A look into why the abundance of resources aren’t used to their full potential
For many, the school library is one of the most underappreciated assets of high school. A lot of high schoolers brush off the building as just a place filled with books. However, the library can have so many benefits if used to its full potential.
In addition to sporting various bookshelves and multiple books ranging from biographies to graphic novels, the library also dedicates an entire section to computers that are available to students throughout the entire school day. Within those computers exist resources that can be immensely helpful if used appropriately.
The library page on American’s school website supplies students with various links including subscription database passwords as well as different English, math, science, and social science resources. Not only does the library give students free access to multiple subscription databases, but also permits students access to an entire virtual library with hundreds of non-fiction e-books. The Gale Virtual Reference Library, according to the Gale website, is a “database of encyclopedias and reference sources within the Gale eBooks platform.”
In addition to nonfiction ebooks, the library’s subscription databases allow students to find credible information about a wide range of topics. “If you look at the lists of all the search engines, it’s not just English,” English teacher Ms. Christensen reveals. “There’s a bunch of history and science-based things. There’s reports people make and scientific hypotheses and all that kind of stuff. It’s also way bigger than just topics. There’s news and all kinds of things available.”
Varnithakshara Ramisetty (11) reveals her experience with one of the subscription databases, EBSCOhost Academic Search, which, according to the school website, is “A multidisciplinary database providing thousands of full-text, peer-reviewed journals to support scholarly research in key areas of study.”
Ramisetty claims that after hearing from one of her English teachers about the database, she decided to give it a try. “I had a pretty good experience. I got some good evidence from EBSCO host because EBSCO had many filter options that made research quick and hassle free. I was able to search for relevant lab reports within less time with the help of the built in search engine.”
Despite all these resources being easily accessible to high school students, an overwhelming amount of students don’t utilize them. Ms. Christensen attributes this concern simply to the fact that students aren’t aware that they even exist. “We spend thousands of dollars on these resources but I don’t think teachers and students know what’s there for them,” she assesses. “If you ever look on the library page on the main website, there’s a whole list of passwords that we have just for us. Kids just won’t understand how bountiful the library is unless they really spend some time there.”
The Renaissance program is an example of another excellent resource gone to waste solely because students never knew about it. On January 28, the superintendent released his monthly newsletter, with the final section titled, “Free Digital Books & News: Extended to February 28.” This section revealed that “ unlimited access to digital books and news articles in English and Spanish” would be provided to students across the state of California until February 28. In addition, any of the resources could be downloaded and available after the program’s deadline.
The initiative was started by Renaissance, a company founded in 1986 with the mission of “accelerat[ing] learning for all children and adults of all ability levels and ethnic and social backgrounds, worldwide.” The California myON Gift of Literacy initiative was started in support of “Superintendent Tony Thurmond’s statewide literacy campaign to ensure that every California student learns to read by third grade by the year 2026.”
The California Department of Education’s partnership with Renaissance has allowed students grades pre-K to 12 unlimited access to a wide range of digital resources. However, the program is pretty much unknown to the students and teachers at American, with multiple students and staff members claiming they were never aware of it.
Directions for accessing the program can easily be found in the superintendent’s January newsletter with hyperlinks, as well as the username and password clearly written out. With such easy and clear access to such a resource, it’s lack of usage doesn’t seem to make any sense. It’s not that students don’t like to read; in fact, almost all students asked about the program claimed they would have loved it had they known about it beforehand.
“Having access to free digital books can help in my school because many people, as far as I know, love to read, and having free access would be great news to that group of people who are really into books,” Ramisetty claims. “It would also be better for people to have access to online books which can be used for a longer period of time than buying physical hard copies of books which could easily be worn out.”
If students like Ramisetty can see the wide range of advantages the program brings to our school, why haven’t students been utilizing it to their full advantage? The answer simply lies in their lack of awareness.
Ms. Christensen sees it as the teachers’ responsibility to make students aware of the resources and encourage their students to utilize them. “I don’t think any kid’s going to go out of their way to find these resources,” she assesses. “I think that we should have a day where every class is signed up at least once a year to come to the library and learn about it.”
For her students, getting practice with research databases is not only encouraged, but required. “When I assign a research project or an essay of some kind, I always take it to the library. I’ve been incorporating them so much more because I know these things. If I didn’t know those resources were out there, I don’t think my kids would have known them either.”
Resources like the Renaissance program were designed specifically to help out students. All we have to do is press a link and type in an easily available password. Hopefully as similar programs arise in the future, students will be more aware of how helpful they can be to their learning experience. As Ms. Christensen says, “Who doesn’t want a free book? There’s so many books out there, especially new books for young adults. That just sounds amazing.”