Homework support is just that, support. The Library staff’s role is to assist student in understanding assignment requirements, guide students to necessary materials, instruct them on how to use resources and answer ready reference (quick fact) questions. They should not be expected to be tutors, working through entire assignments or worksheets with children.
Some libraries do arrange formalized homework help. They recruit adults, seniors, or high school and college students to be on hand during posted hours, for example every weeknight between 4-6, or actually match a student with a helper in advance and facilitate regular meetings between the two. School libraries may have a system where a 6th grader is matched with a 1st or 2nd grader and the pairs meet in the library to work or read books together.
Most libraries engage in informal homework help. They provide daily library instruction, gather and “reserve” assignment materials in a special place, and assist students as far along the process as is prudent and possible.
Libraries that have available space could encourage study groups to meet there on a regular basis.
It is important for libraries to be proactive when it comes to assignments. Regular communication between teachers, school, and public library staff is crucial, ideally including participation in an “assignment alert” process. “Assignment alert” is a form completed by teachers, which details an upcoming assignment and lists any preferred or required reference materials/methods. This form is then faxed or returned to the library providing staff time to act on it in any way necessary. Conversely, library staff could create a form to be filled out, signed, and returned to teachers when reference material sought by a student is not located or immediately available, thus impeding the student from completing an assignment.
Major school assignments that sneak up on libraries leave everyone involved in the process stressed and frustrated. The scenario is as follows:
The early bird, savvy student arrives, finds needed materials without interacting with a staff member, checks-out every book on the subject and leaves. Once the second student arrives and asks for help it is too late. The materials have all been checked out by that first early bird. What may be worse are those students who will procrastinate and come in at the last minute with their assignment due the next day. All that remains are a few references in an encyclopedia or almanac and the Internet.
Had library staff known in advance that the entire sixth grade would need to use at least three to four book materials on the Holocaust for a semester-end project, all book materials could have been placed on reference status and additional books could have been ordered on the subject for check-out.
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