Volkman, John D. Collaborative Library Research Projects: Inquiry that Stimulates the Senses. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2008. 196 pp. 35.00 USD. ISBN-10: 1-59158-623-2; ISBN-13: 978-1-59158-623-4.

The incorporation of active learning principles and instructor/librarian collaboration in course design are two things upon which librarians involved in the delivery of information skills sessions should be focused. In Collaborative Library Research Projects: Inquiry that Stimulates the Senses, Volkman provides a suitable framework for active learning and collaboration and provides many engaging sample units for school librarians working with high school students and those in the upper elementary grades.

In the first chapter Volkman explains the design concept behind the units he presents. In order to engage students actively, the units are designed around various “stations” that allow students to interact with the material, and appeal to the preferences of different learning styles. Volkman also provides tips for librarians on ways to initiate and structure collaboration with teachers.

In the next four chapters Volkman presents detailed lesson plans for station units on World War II, the Holocaust, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Shakespeare. For each unit Volkman provides detailed lists of materials needed; tips for construction and placement of the stations; suggested books, web sites, songs, etc. for inclusion; reproducible student worksheets; and even suggested grading scales.

In the seventh chapter Volkman switches gears to introduce another type of collaborative unit. He acknowledges that the detail and complexity of the station units may not be realistic in many situations, and, as such, he outlines the basics of more traditional research-based units. The emphasis of these units is on learning to utilize effective note taking practices, the use of a variety of source materials, and proper citation of sources.

The final 10 chapters include sample research units on drugs, alcohol and smoking; evil characters in history; Edgar Allen Poe; Linda Crew’s Children of the River; decades of the 20th century; constellations and the zodiac; rocks and minerals; Hispanic Americans; Greek heritage; and nations of the world. The units focus on different types of end products such as posters, reports, brochures, newspapers, art projects and research papers. As with the lesson plans for the station units, Volkman provides all the necessary details and materials to make these units easily reproducible.

Volkman concludes his book with several appendices. The first provides the basics of constructing a works cited list according to MLA style, including sample references for commonly-used formats (books, periodicals, encyclopedias, websites, etc.). The subsequent appendices provide reproducible source pages for students to use when putting together their own bibliographies. These pages are nicely laid out according to MLA style so students can easily follow the proper placement of each element in the citation.

All in all, this is a very well-organized guide that would be useful both for new and more experienced school librarians. Each of the units was developed by Volkman in collaboration with teachers from the various schools at which he has worked (he gives credit to the individual teachers in his acknowledgements). In addition, each unit has been “road tested” over Volkman’s many years of experience. My only suggestion for improvement would be to add an indication of the grade level (or levels) for which each unit would work best.

This book is highly recommended for school libraries – both elementary and high school. It is also recommended for consideration by university libraries that serve a program in library and information science that offers a concentration in school librarianship, and by libraries that have curriculum resource centres.

Sara Holder, Head Librarian, sara.holder@mcgill.ca, Education Library & Curriculum Resources Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Québec

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Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research (ISSN: 1911-9593)