Starting this semester, Binghamton University students can make appointments with research librarians through the online University Tutoring system, known as TutorTrac, and meet with them in the College-in-the-Woods Library.
Students can schedule hourlong appointments to search for sources and work out preliminary ideas for projects, according to librarian Anne Larrivee.
“Librarians will come with their laptop or iPad and sit with the student and informally discuss what they are having trouble with. Whether it’s navigating around resources in the library or they just want to talk out their research question,” said Larrivee, the instruction committee chair.
While librarians have always been available at Glenn G. Bartle Library, Larrivee said they wanted to improve outreach because many students are unaware of the resources the library has to offer until late in their college careers.
“Help’s been there for a long time, but the number one comment we get is, ‘I wish I’d known about this sooner,’” Larrivee said. “So we want to expose students through any means possible. We want to get the word out that this service exists, and we’re trying to be accommodating to students and meet at a location that’s convenient to them.”
Advertising for the program included posts on B-Line and posters; subject tutors were instructed to direct students that need help planning or researching a project to make an appointment with research librarians.
The program lets students pick the time that is most convenient for them and a research librarian whose schedule fits the student’s. All librarians are qualified to do general searches through the database, but they all specialize in different fields. Larrivee’s specialities, for example, are anthropology, Africana studies, social work and human development.
The assigned librarian would not necessarily be an expert in the student’s field, but Larrivee said that librarians are flexible and students can contact librarians directly if they choose to.
“It’s geared toward more general research but if a student has a more specific-research question, we tend to refer them to a specific librarian,” Larrivee said. “The times in the TutorTrac system are also pretty specific, but we are very flexible to accommodate the student, with the exception of 3 a.m.”
According to Larrivee, only three students have signed up so far for appointments through the tutoring website.
“We expected this to happen, that it would be very slow at the beginning because usually students log in in to the system online to search for a specific course. As they start to realize there’s the research librarian help, they will starting choosing it more and more,” said Kellianne Kinane, student assistant to Lisa Bennett of University Tutoring Services and a senior double-majoring in environmental studies and biology.
The connection between University Tutoring Services and library services was made possible because of the close relationship between assistant director of University Tutoring Services, Lisa Bennett, and former library instruction committee chair, Angelique Jenks-Brown.
In the past, Bartle staff have tried to connect students with librarians through other programs. One such program was called Roving Reference, where librarians with iPads would walk around the stacks, offering their help.
“It’s a service we might explore again in the future,” Larrivee said, “but for now the service to schedule appointments is a more direct program.”
The library also currently offers more anonymous forms of support. Students can email, call or even Skype librarians. But Larrivee said that the scheduled meetings in CIW offer students an opportunity to meet in a more personal setting.
“If students want that virtual interaction, they can just contact us through those means,” Larrivee said. “I know there’s a lot of people intimidated by that face-to-face contact, but this is a means for people who want face-to-face but might not be familiar walking into a library.”
Chris Tufo, a sophomore majoring in computer science, said he appreciated the additions.
“It’s definitely more convenient at CIW,” Tufo said. “I honestly have not thought of meeting with a librarian, but if I want help now, I know where to go.”