By Sofia Hernandez, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)
As a returning fellow, the idea of hosting an in-person event centered around assisting peers in their research process had been circulating around our brainstorming sessions for some time, but ultimately, our project for the year changed its course and the event did not end up coming into fruition. Upon returning to the fellowship program and joining this year’s Research cohort, I was delighted and surprised to discover that we would begin to serve as formal library peer advisors, with official appointments on the library’s “LibCal” and a feature on the library’s homepage!
Amidst the excitement I felt about being a peer advisor, I was also nervous. Last year’s fellowship program was almost entirely online (save for a few in-person reunions for just the fellows and mentors) and very theoretical. We gathered data about current student library employees and made inferences about what changes could be implemented in the library to make it more accessible. This year, we were jumping straight into being the change-makers we had only theorized about! But my nerves didn’t last for very long. During one of our first internship meetings in September, my fellowship partner Avery and I participated in an “Empathy Map” activity where we put our theatrical skills to work and role played as a peer advisor and a consultee (and vice versa).
The experience was fun and incredibly insightful about our future roles as peer advisors. Avery and I found out we had very different academic concentrations (statistics and economics vs. literature and Spanish). Taking turns roleplaying as if we were running and attending a consultation revealed these differences but we discovered that our different areas of expertise complimented each other quite nicely. Skipping ahead to the end of the semester, we made an excellent duo during our real consultations with our peers! Working together flowed rather smoothly during our real consultations and our different academic backgrounds came in handy when meeting with students of varying academic backgrounds as well!
I’ve learned a lot this semester alone about accessibility within the library through being a fellow and peer advisor. Through the fellowship, I’ve thought critically about the way the library, as an academic institution, has been designed to be confusing to navigate (both online and in-person) which is off-putting for students seeking to use the library’s many resources. As a peer advisor, I’ve also been able to workshop the way I help other students, whose needs and learning styles vary from person to person. I look forward to continuing the fellowship program in the semester to come and continuing to learn alongside my peers about the library and everything it has to offer!