A Fellow’s Tale on Navigating Library Resources During a Pandemic and Beyond

by Zhané Garlington, of the she series, Cal Class of 2021 

Growing up as a low-income student of color, the library is where I went after school and during school breaks to explore new worlds and receive help with homework. As a 2020-2021 Library Fellow I was fortunate to not only aid in creating a space where students like me could continue to receive library support, but also was extremely fortunate to gain a sense of community in times where in person activities were limited and/or prohibited. In our digital meeting spaces, Nicole Brown, Kiyoko Shiosaki,  Gisèle Tanasse, and Kristina Bush emphasized innovative thinking and encouraged cooperative activities. The experience was like no other and I am extremely grateful for being able to partake in this fellowship as my undergraduate degree comes to an end.

As a Library fellow in the Making Research Accessible Team alongside Katherine Chen, Joseph Rodriguez, and Tara Madhav, my mentor Gisèle and I centered our project around the early stages of research. Early in the semester, we surveyed some student-ran social media pages such as the transfer student page and the student parent page on Facebook in order to gain insight on student research processes. From our findings, it was understood especially at the undergraduate level, that the biggest research obstacle most students faced was getting their research started. This is the inspiration behind our ‘keyword script’. The big ideal behind the script is to have an instructional video share research tips with students. A narrator would suggest that before a student begins to look up their research subject, they should brainstorm some keywords to search. Students would then be instructed to think about their research question and condense it down to the phrase:

“I am researching (blank) in order to find out (what/how/why blank.)

There would be a few prompts on screen with timed intervals for students to complete said prompts before moving on to the next one with the intentions being that the core concepts students thought of through the prompts would be search terms to find books, articles, etc. in our library databases. In an ideal world where I am more tech savvy, I would have loved to create an algorithm that created keywords off of keywords that students put into the library databases which could potentially help students find sources they may have not have got to through their own self guided keyword processes.

This keyword  project came from Gisèle and my own passion for keyword brainstorming, and overall how activities like it can lead individuals not only to find their own research passions, but also to find their general passions. Self-paced learning opportunities for undergrads, where self-actualization might be a takeaway was something I wanted to root my fellows project in, and by highlighting existing resources to support undergrads I believe that is exactly what we did. Despite the current circumstances of the world the 2020-2021 cohort lived through, we were still able to accomplish so much! So for anyone looking through these blog posts considering applying to the next cohort of Library Fellows,  I am thankful that I got to end my time at Berkeley as a fellow and would highly recommend the fellowship to anyone who also wants to add a truly enriching experience to their own undergraduate path.