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.

I Love D.O.E! (Demystifying our Education)

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!

Sofia and Avery getting ready for peer consultations
Sofia and Avery get ready for peer consultations

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). 

An empathy map Sofia created for Avery
An empathy map Sofia created for Avery

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!

Gaining Perspective (and Fire Drills?)

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!

How Do You Learn to Learn (Again)?

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. 

The Built Library: Wayfinding and its Connection to the Research Process

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.

East entrance to Doe Library
Approaching the East (Bancroft) Entrance to Doe 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. 

The Wayne and Gladys Valley Rotunda
The Wayne and Gladys Valley Rotunda

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.

Works Cited

“wayfinding, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2022, 


Undergraduate Library Fellowship Showcase

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.”

Changed Plans: Focusing Efforts Where They Matter

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. 

Graph showing the distribution of types of questions asked to SLEs