On Zombies and Google

July 2, 2013

So, it was cool to find out zombies and Google are on our side in the fight to for information literacy. At “Crossing the K–20 Continuum,” Ken Burhanna of Kent State University and Tasha Burgeson-Michelson of Google’s Search Education (@iteachawesome on Twitter) covered a range of resources aimed at uniting librarians across the education continuum. 

As I spent the four years prior to my current job working with youth in a residential treatment center, this is a topic close to my heart. The emphasis on college prep and preparedness is all too often focused on admission, but it’s evidenced time and again after these kids get to college that they aren’t prepared to work at the collegiate level. 

Burhanna’s presentation, “Battling the Unready: Zombies, Einstein, and Libraries,” focused on models of collaboration to help what he called our “zombie” students fit together the missing pieces in their research skills. Librarians, he concluded, are the glue that bonds together information literacy practices across the education continuum. By connecting academic libraries with feeder schools, exposing students at an early age to research tasks (especially in alignment with Common Core Standards), and utilizing assessments at benchmark years through a student’s education, we can hopefully adequately prepare students for academic success at the postsecondary level.

Burgson-Michelson explained that while preparing students for higher education, it’s important for teacher librarians to remember that we can, and should, utilize the research technology our students already use in their everyday lives. Burgson-Michelson believes we can simplify educational lesson and messages by teaching the next generation to maximize use of the tools they already think they know. By showing them aspects of their own technology that they didn’t realize they weren’t using, they become open to further lessons—and even to learning more advanced search tools.

That emphasis was my favorite part of this presentation: putting students’ needs and comforts first. While that may bring some of us librarians out of our comfort zone, it’s even better to know colleagues like Burhanna and Burgson-Michelson are out there creating the tools to help us become truly user-centered in our service. Burhanna’s book, Informed Transitions: Libraries Supporting the High School to College Transition outlines models of success along the education continuum. He also created TRAILS, a free assessment tool for school librarians to assess students at the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th grades that has already been administered to over a million students. Burgson-Michelson and the teaching team at Google have also prepared dozens of lesson plans, activities, and courses to help students (and librarians!) become better searchers.

Burgson-Michelson concluded by saying she hopes to “live in a world where people are able to make good decisions because they’re able to find good information.” It’s a simple and inspiring reminder of how necessary librarianship is to education across the continuum and how exciting it is to be a part of a profession helping people get what they need.

The program was sponsored by the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

KATE TKACIK is research analyst at the Bank of Montreal in Chicago.