Do Our Students Still Need One Paper Source?

Yesterday as I was reading middle school superlibrarian Jennifer Lagarde’s post on The Future of Research, I was struck by item number 3 on her list: “Requiring “at least one print resource” is stupid.” It made me ask myself, why do so many teachers and librarians still do this? When I work with my fourth grade students on their research projects, they are usually required to use “at least one book.” I posted my thoughts to Twitter, and had the following conversation with Jennifer and also high school superlibrarian Buffy Hamilton:

  1. bethredford
    The Future of Research from @jenniferlagarde -> # 3 on this list is so true! why do we still require 1 paper source?
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:34:22
  2. buffyjhamilton
    @bethredford @jenniferlagarde not everyone does—it is rare my teachers ever require a print source, and if they do,they allow digital sub.
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:35:33
  3. buffyjhamilton
    @bethredford @jenniferlagarde our teachers are very receptive to databases, videos, and sources of info; focus is on relevance/accuracy of..
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:36:52
  4. buffyjhamilton
    @bethredford @jenniferlagarde info to the research task/info seeking task. I’m thankful our faculty has been open to this shift in thinking.
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:37:23
  5. bethredford
    @buffyjhamilton @jenniferlagarde criterion should be best source(s), regardless of format
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:41:58
  6. buffyjhamilton
    @bethredford @jenniferlagarde absolutely–our conversations are about evaluating all sources critically and in relation to the research task
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:43:10
  7. buffyjhamilton
    @bethredford @jenniferlagarde it’s about cultivating “info seeking capital” for a lot of different kinds of tasks and contexts.
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:44:42
  8. buffyjhamilton
    @bethredford @jenniferlagarde at times that is going to include scholarly sources in both digital and print format–reality of academia.
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:45:08
  9. bethredford
    @buffyjhamilton @jenniferlagarde my school needs to start having this conversation…I’ll add it to my list! Thanks for the inspiration!
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 12:45:10
  10. jenniferlagarde
    @buffyjhamilton @bethredford That post grew out of real convos I’ve been having w/teachers & librarians. Sometimes I take for granted [1/2]
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 13:58:34
  11. jenniferlagarde
    @buffyjhamilton @bethredford Anyway, I sometimes take for granted that we’re all on the same page or that *I* am behind the curve. I am…
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 14:15:25
  12. jenniferlagarde
    @buffyjhamilton @bethredford grateful for a place to reflect on what I learn/see when I got to visit schools & talk to other practitioners.
    Mon, Jul 23 2012 14:16:00

I found myself wondering if using a print source might still be a good requirement for my young students — if they don’t learn to use print features like indexes in elementary school, will they learn to use them at all? And as Buffy points out, the reality is that there are still relevant resources in both print and digital formats. At the same time, I’ve seen students discouraged from exploring topics they were genuinely interested in because my library didn’t have any books about those subjects. I’ll definitely be having this conversation with my classroom teachers this year!

Teacher librarians, do you have this requirement at your school? And how do you handle it when it comes up?


2 thoughts on “Do Our Students Still Need One Paper Source?

  1. It’s good to be challenged on aspects of our practice that we may not have considered or asked the “why” question about in a while. And the requiring of print material is a goodie! I also read Jennifer Lagarde’s post on the future of research.
    As part of our whole school IL skills programme that we are embedding into our curriculum, we have made a Year 9 English unit that all eleven of our classes complete, predominantly print-based. This gives us the opportunity to teach a good system of note-taking which encourages students to write information they find in their own words; how to find information within a book, including indexes, contents pages, glossaries, timelines as well as skills such as skimming and scanning for information within the text; using the library catalogue to find further information and finally using their notes to create a dossier for their teachers, evaluating and selecting from the information they have have recorded.
    However, doing this is deliberate for this unit only and not something we repeat elsewhere. We do in some assignments require one print source as a way of encouraging them to at least check an encyclopaedia (which we have very up-to-date print copies of on our shelves). Not all students will have access to electronic sources at the same time, or if the internet goes down they at least don’t look around like their hands have been chopped off!!
    There should always be a “why” to everything we do, rather than a “this is the way we’ve always done it” approach.


    • I like that you say “doing this is deliberate’ and “there should always be a ‘why’ to everything we do. ” I think that’s the key. Things are changing so quickly in the information world, we should be asking ourselves “why” with every assignment. Thanks for the input. – Beth


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