Reflecting on Two Transformative Years as an Undergraduate Library Fellow

By Timothy Kim, Undergraduate Library Research Fellow, 2023-2024

As my time as an Undergraduate Library Fellow (ULF) at the UC Berkeley library comes to a close, I look back with gratitude to the lessons I’ve learned over the past two years. This role has not only shaped my understanding of academic research, but I’ve also gained invaluable skills of empathy, teaching, and most importantly learning. 

As an inexperienced ULF, I had a lot of ideas about what solutions to try and what projects to take on but not a strong understanding of the role of an ULF. This spark of interest is what helped the undergraduate research fellows work on and develop the Bancroft Library User Experience project and Wayfinding project among many others, as we developed ways to improve how library services were utilized. Having the inexperience is what allowed us fellows to draw up creative ideas and try to find pain points and inefficiencies in how students and researchers used the library. 

Simultaneously, as the other research fellows and I gained experience, we also learned the ropes of teaching in front of classes of our fellow peers on how to conduct Research 101 basics. Through carefully observing the students taking the class, I learned where to anticipate potential problems people might have, as well as those who wouldn’t necessarily bring up their obstacles in the first place.

As I gained more experience through my second year, I eventually transitioned to conducting more one-on-one peer advising. Armed with a deeper understanding of how people learn, I approached teaching with a renewed perspective and confidence. This year was about action—applying theories and techniques I had learned in real-world scenarios and refining them through experience. Every visiting student came with unique challenges and learning styles. This experience taught me the importance of adaptability and empathy in educational settings. It was through these personal interactions that I rediscovered the joy of learning and the satisfaction of helping others achieve their academic goals.

The skills I’ve acquired extend far beyond the walls of Doe library. Learning to teach and communicate effectively are abilities that I anticipate will influence various aspects of my life, from my future academic pursuits to professional endeavors. The ability to facilitate learning and foster understanding is an invaluable tool I will always carry with me.

As I reflect on my time as a ULF, I cannot help but be extremely grateful to the program and its coordinators for its success in not only providing a service to the student body but also in educating me and the other fellows in mentorship and teaching. I believe through the program’s unique and diverse projects I’ve emerged as a more competent and confident individual.

Rekindling Creativity: Embracing Mistakes, Forming Connections, and Rediscovering Joy

By Sydney Hardister, Undergraduate Library Making Fellow, 2023-2024

Reflecting on my journey as a library fellow, I’m struck by how my experience has mirrored my own personal desire to reignite my passion for creating. Initially drawn to the Makerspace with little knowledge of what it entailed, I embarked on this journey with a simple intention: to rediscover the joy of making. Little did I know that this decision would lead me down a path of self-discovery, friendship, and skill development.

In the vibrant atmosphere of the Makerspace, I found not only a place for experimentation but also a community of like-minded individuals who shared my enthusiasm for creativity. Here, making mistakes wasn’t just accepted; it was celebrated as a natural part of the learning process. Through countless hours of crocheting, knitting, and exploring various crafts, I learned the invaluable lesson that failure is not an endpoint but rather a stepping stone toward growth.

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of my fellowship was the opportunity to share my newfound skills with others through leading workshops. Teaching became a means of deepening my own understanding of the art forms I had embraced, while simultaneously fostering connections with fellow makers. These interactions underscored the importance of community and collaboration in the creative process, reminding me of the joy that comes from both sharing knowledge and learning from others.

With each new craft I embraced in the Makerspace, I could feel myself falling deeper and deeper in love with creating. From crocheting to stamp making, each project served as a catalyst for my creative journey, inspiring a cascade of new ideas and endeavors. Before long, I found myself immersed in a whirlwind of projects, each one fueling my enthusiasm and drive to create. This steady flow of creativity became a source of calm and contentment in my life, offering a sense of fulfillment that I had long yearned for. Beyond simply acquiring new skills, my time in the Makerspace served to center me both as an individual and as a creative, reaffirming the profound love that comes from bringing imagination to life through craft and creation.

Ultimately, my time as a library fellow has been a testament to the transformative power of creativity and community. Through the ups and downs of this journey, I’ve learned to trust myself, follow my passions, and embrace the joy of making. As I look back on my time here, I am filled with gratitude for the friendships formed, the skills acquired, and the endless possibilities that lie ahead in my creative endeavors.

Reflecting on ULF: Moving Forward

By Sofia Hernandez, Undergraduate Library Research Fellow, 2023-2024

I joined the ULF program three years ago as an emerging sophomore, eager to enter the world of university libraries. I am now entering the final stretch of my undergraduate career, time flies when you’re having fun! Throughout these last three years, I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside like-minded Fellows and passionate librarians to bridge the gap between the undergraduate population at Cal and research. 

In the past year, the Research fellows began our in-person Research Appointments to aid other undergraduates in getting started with navigating university resources to conduct research, an entry point that is often inaccessible to the larger undergraduate population. Rather than meeting with faculty members, students at the library had the option of connecting with a peer (AKA us!) for support in their assignments. In connecting with other undergraduates through the Fellow’s Research Appointments, I learned how to adapt to various learning styles and adjust my support/advice on a case-by-case basis.

This academic year, the Research Fellows were given the opportunity to lead between 3-4 “Research 101” workshops per semester in addition to hosting Research Appointments. Before our first workshop, I remember feeling incredibly nervous at the thought of presenting to a room full of students. However, the nerves quickly settled as I began to teach at the front of the class. Hosting Research 101 is similar to our Research Appointments; both provide a safe space for undergraduates to ask questions about the library and their writing without the fear of being judged by an adult figure of authority. Leading Research 101’s quickly became my favorite part of the fellowship. After a workshop, I’d often say to Avery (my most frequent Research 101 partner) that the front of the Doe 223 classroom often felt like a stage and we were the performers–that’s how much fun I had talking to folks! With each workshop, we’d continuously try to improve upon and even experiment with the flow of the presentations. We’d make adjustments to the order of slides, experiment with switching speaking roles, and most importantly, connect with our attendees at the end similarly to our one-on-one Research Appointments.

As I approach my upcoming graduation, I’ve had time to reflect on my participation on campus and can confidently say that I have left my mark at the Berkeley library. This upcoming fall, I will continue to foster my passion for librarianship as a MLIS graduate student. Though my time working at Berkeley’s libraries is coming to an end, I will continue to remain committed to the mission of providing equitable and transformative support for library patrons and students, one library at a time!



By Avery Klauke, Undergraduate Library Research Fellow, 2023-2024

With my time as a Berkeley student winding down, I wanted to reflect on the past year and my undergraduate experience. 

Throughout the past year, the overarching theme for the research fellows was to take initiative in the projects that interested us. For me, co-teaching Research 101 workshops was high on my priority list, as I saw this as one of the best opportunities to engage with as many students as possible. I recognized that the importance of these workshops lay in their ability to provide insight into the library system while also providing students with an open forum to ask questions. Additionally, the research fellows met with various librarians to provide a student perspective on library spaces to make them more welcoming and accessible. In essence, my goal for this year was to contribute, in any capacity, to the libraries and the general Berkeley community.

While writing these reflections, I often focus on what we research fellows have contributed, but I also wanted to highlight how Berkeley (and by extension this position) has given back to me.

My experience started the same as everyone else’s, as my freshman year at Berkeley was akin to throwing me into flaming chaos. General confusion mixed with lots of looming pandemic anxiety is how I would describe it. People always say college is the best time of your life or it’s where you ‘find yourself,’ (however you choose to take that) but unsurprisingly, no one tells you where to start. And as someone who thrives off consistency, finding my “niche” here was important.

Becoming a research fellow gave me consistency that I had never experienced before. It was similar to an extended group project, but unlike some randomized assignments in those required lower-level classes, everyone contributed consistently. Where I would draw a blank after a student’s question, the other fellows could offer their insight; likewise, I stepped up in their moments of need. To be expected, being a research fellow helped me hone my ability to work with and for others (something I’ve learned is a skill not everyone possesses). But it also taught me little lessons like how to improvise, adapt, and not focus on something so much that I lose sight of the big picture. I anticipate using these skills frequently as I leave the past 18 years of schooling behind.

Expanding my Creative Horizons at the Makerspace

By Ava Gessl, Undergraduate LibraryMaking Fellow, 2023-2024

A large part of my Berkeley experience has revolved around lectures, exams, and assignments. However, the Makerspace has become a creative outlet for me and many other undergraduates. This year, I have had the opportunity to help plan and execute workshops, including learning to crochet in order to teach others. I think that for anyone who wants to find a creative outlet at Berkeley, the Makerspace is an amazing place to explore and learn new skills, and I am happy that I have had the opportunity to be a part of it for another year. What I’ve come to appreciate most about teaching sewing, crochet, and every other craft offered at the Makerspace is the gratification it brings to students. I think the Makerspace is an important part of student life at Berkeley. It is the perfect place whether someone wants to learn a new skill or have a space to pursue a craft they already know. By sharing my passion for crafting and providing a supportive learning environment, I hope to inspire other students to unleash their creativity and pursue their projects with confidence.

As a library fellow, I have had the opportunity to share my passion based on over a decade of sewing experience, and use my learning process in crochet to help others. Learning crochet for the Granny Square Workshop was challenging but fun. It is always good to put yourself into the shoes of someone learning a new skill to remember what it’s like. I was able to apply the mistakes and tricks I learned to help new crocheters in the Granny Square and Crochet Rose workshops. It was exciting to work with students new to crochet and see them use what I learned to transform yarn into something beautiful. This felt different than teaching sewing in the T-shirt Tote Bag or providing one-on-one sewing help because of my years of sewing experience. My prior experience has helped me assist with a wide range of problems and projects. However it has also made it harder for me to remember what it was like to be a beginner. Threading a sewing machine is now a trivial step for me, but I must always remember to go slow, explain all my steps, and why when introducing someone to a sewing machine. I love both teaching experiences and how they each inform each other about what is the best way to teach a new skill and provide the most helpful advice and support. I hope to be able to provide a mixture of guidance that comes from mastering a craft with the perspective of someone who just started in order to give tips that are not obvious but extremely helpful to a beginner. 

This year my making journey has focused more on learning new skills, both crafting and organizing. This process has been dynamic and not without bumps, but I think that it helped me be a more effective library fellow. I found a way to master the vinyl cutter, or specifically its unwillingness to connect to my computer. I am happy with how learning crochet has opened a door for me to help students learn a skill that is on the rise with undergraduates. Taking a more active role in designing and working with my library fellows in workshops has been a rewarding process of logistics, effective communication, and troubleshooting unexpected student hurdles. Working in a workshop environment with  time constraints has forced me to streamline my teaching process and ability to quickly move between students at different levels of experience. In the Crochet Rose Workshop I worked with students who had never crocheted before and their enthusiasm for creating a chain with even stitches was another reminder that every step in a creative process is important and worth celebrating. As a library fellow, I’ve had to be patient and supportive, guiding students through the process step by step, encouraging them to persevere, and quickly troubleshoot unexpected problems. It has been a practice in tailoring my teaching approach to meet the diverse learning styles and skill levels of the students. Overall, working in the Makerspace and helping students learn has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. It’s not just about teaching a crafting skill, it’s about fostering creativity and community. I look forward to continuing to share my passion for sewing and learning alongside the students in the Makerspace. 

My Makerspace Journey

By Adelaide Phillips, Undergraduate Library Making Fellow, 2023-2024

I started working in the Makerspace in Fall 2022 during my junior year at Cal. I’m graduating this Spring as an architecture major meaning most of my education was design and model making. The Makerspace has provided me with so many resources and learning opportunities like leading workshops, utilizing new tools, and providing peer-to-peer design tips these past two years. I’m truly going to miss this space when I leave Berkeley.

During my time as a library fellow, I’ve learned how to operate various equipment like 3D printers, vinyl cutters, button makers, sewing machines, and more! This work would not be possible without guidance from dedicated Makerspace staff. Whether assisting fellow makers with their projects or navigating the challenges of a physical move and leadership transitions, the Makerspace has been a constant source of inspiration and learning. This space would not be what it is without the people and the students who make wonderful projects here every week. I always enjoy bringing friends to the Makerspace and seeing them get so excited about all the cool equipment and supplies we have to offer! Helping out my friends 3D print tiny stairs or do some last-minute pieces for their architectural models is so rewarding. I love seeing the look on their faces when they see the 3D printers zooming away.

The Makerspace has also been a great place for my personal projects. Whether it’s 3D printing pieces for an architecture model, hemming my graduation dress on the sewing machines, or crocheting a new pillow while learning to make granny squares; the Makerspace has provided me with all the resources I need and more! The craft guides I and the other Making fellows have compiled over the past couple of years have been a great resource for me and my peers. Additionally, learning how to lead workshops, like our Crochet Rose and Grad Cap Decorating workshops, has been a wonderful opportunity to develop my leadership and teaching skills.

Another one of my favorite things about working in the Makerspace is getting to help so many people on so many different projects. I’ve been able to hone my problem-solving skills and think on my feet. Finding solutions where there seems to be none; and never saying no to any idea! Like I said, I’m truly going to miss the Makerspace after I graduate but I will take with me the lessons it has taught me as I embark on my professional career.

The Oldest Trick in the Book: Rediscovering the Novel in the Routine

By Lily Garcia, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)

The start of each semester brings a new weekly routine. Classes and extracurricular activities structure your days and influence where you spend your time on campus. Gradually, you become accustomed to your schedule, going to the same place, sitting in the same seat, and doing the same activity on repeat week after week. Novelty becomes easy to forget. During my time as a Research Fellow, I learned how to look at routine experiences and recollect that novelty to help others navigate academic spaces. 

One project I was involved in over the spring semester was completing UC Berkeley Library (Hub) Profiles. As a former Main Stacks student library employee and frequent visitor to Heyns Reading Room, these two libraries had long been cloaked by familiarity for me. The project of visiting Main Stacks and Doe Library while imagining I was entering them for the first time again, thus proved to be an enlightening exercise. Using the “I Like, I Wish, I Wonder” and “One thing to know before…” frameworks, I navigated through these spaces I had visited consistently for the past two years and asked myself, what did I enjoy about that library when I first saw it? How did I figure out where to go initially? I became aware again of how confusing, yet exciting, everything is in the beginning. Once I had reflected, I recorded my ideas into our online profile templates, which is data that can be used to improve the wayfinding experience for future visitors to the UC Berkeley libraries.  

As I prepare to graduate next week, I am practicing this skill of remembrance. I have been (re)visiting my Berkeley haunts for the last time and thinking about how I have grown throughout my journey. In particular, Doe Library has been a place I have thought a lot about. Not only was it the first place I went to on campus, but it acted as the home of my community at Cal. It is where I went weekly to meet with my ULF peers and mentors. Being a Research Fellow in the ULF program has been an invaluable experience that I will treasure well into the future and has helped me see the novelty again in the routine. 

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.

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!

Research 101

By Sofia Hernandez, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)

A highlight of my ULF experience this semester was being able to bring our peer-to-peer consultation experience outside of Doe 190 and into a different setting: Doe 223! Last semester, I learned a lot about hosting peer-to-peer consultations and meeting the needs of a wide variety of learners. Assuming the role of a “mentor” to my peers while simultaneously being an undergraduate student myself gave me unique insight into the research consultation experience: it is daunting to ask for help, but that fear slowly dissipates as you work alongside someone who looks just like you and is on the same educational journey as you are! I loved getting to know our consultees and the wide-ranged string of research ideas they brought us to untangle together, therefore, I was delighted to learn that this semester would bring in the opportunity for the Research fellows to host a “Research 101” workshop of our own in the library classroom (infamous and aforementioned Doe 223) on the second floor–talk about moving up in the world!

As a returning fellow, I’ve attended a couple of Research 101’s in my time; all of them uniquely wonderful and engaging. The rotating teams of librarians who host these workshops have a seemingly natural “synergy” to their presentations and teaching styles, a quality I greatly admire as an aspiring librarian myself, so the idea of hosting a workshop for students, by students, made me feel equal parts nervous and excited. 

After some tentative scheduling and planning, a date was set: March 16. The lead up to that Thursday was short lived (as was the rest of the spring semester…where did the time go?!). Alongside two of the three other Research fellows, our consultation-free days were spent going over changes we’d like to see in the current workshop module. We played around with the order of information, reworded text-heavy slides with student-friendly language, and most importantly: bonded and got to know one another the more time we spent together tinkering with our Google slides. 

The day of our presentation rapidly crept up on us, and though I was nervous beforehand (and admittedly during), our workshop ran quite smoothly. Hosting a research workshop was no different than hosting a consultation, plus, I had the support of two awesome Research fellows beside me who I could rely on to take the reins and fill in for spots or details I missed. Everything did not fall solely on one person–a feat unknown to many who have experienced college group projects. Hosting Research 101 allowed me to exercise the skills I have been learning in our consultations (for instance, how to be flexible and open to throwing “the rule book” out when things don’t go as planned) and apply them to a larger and more collaborative scale.

As I close out my junior year at Cal, I am excited and eagerly anticipating returning to the fellowship in the Fall and seeing what new opportunities and doors the fellows and I can open together.