The Not-so-Scary Library

By Avery Klauke, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)

When I tell people I work in Doe Library, it is sometimes followed by, “Is that the big building people take grad photos in front of?” Although true, it has previously amazed me that some students don’t know more about Doe (or many other libraries). But as I was reflecting on this year, this didn’t come as much of a surprise…

When you enter Berkeley in your first year, there’s often a stigma around the libraries. They’re big, quiet, and intimidating. Their sole purpose is to be a place where students can cram for finals or get in a quick nap between classes. And most of the time, this stigma doesn’t go away in the years you’re here. That was the goal for the library fellows this year. To make strides in painting the libraries as a place of collaboration, creativity, and fun.

The first thing the research fellows got to do this semester was teach a Research 101 Workshop. This workshop was our way of merging our 1-1 research consultations with the ways Research 101 is traditionally taught. And between presenting all of the material well to trying to keep everyone engaged and collaborative, it was no easy feat. But we thought that if students could see their peers presenting, it would help our goal of making the library less menacing of a place. Personally, being able to field questions and work together with the rest of the research fellows made this experience my personal favorite. 

Another project we did this semester was coined the “Bancroft User Experience Project”. Unlike the other projects this year, I didn’t have to put myself into the shoes of a new student because I too had almost no experience with the Bancroft Library. Our goal was to identify advantages and “pain points” when requesting a special collection item. One of my conclusions from this project was that despite the employees and librarians in Bancroft being so helpful and understanding, there’s still an intimidation factor that turns away most undergraduates before they even enter the front door. If you’re a new student reading this- don’t believe what people say about Bancroft being an exclusive library! If you can get over this hurdle, you’ll be exposed to some of the most extensive collections on campus!

Although the goal for this year was to give back to the Berkeley student body, I cannot say that I didn’t experience any personal gain. This year’s fellows and mentors provided me with the most enjoyable space to spend my afternoons. I hope to continue our goal of making the library more welcoming to students, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish next year!