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NMSU Library’s community outreach extends across southern New Mexico

With almost two million books and many more online resources available, conducting research might be an intimidating task for students. The New Mexico State University Library staff can help streamline the process so students and community members can find the resources they need.

Woman standing in library.
Wendy Simpson, New Mexico State University Reference and Research Services senior library specialist, helps students and community members find the resources they need to conduct research projects. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)
Group of high school boys and girls sitting on bleachers.
The Silver High School National History Day 2019-2020 team had nine projects and 16 students qualify for the national competition, which was held virtually in June, and two projects made the top 10. Since 2012, the New Mexico State University Library staff has helped students conduct research for their projects. (Courtesy photo)

“At the NMSU Library, we are always glad to see public school and community college students in our building,” said Wendy Simpson, Reference and Research Services senior library specialist. “We know that we are a world-class resource and love to show it off.”

Since 2012, NMSU Library staff has helped students from Silver High School in Silver City, New Mexico, research topics for the National History Day competition. The 2019-2020 team from Silver had nine projects and 16 students qualify for the national competition, which was held virtually in June, with two projects making the finals.

“It is extremely significant to have the NMSU library as a resource,” said Claudie Thompson, Silver HS teacher and National History Day adviser. “It allows our National History Day students to complete graduate level research. Our annotated bibliographies for a single project in the National History Day competition ranges from 60-80 pages with over 100 sources. Multiplying that by the 15-17 projects we have yearly gives a perfect example how NMSU’s library allows our research to be balanced with a variety of primary and secondary sources.”

When the Silver students visited the NMSU Library in September 2019, Simpson helped coordinate the visit that included reserving the instruction lab for their exclusive use along with providing staff to train and assist the students in academic research, and offering ongoing support during their time on campus. Simpson said it takes practice to understand the search algorithm.

“They might get 100,000 results on their topic but only a few of them are books they can find on a shelf,” Simpson said. “Also, some of the students choose obscure or lesser-known topics. While this is great for research projects because you have a chance to really educate your audience, it can make basic library research a little frustrating. But the students Mr. Thompson brings are high-level students and they enjoy the challenge.”

Silver had two projects finish in the top 10 in the senior group documentary category. “The Street that Changes Everything,” which was about “Sesame Street,” earned second-place honors for the team of Hailey Cisneros, Gabe Perez, Mikaela Johnson and Christian Kilgore. “The Voice of a Nation: Marian Anderson and Her Life of Breaking Barriers” garnered ninth-place honors for the team of Alyssa Newman and Ella Bower, who two of the five students from the Silver team who are current NMSU students.

“Visiting NMSU also allows our 9-12 graders to gain an experience and comfort level at a major university,” Thompson said. “Whether they attend NMSU, which many of our kids do because of these visits, or be it another university, the students are confident in stepping into a library and knowing what to do.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only NMSU faculty, staff and students are currently allowed inside NMSU’s libraries or to request library materials.

“But we are proud to serve the community outside NMSU and consider it an essential element of our service commitment,” Simpson said.