Schu:Bi Libraries and Schools Join Forces

Oldenburg City Library
Oldenburg City Library | Photo (detail): © Wikipedia/CC/G. Meiners

Five libraries and four very different schools in and around the city of Oldenburg joined forces in 2007 to take systematic steps to improve reading skills and information literacy among pupils – accompanying them throughout their school careers.

Never before has it been so easy to access such a wealth of information as it is today. And never before has it been so difficult to cope with all this information. How can I conduct research in as targeted a manner as possible? Which research method makes best sense and when? How can I evaluate information found on the Internet? These and similar questions are addressed by the materials which libraries and schools in and around Oldenburg are using to systematically promote reading skills and information literacy among pupils.

Working together to improve reading skills and information literacy

The materials have been developed as part of the project “Schu:Bi – school and library, education partners for reading skills and information literacy”. Within the project’s framework, libraries and schools in the region developed, tested and evaluated appropriate thematic modules between 2007 and 2010. These consecutive modules, each of which builds upon the previous one, comprise a training programme which covers classes 1 to 12 and is suitable for all types of school.

“The project is a joint initiative of the university library, the state library and the city library”, explains librarian Wiebke Klinge, a member of the project’s working group. “Later, we were also joined by the libraries of the universities of applied science. Perhaps that is what makes our approach special - the close collaboration between academic and public libraries.”

Now five libraries, a primary school, a comprehensive school, a grammar school and a vocational school are already working with the material. They cooperate within the framework of contractually agreed educational partnerships. The training modules have been made compulsory parts of the curriculum.

“Those pupils who have completed the first modules in our city library arrive at the academic libraries at secondary level armed with far greater knowledge”, says Wiebke Klinge. “Consequently, library staff there can build upon this knowledge and focus much more quickly on specific content.”

Systematic research training

According to Klinge, Schu:Bi teaches pupils to conduct systematic research: “The first step of course is to familiarize them with the library. Even during the first module, however, we teach them the differences between for example a work of non-fiction and narrative literature. With each module, the complexity of the research increases – until the students are ready to conduct their own literature research in online catalogues and Internet databases for essays and assignments.”

The Schu:Bi modules are accessible to any schools or libraries interested in using them. The entire spectrum of material, encompassing descriptions of learning targets, procedure plans, worksheets, games, evaluation sheets, letters to parents, checklists and a great deal more besides, can be downloaded from “Although the modules are based on our libraries”, says Wiebke Klinge, “we designed them such that other libraries would also be able to employ at least parts of them directly. What is more, the elements from the individual modules are flexible and can easily be combined.”

Teamwork between librarians and teachers

Klinge explains that the working group had to work hard to persuade schools to come on board. “Initially, the schools naturally saw the collaboration as being yet another deadline to meet and yet more work. In the end, however, we were able to convince teachers that the project would inject skills into school life which in the long term would reduce the burden on them”, the librarian stresses.

At first we took advantage of existing contacts, and then systematically developed our network of contacts. Klinge and her colleagues at the city library are particularly pleased that the cooperation between the libraries has worked out so well: “We have worked very intensively together, both in the working group and in the steering group. This genuinely broadened our horizons – and was fun.”

A firm fixture in everyday school life

The feedback that the librarians receive about Schu:Bi is extremely positive and complimentary. “It’s great to see three such different types of library involved in a joint project here”, agrees Julia Rittel, who chairs the school libraries working group in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. “Unfortunately, this happens very, very rarely.” Rittel also stresses, however, that school libraries are by no means rendered superfluous by such projects, which are well worth emulating.

The partner schools are also happy with the result of the project. Wieland Herold, headmaster at the Neues Gymnasium Oldenburg, points out that Schu:Bi has helped to significantly improve his pupils’ ability to study. His colleague Hartmut Steinhauer at the Integrierte Gesamtschule Flötenteich (IGS) goes even further: “It is now impossible to imagine life at the IGS without the modules developed in cooperation with Oldenburg City Library.”

Schu:Bi – Schule und Bibliothek. Bildungspartner für Lese- und Informationskompetenz. (i.e. Schu:Bi – School and Library. Education Partners for Reading Skills and Information Literacy.) Project documentation. Edited by the library and information system of Oldenburg University. Oldenburg: BIS-Verlag 2010. 272 pages. ISBN 9783814222202, 16.90 euros.