Challenge Scholars Update

(Moderator note: This post is part 2 of a series about the Challenge Scholars program in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It is written by Guest Contributor Gayle Schaub, Liaison Librarian in Liberal Arts, Grand Valley State University.)

Last September, my colleagues and I began partnering with a local public school to help sixth-graders learn to do research, in an effort to strengthen the critical thinking skills of 6th grade Challenge Scholars and to help build a college-going culture among students and families at an underperforming middle school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I wrote about the Challenge Scholars information literacy workshops back in June, before we had actually gotten underway. We have an entire semester under our belts now and I’m writing this update to let you know that our first series of classes were everything we’d hoped they’d be, and more. We learned so much about so many things, some of which have very little to do with librarianship. We’ve just begun our second semester. We’re still learning, of course, but here is a progress update.

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Academic Service-Learning and the Archives

(Moderator note: This post was written by Laura Jacobs, Interim Library Director of the Jim Dan Hill Library, University of Wisconsin – Superior.)

UW-Superior is a small, public liberal arts institution, one of 12 comprehensive colleges that make up the University of Wisconsin System. As part of our vision, we strive to “be known as an institution that transforms learners, engages the community, and enhances the vitality of its region.” (Strategic Plan 20/20) As part of our strategic plan, the university has initiated a number of high-impact practices, including Academic Service-Learning. During the past five years, faculty and instructional staff were encouraged to explore and incorporate these practices into their courses. While this is an admirable goal, the library had been left on the fringes, especially with Academic Service-Learning. This was particularly problematic from the library’s perspective, since most projects require the development of background knowledge coupled with application at a local level, employing complex library skills such as locating and analyzing community demographic data in order to create materials for a local non-profit organization; or reaching beyond a cursory search of the Web in order to form a model of a bustling city as it appeared at the turn of the 20th century.

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Challenge Scholars

(Moderator note:  This post is written by guest contributor, Gayle Schaub, and is the first part in a series about her service-learning project).

This fall two academic librarians and a college professor embark on a brand new initiative in Grand Rapids, Michigan to improve a community by building academic success in a neighborhood. My name is Gayle, and I am one of the librarians. My idea was to teach 6th graders the information literacy skills they’ll need to be ready for college, and I knew I couldn’t do this alone. This is the first part of our story.

Challenge Scholars: The background

Students in the public schools on the West side of Grand Rapids, Michigan face a number of challenges to their educational success. Only 2% of high school juniors are college-ready, according to standardized test scores. 92% of the students come from economically disadvantaged households, but even with a way to finance higher education, without a college-going culture or the readiness to perform, a college education is out of reach for most. Challenge Scholars is a program developed and funded through the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. It promises scholarships for students attending the city’s West side public schools and will provide the support needed to insure academic success through the coordinated efforts and partnerships of local school systems, businesses, non-profits, and institutions of higher ed. By investing now in Grand Rapids’ children, everyone involved in Challenge Scholars is helping to build a better-educated and stronger workforce for the future.

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Registration Open for CLSL2014

Registration has officially opened for Extending our Reach: The Inaugural Colloquium on Libraries and Service-Learning at Santa Clara University.   Space is limited, so register today!

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Clemson Collaborations in Service-Learning Webcast Series

I received an email this morning about this webcast about MOOCs (massive open online courses) and service-learning.  I’m eager to learn more about this.

See this web site for more information about the webcast.



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New Directions for IL & Collection Development

(Moderator Note:  This post was written by Megan Stark, Undergraduate Services and Outreach Librarian, University of Montana, a guest contributor to SLL).

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a day with service-learning instructors from around the state.  It was amazing to devote myself, for an entire day, to thinking about and discussing service-learning with colleagues from different disciplines, perspectives and institutions.  As a profession, we should try to do this more often because these opportunities for cross-pollination can be rich and very fruitful.

I was reminded that, for students, service-learning is a powerful way to connect to the community and future careers. Understanding the unique information landscapes affecting particular professions provides the ability to move with increased sophistication around important issues. And I was reminded that, for instructors, service-learning is a powerful call to us to consider our community stakeholders. Understanding that our instruction and collections should reflect the unique information landscapes affecting our society provides us the ability to better teach and prepare our students for life after college.

So what does this mean for librarians? Certainly we can participate in service- learning by teaching our credit-bearing courses according to a service-learning model. Christopher Sweet (2012), among others, have provided wonderful examples at conferences and in the literature. But many of us are working, at least in some part, in a one-shot or more traditional liaison model that might make a move to credit instruction difficult. What does it look like to think about service-learning a bit more broadly for libraries?

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Fresh Perspectives

It’s nearly spring (although the weather doesn’t seem to think so).  It’s time for a fresh perspective.  I’m thrilled to have not one, but TWO, guest contributors to SLL this month!  Jayne Blodgett, Assistant Director Briggs Library, University of Minnesota, Morris, wrote a piece that I posted on March 6 about her service-learning first-year seminar course and next week, I will post another piece written by Megan Stark, Undergraduate Services and Outreach Librarian, University of Montana.  Thanks so much to both Jayne and Megan for giving us more food for thought when it comes to libraries and service-learning.

If you’d like to be a guest contributor let me know by sending me an email:  maureen.barry [at]

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Taking the Library out of the Library

(Moderator note:  This piece was written by Jayne Blodgett, a guest contributor to Service Learning Librarian).


The University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM) is a small, residential liberal arts college located in West Central Minnesota. While the school is part of the University of Minnesota system, each system campus has its own separate Carnegie classification and different mission. UMM is known for its commitment to sustainability and social justice issues. As such, UMM has an Office of Community Engagement (OCE), and a number of faculty have successfully integrated service-learning into their classes.

The first incarnation of this class was designed as a study abroad class to El Salvador. My colleague, Heather James (Marquette University) and I knew we wanted to partner with an NGO in-country. After conducting research and meeting with two organizations in El Salvador, we agreed an NGO based in Chicago working with schools in El Salvador was the best fit. The NGO, Contextos (, works in a number of schools around El Salvador training teachers and developing libraries. It was an excellent match for the goals we had for our class. We both thought it was pedagogically important to integrate library and literacy theory with practice, and while there are some problems with service- learning projects in developing countries, specifically avoiding the “white savior” problem, we believed working with Contextos would give our students an amazing experience.

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to teach the class. However, most of the readings and assignments had been designed, so I adapted the proposal and submitted it as a first-year seminar class without the study abroad component. It was accepted to the slate, and I taught it for the first time during the Fall 2013 semester.

Beyond Shushing: Libraries in the 21st Century

The class was 2 credits, and we met for 50 minutes two times a week. I divided the schedule so we focused on libraries and literacy theory on Tuesdays and the service- learning project on Thursdays. The class explored a number of questions ranging from the importance of libraries and literacy to the social implications of service-learning and volunteerism. Over the course of the summer, I worked with our OCE coordinator, Argie Manolis, to determine which programs would best fit the needs of my class. We came up with four projects: story time at the public library, story time with evening ESL students (k-3), library instruction at Briggs Library (UMM’s library) for adults in the ESL program, or computer literacy sessions with senior citizens.[1] A fifth project, a usage study of Briggs Library (UMM’s library), was not coordinated by the OCE.

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