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!
By Avery Klauke, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)
One of the first activities we did when I first began as an Undergraduate Library Fellow back in August was to brainstorm ways of getting students more involved with the library. I remember listening to what my peers had come up with, everything from week-long events to posting on social media, and thinking about how creative all the suggestions were.
Looking back on that exercise, I realize that the idea of using different perspectives to get more creative solutions was a theme that remained constant throughout the entire semester. Remembering this mindset also helped me as a Research Fellow in some of my favorite projects.
Perhaps the most memorable project for me this semester was the launch of peer research consultations. This was a program in which students could make in-person appointments with the Fellows to help guide them through the beginning of their research project or essay. I remember the first appointment another Research Fellow, Sofia, and I had to lead and we were extremely anxious. All of the worst-case scenarios came to our head. “What if the student asks something we don’t know?” “What if we both just go blank?” “What if the fire alarm goes off in the middle of our consultation?” (This did happen once, but it was a false alarm and the disruption wasn’t as bad as we thought.) Luckily as we got our rhythm, tying in our training with personal experiences to better help answer the student’s questions, our fears disappeared. Thankfully the lack of more fire drills made each consultation run much smoother.
Reflecting on this experience afterward, leading peer research consultations became my favorite part of being a fellow for two reasons. First, it was rewarding knowing that I was making a positive impact on the Berkeley community. I remember what it was like being a freshman at Berkeley, intimidated by such a new environment and not knowing where to ask for help. Understanding this, we all wanted to make sure the peer research appointments helped to make the library’s resources less overwhelming and gave students a safe space to talk with peers instead of librarians. Secondly, working with Sofia, the other research fellows, and our mentors taught me so much more about both researching and working together to accomplish a goal (the feeling is similar to having a great group project experience). All of the fellows this year have such different backgrounds, and none of the consultations could have been possible without the commitment and expertise that everyone contributed.
This semester has been filled with new changes, new people, and new projects. I’m excited to see how the peer research consultations program develops and what the spring semester has in store for us!
By Timothy Kim, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)
As a first time Undergraduate Library Fellow, I struggled to approach this question. Having gradually learned how to conduct research over the course of my academic career, I never really questioned the problem solving method I learned years ago. I simply did, and as long as the work I submitted was good enough, I was happy repeating the same process, class after class, topic after topic and using the same old routine. After all, what would be the point of learning something you already know?
But with this complacency I forgot what it meant to employ the tools available to conduct true research. The first time I conducted learning exercises with my mentors and peer research team I felt unprepared. As a peer research fellow, my colleague, Lily, and I were to conduct research consultations where we would help other students who were stuck in the research process, but to me, the library felt as complex and monolithic as it would to any other student.
Fortunately, we had the opportunity to shadow our skilled librarians in Research 101 Workshops offered by the library to practice our academic literacy. The other research fellows and I practiced learning journey activities, emphasizing different students’ perspectives and how the learning process tied into how research was conducted. Over the course of the semester I became familiarized with how the library worked and the services they offered.
The first time we conducted our research consultations I realized we had everything we needed to help our fellow students with the issues they had with their assignments. In understanding learning outcomes and accumulating learning skills through empathy maps and information literacy frameworks, our team was able to foster a positive learning environment and help direct students to fully take advantage of the resources the library offered. Lily and I, in cooperation with the other research fellow team consisting of Sofia and Avery, had created a flexible script that approached research in a way that could adapt to the student’s individual needs. This component of creativity helped me come up with solutions to problems Lily or I might have never encountered.
Through this experience, though, I’ve realized how versatile research can be and how this translates to how people with different academic backgrounds learn. Education requires patience and empathy to be able to interact with different ideas. I’m very grateful for the experience I’ve had working with other students as it’s made me a better student and peer fellow. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience and skills I’ve gained and now realize how research isn’t a singular process to be used class after class, assignment after assignment in the way I had originally thought.
By Lily Garcia, Undergraduate Library Fellow (2022-23)
One of my favorite activities I have done in the Undergraduate Library Fellowship program was walking through the east side of Doe Library and thinking about how to improve the wayfinding experience. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, wayfinding is the “act of finding one’s way to a particular place; navigation” (“wayfinding, n.”). The purpose of the activity was to use service design and design thinking principles to improve the visitor experience of navigating the library.
With maps in hand, my peer fellow Timothy, ULF mentor Vaughn, and I walked outside to the entrance of the Bancroft Library. We were attempting to view the space as if for the first time–to imagine what we would find confusing, misleading, and the overall message the space was projecting. Staring closely at the architecture, I was overwhelmed by the grandness. Thirty-four rectangle windows defined the front of the granite building. After walking up two flights of stairs and past two towering lantern-style lamp posts, I reached the recessed doorway. Bronze doors with darkly tinted glass cloaked the interior with mystery. Inside, gold-colored letters told me I was now standing in the “Wayne and Gladys Valley Rotunda.” French blue walls, marble and onyx floors, and four rectangular columns communicated the seriousness and prestige of the space. While I was mesmerized by the elegance, I was also aware of how intimidating it was. There was no welcome banner by the entrance or inside map of the floor plan with a big red star indicating that “You are HERE.” The design of the space communicated an expectation of knowledge, which could feel daunting to any visitor trying to navigate their way for the first time. Once we finished our examination, I was left with an impression of how influential architectural spaces are–that they can come across as exclusive or inclusive.
With this idea in mind, I reflected on Timothy and I’s first research consultation. A student wanted help finding a historical, first-hand account. They had exhausted their digital resources and were stuck. We recommended that the student try looking at UC Berkeley’s physical collections. Shyly, they confessed to never going into Main Stacks before, and I offered to go with them. Employing my park guide skills, I took the student on a grand tour of the stacks, showing them where they go through security, how to use the floor maps, what range finders are, and how to exit the building. We ultimately found a book with the information the student was looking for on level C in the west wing. They were grateful and told me they would have been lost if they had been by themselves but now felt comfortable visiting Main Stacks and would be back.
These experiences taught me how wayfinding influences and is itself a part of the research process. When we enter academic research institutions, their architectural design sends a message. We can feel welcomed or overwhelmed and daunted. The same idea applies when we navigate digital spaces and conduct research online. A database or library guide can be helpful or discouraging based on its design and our experience interacting with it. My goal as a Research Fellow is to help my peers find their way through the research process in either the physical or digital space and support making the UC Berkeley Library a place of inclusion.
“wayfinding, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2022, www.oed.com/view/Entry/426203.
Students: Need help with your research?
Starting this month, undergraduate Library fellows are offering in-person peer library research assistance. Fellows are available 1-3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays through Nov. 30.
The Undergraduate Library Fellowship is a cohort driven program that promotes peer-to-peer learning and mentorship opportunities with the shared goal of improving Berkeley Library services and spaces. Fellows foster connections between the Library’s ecosystem and undergraduate communities by prototyping creative solutions to Library problems. This year, the fellows collaborated in two teams of four, each focused on a certain type of service offered by the Library: Making and Research.
Learn more about their projects by watching their showcase video:
Fellows also reflected on their experiences this year through blog posts. Many of the fellows noted personal growth in collaboration, empathy, receiving and incorporating feedback, and understanding new perspectives. A summary of their reflections is below:
The Making Fellows designed and hosted a workshop to help students discover the Makerspace. Alysa Liu described the Making Team’s process in detail in her post, “we set up stations that featured a specific tool in the Makerspace that they can use to customize their tote bag […] It was really rewarding getting to speak with actual students that were both interested and amazed by the Makerspace since it was completely free and open for any student to use.”Making Fellow Maura Adela Cruz summarized her experience in her post, “[The Fellowship] helped me apply the lesson to observe, empathize, and question, as was discussed in our Makerspace team meetings.” Through her time as a Fellow, Maura’s teammate Chloe Chu learned to embrace the spirit of the Makerspace, writing, “at some point, we reminded ourselves that this process was meant to be messy. It is okay to fail. That is the purpose of iteration.” Christina Park also learned a lesson about iteration, “the feedback at the ULF showcase was a small example of how feedback would be used in a positive, constructive way throughout the fellowship that expanded on any ideas that we brought to the mentors or the research team. This was a valuable part of the process and helped improve the quality and depth of our project.”
Research Fellows iterated on service project ideas, settling on a survey for Student Library Employees in order to better understand the types of questions that students are comfortable asking to their peers. Returning fellow Katherine Chen wrote about the experience of collaborating with her teammates, “working together with the team on our pitch idea was one of the most gratifying experiences of the fellowship for me. I came in with ideas of my own, and when they were introduced to my team members, the ideas were refined and iterated to be even better.” Her teammate Sofia Hernandez reflected that “being open to change and feedback helped our group’s deliverable in the long run” and also helped her to develop her resilience. Margaret Asperheim reflected on the design thinking process, writing that “over the course of this fellowship, I learned that making resources isn’t enough; you have to engage with students to really improve research skills, something that I believe will make a noticeable difference in the way students relate to the library.”
Christina Park cogently summarized the fellowship experience, writing, “ULF emphasizes teamwork, creative thinking, and communication… I think the fellowship was a genuine two-way collaboration between the mentors and the fellows.”
By Margaret Asperheim, ’22
At the beginning of the Library Fellowship in August, I remember feeling simultaneously excited and unprepared. The Berkeley library system is huge and complicated, as is its system of research resources; how exactly were we going to improve undergraduate research abilities given that all of the resources students could possibly need already existed? Over the course of this year, the Research Team — Katherine, Sofia, Jessica and I — set out to do just that.
When we started brainstorming the ways in which we could improve library resources, we found that we were all in agreement about one thing: we didn’t need to create a new library guide or instructional video. Those resources already exist: the problem is finding them. We quickly latched on to the phrase “point of entry” as a way to describe what we felt students were lacking: not the resources themselves, but the motivation, inclination and know-how to discover them.
So we had a goal. Now, what we needed was a plan. How could we shift students’ ideas of the library from mysterious and overwhelming to approachable and friendly? Further, how could we do it in one semester? We ended up pivoting our proposal several times, from a short, accessible guide to research resources (rejected because it violated our previous stance that enough resources already existed), to a new student research help desk position (way more work than could have been achieved in a semester), to a curriculum for a hypothetical research help desk employee (still too much work), to finally a survey of current student library employees and their opinions about research. We realized that most of our plans featured student peers as a point of entry, and so we decided to take stock of the most obvious student library peers: the circulation desk workers. If undergraduates felt comfortable asking student library workers for help — and if student library workers felt confident giving research advice — we figured that library resources would become much more accessible.
In our survey of student library workers, we included the following questions: do you think you are adequately trained to answer patrons’ research questions? What existing UC Library research resources are you currently aware of? Would receiving training related to conducting/assisting students with library research be beneficial to you as a library student worker? And what library research skills would you like to learn more about? When my fellowship team conducted a survey of current student library workers, we found that 82% of respondents would like to learn more about finding and evaluating sources. Another 64% of respondents mentioned that receiving library research training would be beneficial to them as student library workers.
Over the course of this fellowship, I learned that making resources isn’t enough; you have to engage with students to really improve research skills, something that I believe will make a noticeable difference in the way students relate to the library. Further, because the library staff has limited resources, it makes sense to focus its energies on those resources that already do exist: namely, the student library employees. As a student library worker myself, I know that students feel comfortable asking questions at the desk, but library employee training is generally focused on things like shelving and scanning in books, not on assisting students with research. Overall, I learned how to focus my efforts where they will make the most difference, and not necessarily within my comfort zone.
by Alysa Liu ’24
I’m Alysa, one of the fellows that was on the Making Team working on increasing the accessibility of the Makerspace to more students at Berkeley. We wanted to focus specifically on people who identified as students of color, junior transfers, and nontraditional college students. Our deliverable for the end of the semester was a workshop held at the Doe Makerspace in which we brought students from these backgrounds here and taught them how to use some of the tools to customize their own tote bag. Additionally, we collected some key insights through a survey on how this workshop could inform future Makerspace outreach and workshop initiatives that are more accessible for students.
So, how did we get to our final deliverable in the first place? In the beginning of fall semester, my team and I, Maura, Christina and Chloe, first got together to do some user research. We wanted to see how people behaved organically in the Makerspace so we staked out at the first floor of Moffit and, through our observations, noticed that the women and students of color in general felt less comfortable in the space than other students. This informed our problem scope stated earlier: How might we increase the access to the Makerspace for students in marginalized communities?
In preparation for our event, which was going to be held in the newly relocated Doe Makerspace, I created a flyer to spread the word about it. Christina then made sure that it got to our target audiences by asking the Multicultural Community Center, Transfer Student Center, Disabled Students Program, and other similar organizations to include our event in their weekly newsletters. Our marketing brought in over 50 registrations which we were really excited about, but now we faced the problem of how to manage so many participants in the Makerspace at the same time.
During the few minutes before the actual event, we set up stations that featured a specific tool in the Makerspace that they can use to customize their tote bag. All of us were either responsible for a station or worked on gathering survey responses. I personally helped people heat press vinyl-cut designs onto their tote bags. It was really rewarding getting to speak with actual students that were both interested and amazed by the Makerspace since it was completely free and open for any student to use. A lot of them wanted to come back again for future personal projects such as mending clothes, or 3D printing Cal memorabilia.
Through the survey, I saw our qualitative observations become actualized into quantitative observations: over 75% of the people who came to the Makerspace that day had no idea it even existed, while the other 25% had only heard of it before, and everyone said that they would want to come back to keep exploring its services. We also gathered insight as to what times people would be most available to come to workshops, and learned a little bit about people’s general schedules.
In the future, I think the Makerspace can definitely draw from the techniques we used to spread the word about this event to increase campus-wide awareness. I see this as an experiment that played with how we normally hold and spread the word about events at the Makerspace. I also see it as just the beginning of innovating and ideating on what being in the Makerspace at Berkeley will look like in the future. I’m very excited to delve deeper into how we might hold similar events like this to keep bringing new members into our community of Makers.
by Sofia Hernandez ’24
During the beginning of the ULF program, all the way back in the beginning of the Fall semester, us fellows were asked to identify and reflect on a gift we believed we possessed and whether we thought we were living a life that honored said gift. Towards the end of my written reflection, I wrote:
“Being at Berkeley has been a difficult adjustment but has [also] proven that I can be resilient in the face of the unknown.”
Throughout my experience within the fellowship program and my overall undergraduate journey so far, resiliency has been a term that I’ve come to closely associate with myself. As a first generation Chicanx student, I’ve experienced first-hand how intimidating and unapproachable the world of academia can be. The obstacles brought forth by the pandemic–remote instruction and the uncertainty towards the future, for example–only further proved that entry points and accessibility are necessary for the success of undergrad students, especially those who have historically been excluded from access to the resources. Within the Research fellowship cohort, we identified this issue and dedicated our project towards serving the undergrad community in finding an entry point to library services through research support.
Our group’s process in workshopping our service project proved to be a test of resiliency. As part of an initial landscape review of the existing research related services at Cal, I participated in a Research 101 workshop to get an overview of what students were learning about research. At this moment in time, our cohort had settled on the idea of creating an in-person peer-to-peer research event where us Research fellows would take alternating shifts throughout the day and provide support for students who were inquiring about research. After the Research 101 workshop, I stuck around to debrief with the mentors and was able to think about the big picture. Our initial idea was admittedly too ambitious considering our one-month time frame, and we hadn’t factored in the amount of preparation needed for the event beforehand which would have included intensive research-related training for the Research cohort to be prepared to answer any and all student questions. In sum, we had aimed for a goal beyond our possibilities unfortunately.
Through talking with the mentors, I was able to take a step back and reengage with our service project. Reimagining our proposed service project instead as a point of reference, I was able to better visualize and identify the steps necessary towards getting there. Being open to change and feedback helped our group’s deliverable in the long run. Instead of having the in-person service event running for this semester, we reasoned that we had a unique opportunity to begin planting the seeds for the future by identifying and capturing what sorts of questions students had regarding research through speaking to student library employees, who have direct contact and interactions with undergrad students on the daily. By figuring out what current library workers were and are experiencing, the Research team would be able to provide the initial research scope that could assist future fellows and even librarians in adjusting their services to better meet the needs of students and provide that entry point.
Resiliency in my undergrad and fellowship experience has allowed for flexibility in the face of unexpected curveballs, from pandemics to prototyping!
By Christina Park ’23
At the end of the first semester of the Undergraduate Library Fellowship, both the Making Team and the Research Team gave a presentation during a final showcase and received feedback from library mentors as well as past undergraduate library fellows. We showcased our plan and upcoming goals for the next semester, and emphasized that our underlying aim was to promote the Library Makerspace and improve accessibility to undergraduate students. We wanted more students to feel welcome in the space and take advantage of this resource.
We received constructive feedback on our presentation. Not only did we receive comments on how we could have improved details on our presentation, but we heard new ideas and brainstorming which significantly impacted the course of our project. We received suggestions to hold an “open house event” to introduce students to the Makerspace which had just moved from Moffitt to Doe Library, which we later decided to take on as our main project in the spring semester.
Initially, I had thought of “feedback” as synonymous with evaluation, grading, or even criticism. However, the feedback at the ULF showcase was a small example of how feedback would be used in a positive, constructive way throughout the fellowship that expanded on any ideas that we brought to the mentors or the research team. This was a valuable part of the process and helped improve the quality and depth of our project.
After touring and utilizing the space, we noticed that the Makerspace would be in a more prominent position in the Doe library and would be easier to find compared to its old location in first floor Moffitt. Despite my apprehensions that the Makerspace might feel more intimidating and inaccessible in Doe compared to Moffitt, the new Makerspace actually felt warm and open, clustered amongst other resources in the opening of Doe library across from Morrison Library.
One challenge for me was having patience throughout the process. I enjoy taking immediate action and working quickly with an aim of “finishing” in an effective manner. However, this style of work is not always conducive to every project, especially ones which involve creative thinking and brainstorming. In order to publicize the event by submitting the event details, registration link and flyer to different campus organizations and email newsletters on campus I had to wait for all these components to be assembled, and I acknowledged again how impatient of a person I am when it comes to completing my tasks.
Beyond this, we learned how to use small tools to facilitate our communication and collaboration. For example, although initially scheduling meetings seemed burdensome due to our varied and crammed schedules, we learned how to use Google Calendar functions to find mutually convenient times. We also had the opportunity to learn more about ourselves by taking an MBTI test and including it in our introductions in the first orientation meeting, as well as the Clifton Top 5 Strengths Assignment.
ULF emphasizes teamwork, creative thinking, and communication, which are highly coveted and important skills for many different positions. There was a great deal of growth and change in the structure of the fellowship from the first and second semester, and I think the fellowship was a genuine two-way collaboration between the mentors and the fellows. I am grateful for what I have learned throughout the ULF and for the mentors’ adaptability and implementation of new ideas, and I look forward to seeing how the ULF will expand and improve library experiences through the next cohort of fellows.