Wayfinding with Direction

By Timothy Kim, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)

Looking back on the efforts of the Undergraduate Library Fellows, I’ve come to realize and appreciate how much the program has matured. A theme I noticed this semester had been on wayfinding, or the ways in which people navigate unexplored places and orient themselves. 

We started off in January optimistic but a little unguided. The fellows and I knew what our main goal was–to help bridge the gap between library resources and students–but we didn’t have a clear path on how to do this. Great ideas were conceived, from developing our social media presence to creating library profiles and grouping them in hubs for easier access, but I felt there were too many avenues and not enough time to properly explore each one. Each fellow pursued projects they were most interested in and developed frameworks for how they could best accomplish their goals. 

As the semester progressed and students began to navigate their research projects, however, I think the other fellows and I were reoriented to really focusing on the student experience. We had peer-to-peer consultations and were given the opportunity to lead a Research 101 Workshop, which encouraged us to develop frameworks on how to approach individual and group learning and forced us to look at the path to research from different perspectives. Some students had no experience with research but needed to complete their assignments while others were very experienced but had reached a dead end. We had to look at how students approached their projects and create a map that they could use to help them with their needs. 

Leading the workshop in front of my fellow undergrads and guiding students through consultations was very rewarding, and with each experience I learned to rely less on a rigid framework and instead cater to where each student was at on their journeys. I believe this allowed me to be more useful as a fellow and grounded the other fellows and I to our main goal. 

Our final project, the Bancroft User Experience, was a culmination of the skills and experiences we had throughout the semester. In this project all of the fellows concentrated on how users would navigate archival research from the Bancroft collection and any roadblocks they might encounter while doing so. Now that we had a framework and more importantly, experience and perspective, we could ask ourselves where students and researchers might encounter obstacles when using Bancroft library resources. We were able to identify and present our findings to the librarians of the Bancroft library.

As I reflect on the past semester and past year overall, I can see how much the other fellows and I have grown. I can see where we have gained perspective on what research is and the path it takes to help students benefit from the library’s vast wealth of knowledge. More importantly though, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experiences I’ve had and the interactions with so many wonderful people that taught me the ability to find this direction.