Library DrawingThe CONNector

JULY 2001Volume 3 Number 3

History Day Students and the Connecticut State Library

Nancy Lieffort, Librarian II

Awards (Animation of disk that spins)What do these questions have in common?

The common thread that ties these questions together is their origin. They all come from Connecticut students who participated in the 2001 National History Day competition. Many students use our collections and resources in researching History Day topics for this national competition. One of CSL's experiences with this competition comes through a middle school social studies teacher and his students.

For several years Sam Lewbel from Rochambeau Middle School of Southbury has brought his students to the Connecticut State Library to introduce them to using a large research library. By teaming up with Mr. Lewbel we insure that his students' daylong visit will be a positive and productive one. CSL's Web catalog lets the students start their search before they arrive. Mr. Lewbel sends us a list of chosen materials and topics so, upon arrival, those materials are waiting for the students. From this starting point we work together to refine their searches and discover more resources.

Coming to the State Library is a new experience for the students. As beginning researchers they explore our collections; follow archival procedures; understand the basics of copyright; learn the correct way to handle old books; and figure out the intricacies of microfilm reader printers. They also experience the disappointments and frustrations of research by learning that the book or database that had held so much promise online didn't help at all, or that the magazine article didn't have any pictures.

History Day topics quite often involve resources from all six library stack levels as well as the state Archives and the Museum of Connecticut History. This allows the archivists, librarians and curators to work together and share their expertise with the students. We have all found it very rewarding to hear, "Thanks, that's just what I was looking for!" and, "I can't believe they have that here!" as the students share their excitement. They have been persistent, flexible in approaching topics from new angles and adept in the use of a portable scanner and laptop to take notes and incorporate images into their projects.

This year several of the students went from the regional level to the statewide competition held at the Connecticut Historical Society, Connecticut's coordinating agency for the National History Day competition. One of Mr. Lewbel's students received national recognition this June in Washington DC. This kind of competition has not captured the imagination of the general public or a front-page headline or ESPN coverage (yet). However, many of us now scan the local papers and the Web looking for competition results. Enthusiasm can be contagious!

Learn more about history day at the National History Day Web site. Learn more about Connecticut's involvement in history day by checking the Connecticut Historical Society's Web site.

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