Transition program lessens anxiety

Navigating the complex world of a university library can be a daunting experience for anyone. You can up the anxiety level for first-year students, and then take it up another notch for First Nations Métis and Inuit (FNMI) students, who also face cultural challenges.

Enter the First Nations Transition Program (FNTP) and Professional Librarian Andrea Glover, who navigates the sometimes murky waters of understanding with her Library Science 0500 course.

"I just remember my sister coming home and always saying her Library Science instructor was so cool," second-year student Sheena Tail Feathers says. "And she was right, she is cool. One of the things I loved about the class is she never makes it boring and I always looked forward to going."

Glover has been teaching the course, required as part of the FNTP program, since its inception five years ago, and although she initially had some worries about the concept of singling out FNMI students, she has seen how well it aids their introduction to the University lifestyle.

"The more I looked at it, this was a really good concept," says Glover. "You have them start together and then gradually move out and move on to be a part of the greater University population.
"The most important thing for me is to make sure they are comfortable and while that's important for every student, there's a cultural gap they must also cross and if we can help them with that, they'll be much more successful."

The course benefits not only the students but also the instructor.

"As a non-native instructor, I must cross the cultural gap as well to do right by these students, and they help me with that learning process every time I step into the classroom."

Tail Feathers' older sister Nicole advanced through the program first. A
Native American Studies and Kinesiology major, she's set to graduate in this month's Fall Convocation. Sheena is taking the same path and is already off to a solid start.

"I didn't know anything about the library and didn't really understand all that it could do for you," she says.
"Andrea's shown us how to use the web page, how to search for books, use e-reference, pretty much anything you can do here. Basically, I know how to research thanks to the course."

Of course Glover is just the facilitator in this process. Her use of humour, experience teaching FNMI students and enthusiasm for her subject matter are all useful teaching tools but it's up to the students to make the most of her lessons.

"She can get us started and give us all the information we need but it's up to us to actually apply it," Sheena, who came to the U of L from Lethbridge College, says. "The university life is so much different than college because here, nobody is going to tell you to go to class or to do your homework, it's all up to you. The way I look at it, this is my opportunity to try hard and get it right the first time."

Glover says she knows she's made an impact when she sees her students often, meaning they are actively using the library. Her greatest success is still in the works.

"I would absolutely love it if one of my students would get their master's degree in Library Science one day and come back to take over my role in this program," she says. "An FNMI librarian teaching this course would be wonderful – but not until I retire!"