At Middlebury College, the Libraries collaborate with the Writing Center to provide research training to Peer Writing Tutors, and recently we have begun co-sponsoring a college Write-In for all students. Audience members at this lively, example-based presentation will learn about the ways in which a library can partner with a writing center in order to reach today’s ambitious students, many of whom feel they have little “extra” time to devote to perfecting their research skills.
Collaboration, student workers, tutoring, writing skills, writing center, research skills
Collaborative Outreach: How to Fit the Library into the Schedules of Over-Scheduled Students
“I wish I had known about this sooner!” Librarians hear that exclamation all too often when we tell students about research assistance and library resources. Research and critical thinking skills are essential in today’s information-rich world, yet many students have to develop these skills on their own. They must learn to navigate their options with minimal guidance. Unfortunately, this often means wasted time, missed opportunities, and frustration.
How can librarians reach students before the frustration begins? At a school like Middlebury, where information literacy instruction is not part of the curriculum, we have to be creative. We are competing with many other attention-getters: there are over 150 student organizations, and only about 2,500 students to join them. Twenty-seven percent of our students participate in varsity sports, and many more participate in intramurals and clubs. Not to mention the coursework. As an indicator of Middlebury’s high academic expectations, in 2014 nearly fifteen percent of Middlebury students undertook a joint or double major, and sixty-two percent of graduating seniors planned to enter a graduate program. Middlebury students are driven and ambitious, and they feel they have little “extra” time to devote to perfecting their research skills.
To meet these challenges, we have reframed some of the work we do as librarians. In addition to traditional, course-related outreach to faculty, we now work with allies who help us succeed in our outreach to students. The Writing Center is closely aligned with the library in terms of mission and location. Not only do they support students working on research papers, but they also are housed in the Library. We have collaborated with them for many years, and our relationship has grown stronger over time.
We provide library research training to Peer Writing Tutors every semester, and recently we have begun co-sponsoring a college Write-In. In addition, we hosted a series of strategic conversations last year which resulted in new ideas for collaboration that we will explore in the future. Research training for Peer Writing Tutors emphasizes the work we have in common: librarians and Peer Writing Tutors help students in different stages of the research and writing process. The training is one segment of a six-week program for new and returning tutors, and the Library pays for the tutors’ time. We use a discussion-based format to show tutors why, when and how to make referrals to librarians, and how to use the library for their own research. The Write-In is a social event designed to support and encourage students through the often-stressful process of researching and writing final papers.
This lively, example-based presentation will be led by two librarians, the Director of the Writing Center, and a Peer Writing Tutor. We’ll describe what we do and why, what the response has been, and how our approaches have changed over time. Audience members will learn about the ways in which a library can partner with a writing center, the benefits of partnership,the drawbacks and challenges, what’s required, and potential next steps.