Celebrating Student Re$earch

selective focus photography of multicolored confetti lot

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

I love graduation season. I love seeing pictures of folks in caps and gowns and reading posts about gratitude and accomplishment. (If you or a loved one just graduated, congratulations!) In the spirit of celebration and reflection, I started thinking about the library award committee I have been chairing the last two years and discovered that I never blogged about the first award cycle for the Abresch-Kranich Library Award, and the UC Merced Library just finished awarding the second set of scholarships this spring.

In 2018, we had two winners, Melissa Becerra and Nathan Parmeter. Each student received a $500 scholarship thanks to our donor, Arlene Kranich. You can read more about the award and our student winners in “New Scholarship Pays Homage to Persistence and Research.”

Last spring, my former Central Valley colleague Ray Pun also interviewed me about the award for the Credo Reference blog for the HIP (high-impact practices) in Action series. You can read the interview in “HIP in Action: Undergraduate Research & Awards.” It was great exposure for our library and UC Merced, and I hope the interview helped inspire other libraries.

In 2019, we also had two student winners, Marisela Padilla Alcalá and Sarah Lee. You can read more about our student winners in “Two Students Honored for Excellence in Use of Library Resources.”

After the second award cycle, I have a better idea of when and in what specific areas I need to ask for help. I also have ideas for changes to the workflow. I’m currently on vacation, but before I left, I started drafting my process with changes I might want to make regarding the timeline. The review and reception happens during the busiest time in the instruction season, and the process will go much more smoothly if we can open and close the application earlier. Currently, it opens Nov. 1 and closes Feb. 1, but opening it on Oct. 1 and closing it in mid-January will help me get the applications out to the five-member review committee more quickly. After a quick chat with the university librarian, he agreed with the earlier deadline, and we also determined that we should hold the reception before spring break, which is always in March. There are also some other changes I want to make, and I’m very thankful that two of my colleagues who have helped with reviewing student applications are interested in helping me streamline this process, which may also involve changing the award rubric. We’ll be doing this work in June.

Does your college or university library have a research award of some kind?

Abrescy-Kranich Library Award for Student Research Excellence

Over the summer, I was part of a team that helped develop a new undergraduate student research award, the Carter Joseph Abrescy and Larry Kranich Award for Student Research Excellence. The award recognizes an undergraduate student research paper or project that was completed within the last 12 months for a credit-bearing course that demonstrates effective use of library resources and services. We will either award one winner with $1,000 or two winners with $500 each. We researched several library research awards from different institutions to create the criteria. Students will need to submit an abstract, their paper or project, bibliography, and a reflective essay about their research process. We also developed a rubric for reviewers to use when scoring the applications.

We hit a bit of a snag when it came to the money side of the initial set-up, so we got behind schedule for the launch. We were able to work with Financial Aid and Scholarships to use their undergraduate scholarship system to house the award application materials. Working with Financial Aid and Scholarships has been a great experience! The Scholarship Coordinator is very patient, and she does prompt work.

In s surprising turn events, I’m now chairing the committee. My colleague has several big projects, so she and I switched reins about three or so weeks ago. I’m a bit nervous chairing something like this, but it’s the next logical move for me in terms of committee work and event planning. My supervisor, who was also on the planning group, has been very helpful with my questions and in offering feedback.

Originally, we were going to begin advertising the award in October, but since the financial side wasn’t ready, it’s going to be a very tight turnaround during this initial year. I’m pleased to report that we were able to launch the award the Friday before finals. Whew! Applications are due Monday, Feb. 12, and the winner(s) will be announced by March 15. The award ceremony will take some time in mid-April. Our communications coordinator put out a quick email message to the campus community about the award, and she’ll be working on a larger campaign when students return from winter break. We are very fortunate that the scholarship system alerts students who have previously applied for scholarships about new scholarship opportunities, so over 1200 students received an alert. I’ve also made some other strategic contacts about the award.  Now that the award is live, we can be begin advertising earlier in subsequent years.

Right now, I’m working on recruiting members for the selection committee. The selection committee is a team of five: three librarians (as chair, I’m not one of the reviewers) and two faculty members. The faculty members, we hope, will be representatives from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) and Undergraduate Council. The chair of UGC has been in contact with me and has some good ideas.

I’m looking forward to seeing our submissions and awarding a student (or two!) with a prize for their research. I’m also curious about working with Development for the awards ceremony.

UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium

My instruction colleagues and I presented a poster at the UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium earlier this month, “Assessing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software.

Assesing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software

Here is our abstract:

In fall 2016, the library created two online exit surveys (Option A and Option B) in Qualtrics, an online survey tool, and used the surveys to collect student feedback after library instruction sessions. Library instructors selected a survey to use after each session. Option B survey questions were designed to elicit responses regarding students’ attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction levels, per Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theory. Option A surveys used similar questions but also asked about students’ comfort level with library instructors. Results from both surveys indicated that students find value in learning about databases and specific search strategies. Option A survey results indicated that over 95 percent of students felt comfortable contacting their library instructor later in the semester. Option B survey results indicated that over 96 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that participating in a library instruction session increased their research confidence. The evidence suggests that library instruction sessions are beneficial for students and that library instructors are approachable.  Though online exit surveys in general and Qualtrics more specifically may present challenges, there are also benefits for educators.  The library offers recommendations for individuals and programs interested in using this lightweight form of assessment.

I served as lead on the project since I crunched the numbers and interpreted the data from this fall’s instruction surveys. Over the summer I had also crunched and interpreted data from the spring surveys. It’s a time-consuming project, but I have come to enjoy working on it. I anticipate crunching the numbers from this spring’s surveys as well.

A special thank you to our Library Communications Coordinator Breanna Wright for designing our poster. I did a rough sketch using columns in Word with the information we needed and provided redacted Excel data, including charts, and she made it beautiful. We got lots of nice compliments on the design.

Library Outreach in Public Health

I meant to do a check in regarding my new job for both September and October, which I will get to eventually, but I just had to share about my library outreach success story.

As you may recall, the UC Merced Library launched a liaison program in late August. We have a small staff, so we don’t have subject specialist roles that involve collection development in that area. Four us were assigned to the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts. There are a number of minors, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in these areas, so we split them up. My primary areas are public health, management, and economics. Public health has both an undergraduate and doctoral program.

Our task for the semester was to begin connecting with the graduate group chairs. A colleague and I met with the Social Science graduate group chair to explain about the liaison program and possibly get ideas for how to communicate with the faculty and graduate students working in public health, management, and economics. Since public health is the only social science program with a graduate program, the conservation leaned more towards public health. I had already talked with our Head of Collections and Deputy University Librarian about previous conversations the Library had had with public health faculty, so that gave me some history. The grad group chair also briefly went over these previous  conversations, mostly related around access to some specific journals and data services. The grad group chair gave me the contact name of a professor who teaches a professional seminar for first-year doctoral students and said he would send me an email list of all of the graduate students in public health. The list he sent me included not only student names and contact information but also had the name of each student’s faculty mentor. I made contact with the professor of the class the grad group chair had mentioned, asking if there was something we could do for her students. I sent out a couple of messages, knowing it was a busy time of year, and waited.

While waiting, I discovered that there is a Public Health Seminar Series. I had missed the first talk already, but I contacted the professor who coordinates this series, explaining who I was and that I thought it might be beneficial for me to come to these talks to learn more about public health research. She was very welcoming and seemed pleased about my interest. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole talk due to an appointment, but I took notes and followed-up with the coordinator about the featured researcher’s work. (If you’re interested, the researcher is Dr. Joan Casey, and she discussed her article “High-Density Livestock Operations, Crop Field Application of Manure, and Risk of Community-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection in Pennsylvania.”)

A little more time passed, and I decided that I needed to contact the students directly. Rather than send out a text-heavy email, I opted for this simple Smore newsletter to introduce myself, the new liaison program, and offer some general services. I also included the link to the article that was discussed at the Public Health Seminar Series for those who, like me, may have missed the citation or were not able to attend the talk. I sent the newsletter to two groups–the students and faculty mentors. I was able to craft different introductory statements in the email that was sent via Smore, so I explained to the faculty mentors that their students had received this information from me. (P.S. The newsletter was viewed 120 times! I also found out that we have a subscription to Mail Chimp, so I will try that next semester.)

The professor I had been trying to contact got a hold of me within a couple of hours after sending out the newsletter! She asked if I could give a session on how the librarians might be able to support students conducting systematic reviews. Thankfully, my colleague, who is the secondary liaison for public health, had done a MOOC on systematic reviews. She sent me some of the materials, so I could look at them. I found a number of useful online guides other libraries have created, which helped me learn more about systematic reviews. After doing some more research on the topic, we created a lesson plan.  The online guides I had looked at also served as the foundation for an online guide we created for the students (below is a screenshot).

Screenshot of Systematic Reviews Guide

We gave the workshop last week, and, although there were parts I could have been better in, it was successful! Some of the students took notes and asked us several questions. We also got good feedback from the students as we were packing up. They seemed happy to have a guide to refer to when doing their own systematic reviews.

The happy story could end here, but it doesn’t. It gets even better.

I sent out a second newsletter with the link to the systematic review guide, information about signing up for an ORCID ID (this campaign had been part of our Open Access Week programming), a reminder about the third installation of the Public Health Seminar Series, and some videos related to using RefWorks. I got a thank you from the professor about coming into her class for the systematic reviews workshop after sending out this second newsletter.

The third installation of the Public Health Seminar Series was this past Tuesday. The talk was given by Dr. Kurt Schnier, an economics professor at UC Merced, who has done work related to organ donation. He spoke about an article under review, “Subsidizing Altruism in Living Organ Donation.” Almost all of the students who had been at the workshop were there, and they recognized me. After the talk, a student asked me about making an appointment to learn how to use RefWorks. When I first walked in, I had heard her talking to someone about some issues she was having accessing an article via Google Scholar, so I asked about that, too. As I was getting up to go, the students mentioned that they were staying to talk to the researcher about his work a bit more, and they asked me to stay!  As the students gave their introductions, I asked the series coordinator if it was okay if I stuck around; it was fine.

It was very interesting to hear some of the students’ concerns. For example, a student was worried that the research she was working on now might pigeon-hole her somehow. The economics professor gave a very good response–that the skills they are learning as graduate students can be applied to the research they will be doing in the future. His background is also varied–he looks at both environmental and health topics through the lens of economics–so that helped eased some of the concerns. I appreciated the connection to lifelong learning; as a librarian, I try to emphasize to freshmen students that the information literacy skills they are learning will help them not only in completing their immediate assignment but throughout their college career and beyond. Even if students aren’t writing papers in the future, they can use what they have learned about information in their work and daily lives.

At the end of this discussion, another student asked me if the library had any book clubs. We don’t, but I am going to look into this. When I got back to my office, I emailed the student who had asked about RefWorks, asking when she would like to come by, and I also asked her about the articles again. She got in touch with me this morning, and I was able to help her track down the articles.

I’m really excited about the the connections I have begun making with our public health graduate students.

Food Pantries in Community College Libraries

I have been under the weather since before the New Year (a cold, then a sinus infection, and now bronchitis), so I have been a little neglectful lately, but I think tonight’s post will make up for it. I’m excited, anyway.

The campus I work for is right outside the small city’s limits, serving the western side of Merced County, a county known for low levels of education, which is typical of the Central Valley in general. The campus had a headcount of 1,800 students this past fall at census. One quarter of our students are part-time students. Many are parents. We don’t have food service, and we have a very small library, small tutoring center, and small student lounge. We have 19 full-time faculty: 5 English instructors, 4 math instructors, 3 science instructors, 3 counselors, 1 psychology/sociology instructor, 1 history/political science instructor, 1 communications instructor, and 1 librarian (me).

The beauty of working at the smaller campus of a community college is that small teams can often get quicker results and be a little more innovative due to a lack of resources. Because we are so small, we work together quite often and are always thinking of ways to meet our students needs, needs that are not always academic in nature but that certainly affect their ability to stay in school. This past fall, some of the women faculty members got together at an area restaurant before a faculty meeting as a way to begin to get to know our new biology instructor. At the lunch, the chemistry instructor brought up the idea of creating a small food pantry for students in need but wanted ideas for how to make it private and where it should be located. I saw my opportunity.

Our small library has a back workroom. We keep some old periodicals and supplies in there, and it is also our break area with a fridge and table. We also keep off-season textbook reserves in there. When our part-time library media technician retired this past May, I was finally able to throw things out and work with our new full-time technician, formerly our part-time clerk, to get organized and clear the mess. It’s still wasn’t perfect at the time I made this suggestion, but I immediately mentioned to our chemistry professor that we were making room. They could use a small part of our workroom shelving to house a food pantry. Of the two buildings on campus, we are the area that is opened the longest (the front office closes at 4:30 pm on Monday-Friday, and we stay open until 8 pm Monday-Thursday and until 3 on Friday, though our technician doesn’t really leave until 4 pm on Friday), and no unauthorized people can get to the workroom. The idea is that students in need, with their student I.D., can go to any staff or faculty member or administrator, and be walked to the library workroom to get food.

We got permission from our campus dean, and while we haven’t worked out all the logistics quite yet, we decided not to advertise that it is in the library because we want it to be a little more discreet. I didn’t make the graphic for the posters we’re putting up around campus, but they are absolutely fine and will get the job done. I’ll be displaying the information inside and outside the library, and the counselors are also on board.

Interestingly, over the winter break, both The Atlantic and Inside Higher Ed shared posts about student hunger on community college campuses. It rings so true with our student population.

I am proud to introduce the beginning of our campus’ food pantry. Our chemistry instructor stocked us up with some non-perishables during the first week of the spring semester. 12615148_10156408358120573_604629448180132362_o

Small campuses with small libraries with caring faculty can make a world of difference. I am a regular financial giver to area food pantries, and I can’t believe this idea never occurred to me before. I am so thankful for our faculty and the enormous amount of nontraditional collaboration I have been able to do here.

Does your community college, college, or university have a food pantry? How are your faculty involved? How is your library or library faculty and/or library staff involved? Let me know!

UC Merced, which is the closest university to the larger community college campus, has one, and I believe I read somewhere that our community college students who live in Merced can also access it. I would love to do a little research on this topic in our area.