Are Incoming Students Prepared?

The new school year is rapidly approaching.

When the fall semester begins, will the new students — be they freshmen or transfer students — know the basics of using a library to locate useable, quality information when they research?

This generation grew up with computers and the internet.   We assume that they use it daily and understand it intimately.

Besides, they get all the basic instruction they need for using library resources in high school.   They already know what research-quality information is.

Is that a correct and reliable assumption?

Several months ago this writer had the privilege of attending a regional meeting of school librarians.

As a group, they had one burning question;  what did their high school students need to know before matriculating into an institution of higher education?

My response —

  • “What is a database”  and
  •  “How to search a database  efficiently and effectively.”

While this was not news to these capable, competent librarians,  they were disheartened.

I was mystified.   Isn’t instruction at this basic level the focus of a high school library?

The information shared with me was an eye-opener.

First, all school districts have had major budget cuts.   Most can’t afford more than one librarian per district.    Librarians must act more as organizers and overseers rather than having daily direct contact with students or teachers.

Today, the typical school district libraries are staffed with parent or student volunteers rather than with trained professionals.

Further, schools cannot afford anything close to the journal databases typically found in a college or university library.

Most K-12 and public libraries in Michigan use only the limited free databases available through the Library of Michigan MEL system — which in turn is facing its own financial crisis.

Lastly, and most surprisingly, many districts are pressured by parents to prevent or limit student access to the internet, technology perceived as dangerous to their children.

Restrictions applied (firewalls) within the K-12 school districts don’t differentiate between scholarly materials and open web access.

As I listened to this group of teacher/librarians relate one administrative horror story after another, I began to realize the extent of the problem faced by our own UM-Flint students.

Our freshmen and transfer students begin their studies handicapped by a lack of basic understanding of  HOW  to use a library and its extensive access to knowledge.

They do not generally understand  WHAT  scholarly research materials are, let alone what a database is or how to properly use one.

This includes a lack of understanding regarding common technology-related terminology, such as browser, search engine, or even what Wikepedia is and why their instructors won’t accept this as a source of information.  Nor do they consistently grasp the more scholarly concepts of peer-reviewed journals, let alone the difference between a journal and a magazine.

Perhaps even more frightening from an academic perspective, incoming students often do not understand  WHY  they need to know how to find scholarly information, it’s value and appropriate use.

What can our UM-Flint faculty do to counteract this insufficiency?   Thompson librarians are teaching faculty.    They are dedicated to helping students learn how to use our library resources effectively.

  • We urge all instructors to partner with their librarians.
  • Create assignments designed to introduce students to their library.
  • Request classroom instruction by a librarian covering the basics in under an hour of classroom time, or to focus on specific databases to support your classroom assignments.
  • Librarians can provide additional in-depth instruction on request.

Your librarians are an incredible teaching resource.

Contact a librarian early in the semester and schedule a library instruction presentation for  YOUR  class.

With instruction in use of library resources, you’ll see a big difference in the work your students produce.

                                                   — Vera Anderson, editor



Workshop on Teaching and Working with Holocaust Testimonies

In July 2013 our campus will host a four day seminar in the library on Holocaust testimonies as a classroom resource for teachers and others.

The workshop will take place in and throughout the Thompson Library, using several locations depending on the activity.

The database itself allows access to streaming video testimonies of holocaust survivors, be they victims, local citizenry or soldiers.

With the majority of eye witnesses to the events surrounding the Holocaust of WWII aging and dying, this invaluable collection has now been made available as an online accessible database of streaming video.

Plans have already been made and work is moving forward to add in the future sub-sets to the database which include genocides conducted in Rowanda as well as other locations around the world.

Funded by Steven Spielberg after the release and success of his hit movie,  Shindler’s List,  the database was created in conjunction with the University of Southern California.

The workshop is hosted by the University of Michigan Flint and directed by Dr. Kenneth Waltzer,  Director of Jewish Studies Programs at MSU — and former Winegarden Professor on our campus — with support from Thompson Library’s Emily Newberry and in conjunction with ITS.

The workshop is designed to introduce teachers, librarians and others to the collection and its use.

The four day workshop will include, among others, speaker Crispin Brooks,  Archivist from the University of Southern California.

Different aspects of the oral histories, or testimonies, included in the new database will be demonstrated and discussed with consideration given to how attendees could use this resource to aid classroom instruction or to enable them to effectively use the testimonies for educational purposes.

Some aspects discussed will be the visual archive, experiences in taking testimonies from survivors, use of the  iWitness  (a subset of the visual history archives) and a presentation by a visiting Holocaust survivor.

Thompson Library, through a 3-campus arrangement between the University of Michigan and University of California, will be one of a select number of sites to offer access to this database.

We are proud to have Emily as one of the first librarians in Michigan to have been trained and become proficient in use of this new resource, which allows users to download massive data files and store them temporarily, an ability our campus enjoys thanks to ITS and the storage server they have contributed for this purpose.

Each massive, data-dense file accessed will be temporarily downloaded onto the participating institutions server for easier access, so Emily worked closely with Sidney Horton of ITS to ensure that our campus will have quick and efficient access to the database (both during the workshop and beyond) and that our access will be seamless for users.

Enrollment for the workshop is now closed.

Participants coming to our campus to attend the workshop include a wide cross-section of users, such as librarians, teachers and historical researches from Michigan, Canada and Egypt.

Attendees will come away from their experience prepared to help others use what they have learned, enabling patrons and students around the world to explore this moment in history in detail previously impossible to obtain in one source.

The availability of this rare and unique collection to our campus, our community , our state and our nation will make the study of this period in history come alive in a more meaningful way.


LIBRARY PROFILE — Vince Prygoski

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

In April of 2000, Vince Prygoski joined the Thompson Library as our Interlibrary Loan specialist and Reference Librarian.

Shortly after that, our ILL services were transferred to the new online services originating on our sister campus in Ann Arbor, but that just provided Vince with more opportunities to serve the students and faculty here in Flint.

Vince, a native of the Detroit suburb, Wyandotte, grew up in a scholarly family.

His granddad immigrated to Michigan from Poland in the early 1900’s, finding work in industrial jobs, particularly chemical and steel mills.  His original family name was actually spelled Przygocki and pronounced “ShaGOOTskee.    It was later simplified to the current version Prygoski (Pri- GOS-key).

Both his parents attended CMU and became teachers — his mom working as a special education teacher and his dad as a middle school teacher.  While that laid the groundwork for Vince to pursue a career in higher education and librarianship, it was the extra-curricular activities of his dad, his granddad and his Uncle Phil that guided him towards his love of sports.

His dad not only taught, but also served as a coach — along with his granddad — at Mt Carmel.  His dad eventually became the athletic director there as well.   With sports such a strong influence in his young life, it’s no wonder Vince developed a love of college and professional sports.

Vince2 While he enjoys all sports, he is a big fan of women’s sports.   Earlier in life he watched as girls were discouraged from competing, yet many he observed were exceptional athletes.  Today’s women’s teams have many good players that exhibit outstanding teamwork frequently lacking in the men’s teams.   Vince feels the women’s teams are under-valued and don’t receive the recognition for the quality of their players.

Vince received his MILS degree from UM (Ann Arbor).   While there, he worked in the Serials Department as a student librarian where he did filing and provided reference service.      He also assisted              Dr. Slavens, one of the most beloved professors in the School of Library Science, helping him organize his extensive collection of library-related slides.

After receiving his masters degree, Vince worked for the next four years in the Circulation Department and Reference Desk of the Cooley Law School library.   Over time, Vince did stints in the libraries of Baker College at their Owosso and Jackson campuses as a Reference and Bibliographic Instruction  (teaching) librarian where he specialized in teaching students how to use the various low and high tech services of their libraries — skills that he now uses to the benefit of all on our campus.

Vince is currently the library liaison to several teaching departments and as such has created many of our new LibGuides (which organize library resources by discipline or subject areas), including Africana Studies, Education, Music, Social Work and Women & Gender Studies.

He also does extensive in-class presentations to courses within those (and other) disciplines.   His presentations are vital in teaching our students (and often our faculty and staff) how to find and use the subscription-based databases and library tools available for conducting research within (and often exclusive to) this campus.

In addition to his work in the library and as a teaching member of our library faculty, Vince has also participated in several administrative faculty committees.    Currently he is the chair of the Faculty Council, which will be considering a quality initiative directed at campus accreditation.    He is the Flint campus representative to Faculty Senate in Ann Arbor and has worked on the Library Committee (a support and advisory body) as well.   His dream is to gain an appointment to the Inter-collegiate Athletics Committee in Ann Arbor, but to date they have not had a Flint rep. That doesn’t stop him from dreaming.

Beyond participating in campus activities, Vince has authored several published articles and a book, with more to come.

Vince4His love of music allows him to knowledgably support the research needs of students in that field.   He has written several articles in Popular Music and Society on a variety of musical genres, John Lennon (of Beatles fame) and others.   He has published an article helps researchers find information on his all time favorite musical group, the Grateful Dead.   Should you be interested in learning about pop music icons of the rock and roll era, Vince is the librarian to ask.

Vince3It was his love of sports that prompted him to write his book, “Worst to First:  a SHOCK’ing Tale of Women’s Basketball in Motown.”   (2006,   ISBN 1598002767—  library call number GV 85.52.D48P78)

As for his personal interests, Vince enjoys books on and by authors from the Beat generation (precursors to “hippies”).   He is active in social culture, describing himself as leaning decidedly to the left of center in politics and is an active member of the Green Party.  He proudly points out that he is and has been a feminist for many years and is a strong and vocal supporter of gender equality in all fields.

Vince brings the UM Ann Arbor outlook to our campus, but he loves the small campus atmosphere of Flint.   He feels strongly that UM-Flint is part of Flint and should be instrumental in bringing new life to the surrounding area, in giving Flint natives options and hope for future growth.

Asked what he likes best about working in the Thompson Library, Vince ponders the question briefly before saying simply that he likes helping people.  He finds great personal enjoyment and reward in that his work helps people find enlightenment, which helps make the world a better place through education.

Vince, that’s a motto we can all live by.



Some of the New Databases Available from Thompson Library

For a complete list, see the  NEW RESOURCES   link on the Frances Willson Thompson Library website.   

 New from Thompson Library!

Databases in:

  • African Studies
  • ebooks
  • Politics & Issues

         …   and more!

  • African Studies Companion OnlineGuides and resources for Earth Go GreenAfrican languages, Africa cartography and maps, African film, African studies journals, magazines and newsletters, media guides and news sources for Africa, the African press, African studies library collections worldwide, national archives in Africa, centers of African studies and African studies programs worldwide, awards and prizes in African studies, and a wealth of other subjects. Many entries describe and evaluate resources, others are factual and provide practical information. With a few exceptions, entries directly link to resources on the Internet.
  • African American Periodicals, 1825-1995170 wide-ranging periodicals by and about African Americans, published in 26 states. Includes academic & political journals, commercial magazines, institutional newsletters, organizations’ bulletins, annual reports, and other genres.
  • Cambridge Books Online Access to the full text of selected eBooks (about 700) from Cambridge University Press from multiple disciplines across science, technology, humanities and social sciences. Select option “Limited to Your Access” to find books available to UM-Flint users.
  • Issues & Controversies in American HistoryBiographies, timelines, background articles, photographs, and maps augment the curriculum-based coverage of historical events. Carefully selected primary documents, linking directly to the factual coverage, give the points of view on all sides of the debates as they were promulgated at the time.
  • Issues & ControversiesFull text of balanced, accurate discussions of over 250 controversial topics in the news supplemented with chronologies, illustrations, maps, tables, sidebars, contact information, and bibliographies including primary source documents and news editorials. Covers 1995-present.
  • Pew Social & Demographic Trends Public Opinion Polling, Survey Research, & Demographic Data Analysis   Studies behaviors and attitudes of Americans in key realms of their daily lives, using original survey research and analysis of government data. Major reports have examined the racial wealth gap, the Millennial Generation and marriage & family trends.
  • Pew Research Center for the People and the Press This project project provides independent public opinion survey research about American attitudes toward politics and policy. Formerly, the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press (1990-1995), the Center has been sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts since 1996. Major reports examine long-term trends in political values, U.S. views on policy issues and priorities and political knowledge and news interest.
  • Pew Research CenterNonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
  • Pew InternetOriginal research that explores the growth of the internet and its impact on children, families, communities, the workplace, schools, health care and civic/political life. Major reports have examined teens and technology, health online and libraries in a digital age.
  • Pew Global Attitudes ProjectInformation on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs in the U.S. and around the world. Major reports examine politics and faith, religious beliefs and practices and global religious demographics.
  • Pew Forum on Religion & Public LifeInformation on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs in the U.S. and around the world. Major reports examine politics and faith, religious beliefs and practices and global religious demographics.


Library Related Quotation

I would walk into the Carnegie Library and I would see the pictures of Booker T and pictures of Fredrick Douglass and I would read. I would go into

the stacks and see all of the newspapers from all over the country. Did I dream that I would be on the Supreme Court? No. But I dreamt that there was a world out there

that was worth pursuing.


                                                                           — Clarence Thomas,

                                                                                 US Supreme Court Justice