Learning Through and With Peers

Image of Katherine Chen, Undergraduate Library Fellow



by Katherine Chen ’23

As a second year returning fellow, I had a lot of ideas and knowledge coming into this school year. I had the foundation of knowledge from last school year, and because of that, I had flowing ideas of what kind of projects and services the fellows could work on. 

Meeting this year’s fellowship cohort made me even more excited. In the Research Team specifically, we all came from different backgrounds with different knowledge and perspectives that only served to help us refine our project as it went. At the end of fall semester, the team had to present our pitch idea to a group of stakeholders where we would receive feedback. 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. One of my ideas was to work with New Student Services on GBO curriculum so that all incoming students would have working knowledge about the library. When I introduced this idea to the team, we worked together to refine it to be even better. We workshopped the idea so that it became working together with resource centers at Cal— such as the Career Center, the Student Learning Center, and Bridges— to discern what students knew about the resources the library offered and to provide a fact sheet about library resources so that students could easily find answers to their questions. We all had different backgrounds and knowledge that we brought to the table, and the team’s intersectionality only helped with refining our project. 

My biggest takeaway from the fellowship this year is that working in teams and being supported by your team members makes all the difference. I learned so much from my peers whether it be about library or campus services I was unaware of, to new perspectives on issues that I would have never encountered on my own. All the people I have met and learned from through the fellowship have made my experience memorable and worthwhile, and I am so grateful I had the privilege of their presence in my life.

Dealing With Ambiguity: Makerspace Outreach

by Chloe Chu ’22

These past two years have been filled with circumstances which have required us to be flexible, empathetic, and open to change. So, too, as a Library Fellow. As we collaborated together, we were pushed beyond our comfort zones, encouraging us to be more adaptable and understanding. This year, as a member of the Making Team, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the design thinking process through a service project to make the Doe Makerspace more accessible and equitable for our undergraduate students. 

Initially, I was excited to work on the Making Team because it meant we would be in the Makerspace often. Or so I thought. Well, at least it sounded cool. Then, it dawned on me: What is the Makerspace? Where is it located? Who can use it? What can you do there? 

I visited the Makerspace for the first time in August 2021. The space was dimly lit, a bit messy, and quite cold but I loved it (there are 3D printers!). We kicked off the year learning about one another and diving into a wallet activity, where we partnered up and explained our ideal wallet to each other. After conducting a brief interview, we had five minutes to design our partner’s ideal wallet. This created excitement as we caught a glimpse of how to approach empathy and design thinking on a personal level.

Chloe's sketchbook showing her notes on the Wallet Project Activity

Throughout the fall, I attended each group meeting hoping our mentors would announce our projects and the concrete steps for execution. However, I never received clear answers. Instead, I would learn of one more tool to use in the process, whether that was a concept related to emergent thinking, empathy and awareness, or turning our constraints into creativity. Though frustrating at the time, looking back, the lack of clarity and direction we received was intentional. The ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty challenged us to reimagine the Makerspace with full creativity, without constraint. 

Our team came up with our problem statement using the following framework:  [Community] needs a way to [user’s need] because [insight].  Our team’s statement: UC Berkeley Library and the Makerspace need a way to encourage underrepresented UC Berkeley students to use the Makerspace because more people should feel that they are welcomed here. 

With our problem statement finalized, the Making Team (Alysa, Christina, Maura, and I) set up bi-monthly meetings to work on our projects. These meetings laid the groundwork for our final service project, a Makerspace Open House. However, the road to our event was full of ups and downs. First, it was challenging to be intentional during our team meetings as it was not always clear which stage in the design thinking process we were in. It seemed that our mentors gave us free rein, but we were searching for clear directions. It also felt overwhelming thinking about how we would make the space more accessible for 30,000+ undergraduates. However, in the midst of uncertainty, we learned to pivot and iterate quickly. 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. These reminders inspired us to explore multiple ideas and conduct more user interviews with students. They fueled our next meetings as we revised and finalized details for the Open House. In the end, I was inspired by the incredible success of the event. It was rewarding to see the many hours we invested into the iterative process come to fruition. But more than anything, I learned to take risks without knowing all the details and to embrace change even if it might be initially stressful.

Chloe and Alysa standing by a whiteboard advertising their Making event.
Alysa and Chloe welcome students to the Open House.


Students gather around tables in the makerspace to decorate their tote bags.
Students decorating their personalized tote bags.


While these years have been challenging academically and personally, they have also grown me in ways I could not have imagined when I first arrived in Berkeley. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the Berkeley community as a Library Fellow and I will take the lessons I’ve gathered and apply them to whatever’s ahead in the future. I encourage future Fellows to develop strong relationships with your mentors and teams beyond the fellowship context, lead your meetings with intention, and embrace the process (in all of its messiness) along your journey. 

(Photos courtesy of Kiyoko Shiosaki)

Maura Adela Cruz – Fall Semester Reflections

Maura Adela Cruz


by Maura Adela Cruz

Coming from a low-income Indigenous Oaxacan community, the library was among the few educational resources available in my hometown. Growing up, it was not only a space for reading and studying, but for research, creativity, and design. From academic tutoring, to crochet circles, and English language classes, our public library held many services for the community. However, despite the multitude of resources available, they were inaccessible to the people of my town. A lack of awareness, lack of time, and language barriers are only some of the reasons that the library resources were inaccessible in the context of my community. Due to the lack of accessibility, my Indigenous Oaxacan community came together to form our own spaces, programs, and organizations. We sought to make resources available and accessible in a way that centered our interests and needs. Because of my aforementioned experiences, I became quickly familiarized with the design thinking process and noticed many similar patterns occurring in Berkeley.

Attending Berkeley as a low-income and first-generation Indigenous student, I noticed the situation mirrors that of my hometown. Although the university offers a plethora of resources for students to enjoy, these resources are often not accessible to students of marginalized backgrounds. Prior to the Undergraduate Library Fellowship, I personally had very little awareness of the extent of resources and services available in library spaces.

I joined the Making team to help encourage students to use the Makerspace and figure out ways to increase accessibility to this wonderful resource. Throughout the semester, we worked as a team to brainstorm, listen to UC Berkeley students, identify our target audience and a problem statement. Understanding multiple student perspectives, and coming together as a group was important to the process of creating and initiating potential solutions to the issues at hand.

One part of the process that stood out to me were the student interviews we conducted to gain user insights on Moffitt Library and the Makerspace. It was helpful to validate my experiences and also go beyond my experiences. Through the interviews and observations I was able to consider other barriers marginalized students face with being able to use the library resources, specifically in the Makerspace. This activity helped me apply the lesson to observe, empathize, and question, as was discussed in our Makerspace team meetings. The user interviews were crucial to understanding the situations and sentiments of several UC Berkeley students, and identifying a problem statement to work on solving. It allowed us to learn more about the target audience and who would benefit from our efforts to make the Makerspace more accessible.

After identifying the target audience and problem statement, we met as a team to come up with solutions and actions that can be taken on our behalf to reach our goal for increased accessibility. Throughout these past few months, the process has been centered on coming together and taking into account the users needs. How can our resources and space best benefit every user, especially students who have been historically excluded and marginalized? We asked ourselves many questions, came together as a team to share our experiences, sought varying perspectives from other UC Berkeley students, and received feedback from our mentors and the Research team. To put it simply, my experience in the fellowship has solidified that solutions and next steps towards accessibility take a collective effort.

A Fellow’s Tale on Navigating Library Resources During a Pandemic and Beyond

by Zhané Garlington, of the she series, Cal Class of 2021 

Growing up as a low-income student of color, the library is where I went after school and during school breaks to explore new worlds and receive help with homework. As a 2020-2021 Library Fellow I was fortunate to not only aid in creating a space where students like me could continue to receive library support, but also was extremely fortunate to gain a sense of community in times where in person activities were limited and/or prohibited. In our digital meeting spaces, Nicole Brown, Kiyoko Shiosaki,  Gisèle Tanasse, and Kristina Bush emphasized innovative thinking and encouraged cooperative activities. The experience was like no other and I am extremely grateful for being able to partake in this fellowship as my undergraduate degree comes to an end.

As a Library fellow in the Making Research Accessible Team alongside Katherine Chen, Joseph Rodriguez, and Tara Madhav, my mentor Gisèle and I centered our project around the early stages of research. Early in the semester, we surveyed some student-ran social media pages such as the transfer student page and the student parent page on Facebook in order to gain insight on student research processes. From our findings, it was understood especially at the undergraduate level, that the biggest research obstacle most students faced was getting their research started. This is the inspiration behind our ‘keyword script’. The big ideal behind the script is to have an instructional video share research tips with students. A narrator would suggest that before a student begins to look up their research subject, they should brainstorm some keywords to search. Students would then be instructed to think about their research question and condense it down to the phrase:

“I am researching (blank) in order to find out (what/how/why blank.)

There would be a few prompts on screen with timed intervals for students to complete said prompts before moving on to the next one with the intentions being that the core concepts students thought of through the prompts would be search terms to find books, articles, etc. in our library databases. In an ideal world where I am more tech savvy, I would have loved to create an algorithm that created keywords off of keywords that students put into the library databases which could potentially help students find sources they may have not have got to through their own self guided keyword processes.

This keyword  project came from Gisèle and my own passion for keyword brainstorming, and overall how activities like it can lead individuals not only to find their own research passions, but also to find their general passions. Self-paced learning opportunities for undergrads, where self-actualization might be a takeaway was something I wanted to root my fellows project in, and by highlighting existing resources to support undergrads I believe that is exactly what we did. Despite the current circumstances of the world the 2020-2021 cohort lived through, we were still able to accomplish so much! So for anyone looking through these blog posts considering applying to the next cohort of Library Fellows,  I am thankful that I got to end my time at Berkeley as a fellow and would highly recommend the fellowship to anyone who also wants to add a truly enriching experience to their own undergraduate path.


Grounding Passion with Empathy and Compassion: Reflections on the Undergraduate Library Fellowship

by Keziah Aurin ’22Photo of Undergraduate Library Fellow Keziah Aurin

I remember my interview for the Undergraduate Library Fellowship very vividly. Kristina and Nicole, the kindest people on Earth and the program coordinators asked me about my experience in design and how I would like to use it in the fellowship. I said something along the lines of, “I have no idea but I want to use design to solve problems in my community.” To my surprise, I am now wrapping up my fellowship with this blog post!

Coming into the fellowship, I thought we would dive right into determining issues or things to improve on in the Library and finding solutions addressing them. I could not be any more wrong. Throughout these past eight-ish months, we placed a lot of focus on learning and truly grasping what it means to center humans in our designs and to make solutions accessible, effective, and long-lasting. It became more about us growing than us producing.

During the fall semester, the mentors took the time to help us understand and engage with human-centered design. We participated in workshops, open discussions, and activities to immerse ourselves in what it is like to 1) face problems, big and small, fictional and realistic, and; 2) develop methodical solutions out of them. In addition, our mentors also helped us ground ourselves and our thinking in radical self-love and radical community care. Through our discussion on Emergent Strategy and activity on Rapid Prototyping, we had the opportunity to not only define, but also actualize empathetic and selfless problem-solving.

Translating that to our spring semester project, I, along with my amazing partner, Natalie, put together a survey aiming to address disparities within the library and its relationship with marginalized undergraduate students. We hoped to gain a better understanding of why student organizations tend to offer their own services similar to the library such as research support, book banks, and even study spaces. More importantly, we wanted to highlight these existing resources, through the library, using a Notion database to make it user-friendly and easy to access for our target audience.

As I sit in front of my computer and write this reflection, I can’t help but think that perhaps we don’t need crazy ideas to address problems around us. Instead, it’s far more crucial that we slow down to think, listen, reflect, understand, and try to take advantage of the people, skills, and resources already in front of us. This fellowship and every single person that I got to work with (Jen, Annalise, and Natalie- you all have my heart!) have transformed my design thinking and problem-solving processes drastically. To put it bluntly, I am no longer a let’s-get-right-down-to-business type gal. Instead, I am now a let’s-sit-down-and-reflect type of leader.

I think that’s what we need more of: spaces and people that encourage us to learn and explore, shifting away from productivity and towards the journey. After a heavy year full of turbulence, turmoil, and uncertainty, I found a (virtual) safe haven every other Monday afternoon where I was allowed to think critically, ask loudly, and solve empathetically. Sometimes all we need is a space fast-paced enough that we don’t let the world pass by us but slow enough that it still allows us to reflect and still be human.

The Process of Learning through a Pandemic

Photo of Undergraduate Library Fellow Tara Madhavby Tara Madhav ’21

During a particularly difficult year, the Undergraduate Library Fellows and Library Mentors had to think together about how to expand library services in a time when physical access to library services was greatly limited for Berkeley students. As we prioritized accessibility in our meetings, we had to take into account the fact that most students would not be on campus, let alone enter the library, for the duration of the academic year. The pandemic brought particularly important meaning to the idea of “design thinking.” Our mentors prioritized process over product, guiding us through a non-linear process to understand how we can understand and assist with people’s library needs.

I was part of the Making Research Accessible Team with Katherine Chen, Joseph Rodriguez, and Zhane Garlington. We received guidance and support from Nicole Brown, Kiyoko Shiosaki, Gisele Tanasse, and Kristina Bush as we navigated the process of creating a survey that would accurately assess the student community’s library needs. Perhaps because we could not consult our peers easily in a virtual environment, the survey design process required us to ask deep questions about who our audience was. Moreover, we had to study our own understanding of what library services were. If we were the intended audience for a survey like the one we sent out, how would we understand the question we were being asked? Not only did we need to thoroughly examine how effective these questions were, we had to draft questions that were conscious of the environment we were living through. We added two questions that asked students about the impact of the pandemic on their ability to impact library services, asking what strengths students could identify with library services during the pandemic and what they found lacking.

Through the design process, I learned about the particular importance of collaboration. As our team worked to identify appropriate questions, I found it valuable to draw on my peers’ and mentors’ experiences to create an accessible survey. Our survey provides insight into a unique and transitional year for the Berkeley libraries — next year, the libraries will re-open fully and the Oskicat search database will be replaced with the UC Library Search, which will unite all UC library holdings into a single discovery tool. I look forward to the innovative projects that the 2021-2022 library fellows develop as they help students navigate these exciting changes.

Before my graduation this May, I benefited from Berkeley library services before and during these turbulent times. I met incredible peers and mentors through the Library Fellows program, I used extensive physical and digital resources to write my research papers and senior thesis, and I spent hours studying at beautiful libraries like Doe. I would encourage Berkeley students to take full advantage of the university’s opportunities, facilities, and collections — it will enrich your college experience in many ways.

Three Mini Lessons from the Undergraduate Library Fellowship

Photo of Natalie Chuby Natalie Chu ’23

This semester has been full of unique emotional and physical hurdles. Navigating a world through remote settings and distanced learning provided us all with a diverse assortment of lessons and growing pains. For me, finding community, safe spaces, and support systems during the ongoing pandemic greatly helped in maintaining my mental health through direct dialogue and communication. The Undergraduate Library Fellowship is one of those communities that really adjusted and catered to impacted students. I thoroughly enjoyed our bi-weekly check-in’s with our mentors. As part of the Outreach Team, Keziah and I had Jen Brown and Annalise Phillips, who were so incredibly supportive and passionate about our work and personal development. Having this safe space for us to share, empathize, and uplift each other was an incredibly valuable part of this fellowship. Here are some mini-lessons that we learned and affirmed for each other:

1. There is no “right” time to have your life figured out.

Life continues after your undergraduate. There are many aspects of our lives that are still incredibly uncertain but there is no definite timeline to figure that out. Give yourself the opportunity (and grace) to continue exploring and learning about yourself and the world around you.

2. Prioritize your mental health and set boundaries in short-term and long-term planning.

Whether that is investing in some Girl Scout Cookies (thanks Annalise!) or taking 30-min walks outside, there is always more room for self-care. As challenging as the year has been, prioritizing your health will allow you to be more readily available to support others.

3. Shoot for the stars and recognize your accomplishments.

Set goals for yourself that will truly make you happy; following and fulfilling the expectations of others will only lead to a life of dissatisfaction. More importantly, we have reached so many milestones within our academic and personal lives—probably many more than we realized! So take the time to congratulate yourself on your perseverance and courage to take on these challenges!

As we all may have learned in this incredibly challenging year, practicing empathy has been an increasingly crucial life skill in remaining grounded in our values and humanity. Daily practices of direct communication and active listening are fundamental to a culture of empathy. Being able to navigate this school semester with an amazing support system like the ULF has truly made me feel both deeply connected, seen, and valued. For those of you who are lucky enough to experience this fellowship, you will truly make lifelong mentorships and community. Nevertheless, this fellowship has taught me countless lessons that I hope to carry with me and share with others.

Joseph Rodriguez – Fellowship Reflections

Photo of Joseph Rodriguez

by Joseph Rodriguez ’21

As a graduating senior, I didn’t expect my final year to be online. I know I am not alone. The world was put on pause in 2020, but not all was awash. I had the opportunity to participate in the Library Fellows Program, and, although it was completely virtual, it was one of the highlights of my Berkeley experience.

Before the pandemic, when I was still on the Berkeley campus, I buried myself in libraries. My personal favorite is Morrison Library—that quiet, seemingly dead enclosed space which seems to transport one to another world. There is just something magical about Morrison. One finds themself ensconced in books, conversing with the living and the dead.

I was initially attracted to the Library Fellows Program because I had used the library quite frequently as an undergraduate. For me, and I suspect for most undergraduates at Berkeley, the library is just a quiet place with books, perhaps even a respite from the humming and bustling—the restless—activity of Berkeley’s campus. But my perspective here on the library was expanded after the Fellowship, providing me with a fresh set of eyes.

As part of the fellowship, I was tasked to work on a year-long project. My team and I spent the year working on a project to create a resource for students interested in research. I was drawn by the prospect of working on this project because of my own previous experience with research as an undergraduate. We set ourselves a humble task: to compile a list of sources to help students navigate the byzantine network of Berkeley’s library system. Little did we know that this would be no easy task.

We devoted weeks brainstorming, at times very confused. The most illuminating aspect of the project was spending these weeks mulling over the precise wording of our survey questions. Words are, after all, important; and this fact was especially revealed to me toward the end of the fellowship, when we finally sent out the survey after having worked on what seemed like aeons crafting and perfecting our questions.

One activity that I was particularly struck by during the fellowship was the empathy-mapping activity. The most important task for any problem-solving process, I learned, was empathy. Empathy here is understood as a way of relating to the audience one has in mind. To empathize is to see what challenges face our undergraduate student population, especially those who are interested in research. We asked questions such as:

What is the learning challenge? Who are the learners? What are their goals?

Applying this empathy-minded approach throughout the year meant that the design thinking process was dynamic. Indeed, the design thinking process involves not just students and library technicians, but also the larger campus community at large. We can find this approach reflected almost anywhere we look: a public bench that restricts who can and cannot sit on it; a crosswalk that connects one street to another; a park that invites both children and parents to play.

Seeing these places in this way, however, requires a certain amount of reflection—these are subtle design values that remain largely concealed to us. The Library Fellows Program helped me to cultivate that reflection, and I am certain that I will employ these new sets of tools in the future, whether in academia or when walking around my neighborhood.

Iteration and Intention Within the Library

by Katherine Chen ’23Photo of Katherine Chen

Last year around this time I wrote a blog post about my experiences with the library and what I learned as a first year at Cal. Now, I’m writing a blog post about what I learned as an Undergraduate Library Fellow, all from my bedroom.

I applied to the Undergraduate Library Fellowship during the end of my first year at Cal because I wanted to not only learn more about library resources and design, I also wanted to share them with my peers and better understand how my peers viewed the library. The peer to peer activities and workshops my ULF cohort did together showed me that library resources are not accessible to everyone, with one activity in particular standing out to me. We were given a task to find a resource through the library website using whatever means we could think of, I volunteered to go first and had a time limit of five minutes. Unfortunately, I spent those entire five minutes going in circles; I could not figure out how to navigate the website to find the resource and I just became more confused and discouraged the longer I tried. Whether it be because of faulty design or just because students were not aware of such resources, students were not taking full advantage of all the amazing resources the library had to offer. From the thousands of databases offered, subject librarians who you can meet with to help with your research and assignments, to gaining access to research articles found on Google Scholar— the library offers so much but students were not utilizing them.

Once I learned more, I quickly wanted to share everything with everyone, but I realized I could not just start there. As a cohort, we learned to approach the design process with empathy, remembering that the aim is to help people, not just solve problems. Thus, I first had to learn where students had these gaps in library resources and student awareness in order to help them. 

With my affinity group, we worked to craft a survey aiming to learn about people’s research methods and practices when they use Berkeley library services. With this, we hoped to understand the gaps in research knowledge and how to help students overcome those gaps. Crafting the survey, however, was not a walk in the park. 

Brainstorming questions came relatively easy— it was creating the questions with intention while also designing them with the back end in mind that was not so easy. We went through several iterations of the survey and scrapped many questions throughout because we realized they were either not conducive to our intentions with the survey, or the question would not give us information to learn from. One question in particular was very tricky: what types of resources users rely on the most. This question went through at least three different phases. The first iteration of the question had issues because the potential answers would not tell us where the gaps in research were. The second iteration used jargon that most students would not understand, and the third iteration was too long of a question to ask. Ultimately, we refined the question to what it is today (pictured below) with the help of the wonderful mentors, but the journey was not easy.

Survey question: Rank the types of sources you rely on most.

Through this process and with the help of the mentors and my affinity group, I learned about the importance of iteration and intention. If a project is important, you will not work on it once then call it done. It will require your prolonged attention and energy, and with that comes constant refinement. As you refine your project, you have to remember the intentions of it— in fact, that is a guiding principle of the iterative process. What are your goals with this project and how is the project leading you towards accomplishing those goals? This question helped me frame my approach to the project and became a guide that I turned to whenever I needed aid.

My time as a fellow has been incredibly rewarding. Not only have I met wonderful people (special shoutout to my mentors Kristina, Nicole, and Kiyoko!) and learned more about the library resources, I learned about new ways of thinking that I will bring along with me wherever I go. 

Stephanie Reyna – Fellowship Reflections

My name is Stephanie Reyna (she/her/hers) and I graduated from UC Berkeley in the Spring of
2020. I double majored in English and Anthropology and one of my most cherished experiences
as an undergrad was being a Library Fellow.

I applied to be a Library Fellow my Junior year in hopes that as a Senior, I would be able to
make a difference in the undergraduate community. When I read through the fellowship
description, I knew that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to carry out my research
project. I knew that I wanted to make a resourceful guide that would be available to the English
Undergraduate community; a guide that could be used not only by English majors but by
anyone writing a paper and needing guidance with citations.

The first semester of my fellowship consisted of further developing my research skills and
navigating the wealth of information the library has to offer. My relationship with the library and
my understanding of what a library does completely changed. I learned about the various
databases that are accessible and how much information is actually available to students.
Learning about databases such as Kanopy, OED, and having access to the full Chicago Style
Manual would have been extremely useful in the beginning of my undergraduate career. I know
many students do not know the types of resources that are available and as a fellow, students’
have a unique opportunity to learn about librarianship and help bring awareness to the
undergraduate community.

With the help of my mentor, Gisele Tanasse, the Film and Media Services Librarian, I created a
survey that was sent out by the English Department Advisor, Katie Schramm, to all the declared
English majors. From this survey, I learned that the majority of students preferred a Library
Guide on MLA format, footnotes, works cited, Chicago Style, and APA. As an English major, I
knew that the majority of students write their papers in MLA format, therefore, the main focus
was kept on MLA but I included links to Chicago style and APA.

The second semester of the fellowship, I focused on collecting the best resources possible and
designing the guide. I wanted to make the guide as visually appealing and digestible as possible.
I created examples drawing from my own academic papers and used images from Unsplash. I
created this guide in the hopes of bridging a gap I saw within the English undergraduate

Moreover, the fellowship had team building exercises and I was surrounded by brilliant students
and librarians who mentored and supported our ideas until they were realized. By the end of my
fellowship, I was completely inspired by librarianship, so much so that I plan to pursue a career
as a librarian. This fellowship not only helped me make a difference but it has inspired me to
continue on the path of public service. I hope that the next cohort of Library Fellows have as an
enriching experience as I did.