Research Solutions Drop-Ins: Support on Your Schedule

How can librarians better support the unique research needs of graduate students? Together, librarians from the NCSU Libraries and the College of Education's Media and Educational Technology Center developed a creative solution: “Research Solutions Drop-In” events at the library.

Graduate students, Librarians hear you. They know you constantly juggle the competing demands of research, coursework, and teaching. Sometimes it’s hard to use the NCSU Libraries efficiently and effectively as you conduct your research. That’s why librarians have been experimenting with better ways of supporting College of Education graduate students through “Research Solutions Drop-In” events at the library.

A drop-in is a cross between a pop-up event and office hours. Students can simply drop in to get personalized help without having to set up a consultation--a barrier that has prevented some students from taking advantage of librarian expertise in a variety of research techniques and resources. 

Kerri Brown Parker, Librarian at the College of Education’s Media and Educational Technology Center (METRC), and Jennifer Garrett, Research Librarian at NCSU Libraries, have been seeking creative answers to the question “How can librarians better support the research needs of graduate students?” Together, they have developed this new approach to address what they see as a perennial issue in academic libraries. 
 
METRC librarian Kerri Brown-Parker consults with a student.Parker and Garrett saw that they had to be creative with time--research instruction has to be compatible with the schedules and varied research needs of students who are often working full-time while attending classes. But that wasn’t all. Brown Parker and Garrett also wanted to deliver student-centered instruction that would go deeper than a traditional class presentation. Students needed convenient mini-workshops focused on their specific research tasks.

Drop-ins were scheduled three times during 2015 at METRC in Poe Hall. Each focused on a different theme: “Research Management,” “Keyword Discovery & Google Scholar,” and “When am I done?”
 
“We chose themes around common questions and needs expressed by our students and faculty,” Garrett explains. “Our overarching goal was really to be physically present in a familiar and convenient space for our Education students (METRC), so they know that we are here for them, we are flexible, and we are excited to help.”
 
NCSU Libraries fellow Alison Blaine helps a student with research techniques.The first drop-in took place in September and focused on citation management. Brown Parker, Garrett, and Alison Blaine, an NCSU Libraries Fellow, met with a number of students in the one-hour block. Students asked questions specific to their individual research, and also learned about tools like RefWorks and Flow that make it easier to keep track of the scholarly sources they are using in their research.
 
“I think the first drop-in went great,” Garrett says, noting that the project team is evaluating the meetings for future improvements and research topics. “All three of us were helping students for the entire hour and we received many thanks. I know this is something we would love to continue and expand upon.”
 
Brown Parker agreed and added that she is particularly “looking forward to what we will include in the session called, ‘When am I done?’ Graduate students are often asking how they know they are done with a lit review. It’s a tricky question to answer.”
 
For more information on upcoming events, visit the METRC facebook page or contact Kerri at