teenagers.

"We go through the databases and books that we have at the high school and then, of course, we want to give them college experience, so we bring them up here to do the very same thing, only in [Ohio University Libraries’] databases," said Arnold.
Lorraine Wochna, instruction coordinator, and Sherri Saines, reference librarian, enthusiastically engaged the students to discover their research interests and to show them the tools that were available to them. Laughter, smiles, and active participation proved that the class was ready to dive into their research.
"They almost put [the students] on the spot and say 'What do you want to know here?'" Arnold said. "It really forces them to think."

The class then split into two groups and moved to the Libraries’ learning labs where Saines and Gary Ginther, fine arts librarian, each demonstrated to their respective group how to use databases like "Gale Virtual Reference Library," "Congressional Quarterly" and "ArticlesPlus," among others.

"The Meigs High School group that I addressed took a step toward owning their educational experience, by realizing that they are behind the wheel, and not passengers," Ginther said.  

At Meigs, as at most high schools, cell phone use is a big no-no. However, for this trip, that rule was thrown out the window. Amy Perrin, Meigs English teacher, noticed how excited the students were that they could put their cell phone technology to use for an academic purpose by text messaging the call numbers of books and e-mailing articles to themselves or by using social media.

"By placing research content into the social media stream, librarians create another access point," Ginther said. "It's a hook that we use to pull them into the research and learning conversation. They immediately feel that they are a part of the [University] because we exist in their space."

Days before the visit, Kim Brooks, senior library associate, created community library cards so that each student could check out up to five books. Finding those books, however, proved challenging because of the difference in classification systems used at Meigs and at Alden Library. In the end, out of all of the books in Alden library, they were able to find the ones that they needed.

"It just surprised me how many actual books there were in the categories we chose," said Odessa Jacks, senior at Meigs. "There were shelves upon shelves of just that subject."
Having widespread access to resources in Alden Library is the primary reason the high school returns each year. Arnold, who is the sole librarian at Meigs High School, notes that the databases at the high school have very little compared to the volume of information that is accessible in Ohio University Libraries.
"Some of (the students), I feel, intentionally pick topics that they think are going to be difficult to find information on. And it is amazing because they can pick the most obscure topic, yet they come here and can find ten books and 250 articles about that topic," Perrin said.

Beyond the academic rewards, this visit helps the students gain valuable exposure to a college setting. This includes the opportunity to see people of different cultures and races, a sight not typically seen in Meigs High School, according to Arnold..

"They see international students [on the Athens campus], and that is just all completely different for them," Arnold said. "I mean if we get one foreign exchange student a year, that is big. It’s a cultural experience, and they are not used to seeing diversity, but they can get that here."

Despite growing up in the area, a first-hand visit to the University is often eye-opening for the seniors, according to Perrin.

"One of the most invaluable parts of this experience is just exposing them to a college campus and a college library," said Perrin. "Every year I hear someone say 'Oh man, I can’t wait for college!' They are always amazed and don’t want to come back to high school once they see what it is like here."

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