By Danielle Colburn
Communications & Marketing Intern, U-M Library
This summer, the Shapiro Undergraduate Library hosted 375 high school students for four hours each weekday afternoon. During their time in Shapiro, the students conducted research, collaborated in small groups, and prepared arguments. They had full access to the library and its extensive resources, including digital and physical collections and group spaces.
The students, all participants in the Michigan Debate Institutes, came from all over the country for 3, 4, or 7 week sessions. The institutes are open to rising high school juniors and seniors. Participants of the camps focused on the 2017/2018 National High School Debate Topic: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the United States.
A few students shared their perspectives on having access to the library spaces and resources, and all were enthusiastic about the benefits of using the library. Rising senior Camille Garcia-Mendoza, who traveled from Miami for the 7-week program, said, “People come from all across the country for the great faculty and program. The library and resources attract people from everywhere, because there is no other camp like this one to match the resources offered.”
Leo Saenger, a rising senior from Oregon, addressed the stakes of having access to research. “This library is a big contrast from high school libraries. I have access to resources my high school doesn’t give access to,” Saenger said. “Having this research can be the deciding factor in debate.”
Library staff members created a 2017 Michigan Debate Institute research guide to help students find and use relevant library sources. The students had access to databases, government reports, statistics, and more, all of which are organized in the guide for easy access and navigation. Institute staff also compiled a reserve collection of books related to the debate topic. At the end of their time at the institutes, students took their research with them to use over the next year of debate.
Rising senior Maria Felix, also from Miami, echoed the value of the resources available, emphasizing the importance of having access to a large and diverse collection of books. “Debate is won or lost not on quantity but quality of evidence, so we benefit by having physical evidence that other people might not have and using the stacks to get extensive evidence that others can’t get.”
One student shared how the advantages of working in the library extended beyond debate. Alexia Boulos, a third rising senior from Miami, discussed how experiences at the Debate Institute will help her transition into college. “Family members have told me that the most difficult adjustment in college is doing your own studying and not as much in-class work. This program gives us an advantage in adjusting to college and learning how to dial in, do work, and produce results.”
Soon after arriving, students sat for an instructional session that introduced the research guide and covered the basics of using the Library’s online resources. Students are taught database research techniques, and librarians are available to assist in other computer-based research or answer library questions.
Alex Rivera, the librarian who oversees instruction and logistics of the program, said, “The Library has been engaged with the Michigan Debate Institutes for around 25 years. It has been interesting to see how the program has grown in just the short time that I have been involved. It is exciting to see the increased diversity of these camps. These students are bright and engaged and will go on to be our future leaders.”