NCSU Libraries Focus Online

Volume 23 number 3 - Spring 2003

Peer Research Advisors Make the Difference

By Megan Oakleaf and Amy VanScoy, Research and Information Services, and Karen Letarte, Cataloging

Patrons of the NCSU Libraries will notice some fresh new faces at the reference desk this semester. Douglas Brooks, Carlos Villate, and Patrice Williams are three NC State undergraduate students who are participating in the new Peer Research Advisors program, which was developed by the Libraries' Diversity Committee and modeled on successful programs at other institutions. Peer research advisors are students from diverse backgrounds who are interested in helping fellow students while improving their own research skills. They help answer questions at the reference desk and assist librarians with instruction sessions and outreach efforts. The Peer Research Advisors program aims to:

  • present a welcoming and diverse face of library public services to students;
  • develop the peer research advisors' information literacy skills and contribute to their academic success;
  • enhance the ability of all undergraduates to use the library effectively; and
  • recruit young, diverse people into librarianship.

Many interested students applied for the program, and the three students chosen are ideal candidates. All three are enthusiastic, service oriented, and interested in the library. Douglas Brooks, from Pittsboro, North Carolina, is a junior majoring in electrical engineering. Brooks applied to the program to "assist those people who find it difficult to do research in such a large facility." He has enjoyed "every minute" of the program and is "impressed with the enthusiasm and effort that goes into library research."

Carlos Villate, a senior majoring in biological sciences, has lived in Puerto Rico; Ludwigsburg, Germany; and Fayetteville, North Carolina. Villate plans to be a military intelligence officer in the United States Army after graduation. He likes the library's work atmosphere and the learning opportunities the Peer Research Advisors program provides, and the amount and complexity of library resources impress him. Villate says, "In my short time here I have learned so much."

Patrice Williams of Goldsboro, North Carolina, is a junior majoring in business management who plans to attend graduate school. Williams was attracted to the Peer Research Advisors program because it involves technology and research. She felt that it fit her personality because she loves to put puzzles together, and she finds the work educational and fun. Williams adds, "I thought I knew it all, but I learn every time I step into work."

The students joined the Peer Research Advisors program this spring semester and have received library training in a variety of subject areas including chemistry, engineering, and specialized techniques for government documents. The students have also learned about some of the Libraries exciting services and initiatives by attending presentations on the Digital Media Lab, the Assistive Technologies Center, LOBO (the Libraries' online research tutorial), and electronic reserves. These advisors are beginning to use their new skills and knowledge to answer user questions on their own. As they discuss the interactions they have had at the reference desk and in the classroom, it is clear they are beginning to understand the challenges and thrills of assisting users in a research library. As one peer research advisor said, "Many students I know have said they have never been to the library before, and I just think they are missing a lot."

The Peer Research Advisors program is one of a number of library initiatives to make students aware of the excellent career possibilities in library and information science. There is a critical need for librarians worldwide, and there are excellent graduate programs in this field in the Triangle area. The Libraries hopes the program will develop into an important part of its services, provide intellectually challenging jobs for students, and encourage some of NC State's exceptional undergraduates to join the profession.