As we enter the first full weeks of the semester, students are beginning to receive assignments in classes that are more complex than naming three fun facts about themselves to get to know each other. As professors assign papers, Moodle readings and research topics, students must learn how to access the resources that the College’s libraries have to offer. While in years past, students may have been told to familiarize themselves with the many facets of the library during their first year, this year the library held an Open House advertised to all students. Events like this have been held for the past few years, but several additions were made this time, including a change in the way students were directed from place to place.
In an effort to take students all around the library and teach them how to access each important spot, the library planning committee created a digital map where students could follow the “Black & Gold Trail” from places like APEX and Timken to the Crow’s Nest along with directions to and descriptions of each spot.
Librarian of the College Irene Herold added that new this year was the addition of a theme to the classic library tour. “The biggest difference this year was creating a theme for the event, which we will be evaluating to see if we want to continue it for future years. It was ‘TAG! You’re It!’ and refers to Timken/Andrews/Gault for TAG, and our focus on students (as the ‘it’ part).” The inclusion of the students in the theme was not accidental. “We felt a more interactive and engaging experiences (plus doughnuts and other treats) would draw students in and provide an overview of what was available. These are instructional and experiential resources here that all students should know about,” Herold said.
Students also appreciated the added interaction in this year’s Open House. Teresa Ascencio ’23 completed the challenge and enjoyed the opportunity to gain familiarity with the library. “I thought it was really nice. You know, just like what they had to present, all the information, the way they set it up — of course they had doughnuts, which was a highlight. I thought it was very well planned out, even with the tape of the ground to help people with the trail and such, so I think it was really well thought out and well planned for first years and people who don’t know their way around the school — especially the library,” said Ascencio.
Ascencio went on to share how she and the friends she completed the challenge with navigated the new platforms and technology that they were hoping to become familiar with. “Well when we first started — because I was with a group of friends — we accidentally wrote like online books, but we needed a physical copy of a book, and so that was kind of confusing, but then we quickly learned how to see if it’s available online rather than a physical copy.”
Professors often like to assign the library challenge to their First Year Seminar courses in order to familiarize their students with the place they will likely spend too many hours to count over the course of their education here at Wooster. Professor Tim Freeze of the music department assigns the challenge every year and feels that it greatly benefits students.
“I think that it’s important for first-year students in a First Year Seminar setting to be exposed to the fundamentals of conducting research and writing research papers. The starting point of any research project has to be choosing and honing a topic, which one can only do with the use of sources that pertain to that topic,” said Freeze. He also argues that not only does the challenge teach students where things are and how to conduct research, but that, “it introduces you to the idea that it is good and appropriate for you to approach that person for help. Many students arrive at the College with a natural inhibition to wanting to reach out for help with things. This can play out at the level of reaching out for help from a professor, reaching out for help from a librarian, reaching out for help from the Wellness Center, from [the Center for Diversity and Inclusion] — and I’m sure there are lots of different places — from Residence Life potentially, from the spiritual life as well, and so… in some small way, the library challenge acculturates students to realizing it is good and normal and appropriate to go to this person for help, use them as a resource.”
This year’s library challenge has combined teaching the essential resources that students use for research and modernizing the experience with digital aspects, keeping students engaged while making sure they understand not only where the printers are, but how to search for I.S. topics years down the line.