King County librarians offer student academic aid

January 10, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Local branches of the King County Library System are at the service of students looking for homework assistance or just something to do, said Ann Crewdson, left, children’s section supervisor for the Issaquah and Sammamish branch libraries, and Jessica Gomes, teen services director. By Tom Corrigan

“Fundamentally, we can find almost anything almost any time for almost anybody,” said Marsha Iverson, public relations specialist for the King County Library System.

From its “Ask a Librarian” service to online help, the library system offers numerous types of homework and study help for students of all ages. That’s a good thing, added Ann Crewdson, the children’s section supervisor for the Issaquah and Sammamish branch libraries.

Studies show the stronger the relationship between local libraries and local schools, the higher the average test scores in those schools, Crewdson said.

The KCLS Study Zone program is one of the more noteworthy local programs aimed at students, said Jerene Battisti, KCLS education and teen services coordinator. Study Zone provides tutors who visit branch libraries, including the Issaquah, Sammamish and Snoqualmie libraries.

“We get calls from all over the country on how to recruit and train tutors,” Battisti said.

In fact, the KCLS Study Zone is the largest program of its kind in the U.S., she added, with some 300 tutors who cover virtually every subject covered in local kindergarten through 12th-grade schools.

Tutors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and include homemakers and Boeing Co. engineers, according to Battisti. Some are retired teachers, while many are employed in the field in which they tutor. Some high school students also volunteer as tutors, Crewdson said.

Tutors visit the Issaquah Library from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Times for other libraries are listed on the KCLS website. Like most KCLS programs, the Study Zone program is free, though a KCLS library card may be required for some programs.

The latest figures available showed Study Zone helped some 9,000 students receive more than 12,000 hours of free tutoring during the past academic year, Battisti said. The program serves 18 school districts and KCLS collaborates with those districts to ensure tutors are teaching appropriate materials. Probably not surprisingly, math and science tutors are the most in demand.

According to Battisti, a tutoring service offering help with standardized tests is also proving popular. The help is available from 1-10 p.m. seven days a week and covers such tests as the SAT, HSPE and MSP. The library system contracts with an outside company to provide the service. One important aspect of the tutoring, Battisti added, is that participants have practice tests available to them.

Again provided by an outside service, K-12 students, entry level college students and adult learners can receive live homework help from online tutors from 2 p.m. to midnight seven days a week. The service is also available in Spanish.

One final notable program is simply titled “Homework Help” and can direct students to various websites on different topics, from animals to math. Crewdson said librarians from around the library system aid in keeping the Homework Help websites up to date.

With the arrival of the Internet and Internet search engines, just how important is library help? Can’t anyone just Google a topic and find the answers they need? Battisti said the problem is, of course, that the Internet is totally unregulated. Students and adults alike must learn to distinguish between legitimate and not-so-legitimate sources, Crewdson said, adding the URL, or web address, can be one important clue.

Iverson talked about gag sights, such as one for “aluminum foil deflector beanies” that prevent government and alien mind control. Another site purports to be a campaign to save the Pacific Northwest tree octopus. The latter includes everything from sightings to steps you can take to help the creature. Both the beanie and the octopus sites look legitimate, but are meant to teach caution when using the Internet, Iverson said.

The Study Zone program does not attract a great number of students locally, at least not at the Issaquah Library, Crewdson admitted. She really didn’t have an explanation as to why. But Crewdson added that the local library still offers a lot of homework help and that librarians still answer a lot of questions.

The most notable question recently came to her from a boy, 9, visiting the Sammamish Library and asking for a Latin/English dictionary. Crewdson said the youngster had made up his mind to learn both Greek and Latin after reading the Percy Jackson series of books.

The books deal with a teen that discovers he is the son of a Greek god.

One complicated question came from another student, 11, who wanted to know local demographics and the influence of software companies on local income levels.

“There are a lot of gifted students in this area,” Crewdson added.

Besides homework help, the Issaquah Library offers numerous programs for teens and so-called tweens, including book clubs and a manga group, said Jessica Gomes, teen services director for the Issaquah branch. The library also offers numerous special events, such as an upcoming class on how to draw and create comics.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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