Class Observation

As the Fortenbaugh Intern in Research and Instruction, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to observe a couple of class research sessions which were led by some of the Research and Instruction librarians. Coming from a student perspective, I had always found these sessions informative. Each session has allowed me to become more comfortable with my major’s research guide and permits me to learn more about the various databases (shout out to JSTOR) that are available to use. In short, I have always enjoyed these sessions that are led by Research and Instruction librarians, because I am able to review what skills I have learned previously, and allow those skills to become the foundation that allows me to learn and advance my research skills.

As I sat in to watch these two class sessions, I felt like I was observing the session from a pair of different eyes. What I noticed more was the structure and organization of the information session, and how the sessions were organized. One of the aspects that I really appreciated was that each librarian attempted to find out where everyone was in their research journey – some students were familiar with concepts and certain databases while others were not. Asking the students or even allowing them to fill out a quick online survey allowed the Research and Instruction librarians to tailor their session to the needs of the students, which meant that students were able to get as much out of the session as possible.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was how the sessions allowed an opportunity to work individually as well as collaboratively in small groups. For example, a student may have been given a few minutes to look at a source to decide if it was grey literature, and then they might work in small groups of 3 – 4 to discuss their decision. Then the class might reconvene, and all the students work together to determine if the source is indeed grey literature.

In general, I believe that offering such sessions to students who are in the midst or just beginning the research journey for one of their classes is extremely helpful. Working on finding sources, on determining if its a trustworthy source, peer reviewed, primary or secondary, searching through different databases, exploring different journals, working on the organization of your paper or defining and narrowing your topic – these are just a few examples of what information sessions can cover and what the Research and Instruction librarians can assist you with!

While there are similarities shared among the research sessions as a whole, the fact that (1) each session is tailored to serve each class’s interests, (2) the librarians make each second count in the session, (3) want to make sure that you too walk away feeling that the time you spent with them was beneficial, and (4) that you feel more and more confident in your skills as a student here at Gettysburg are just a few reasons why these sessions are so valuable. (And besides, if you have any questions after your class session, you can always stop by the Research Help Desk!)

To conclude, I enjoyed shadowing a couple of information sessions and believe that by attending these sessions I have been able to understand the research process better, which not only helps me as a student but also as someone who works at the Research Help Desk! By understanding the research process better, I will be able to assist others better and more effectively as they embark on their own research journey.

The Characteristics of Cataloging

These past few weeks I have been at the Research Help Desk on my own, and while at first I was extremely nervous and a little bit intimidated, each shift at the Research Help Desk has allowed me to become more confident in my capabilities. Each question that has been directed my way has allowed me to apply the skills I have learned during training. Even if I do not know the answer, I know that the Research and Instruction Librarians are only a few meters away, and are there to help and support me as I continue my journey of being the Fortenbaugh Intern in Research and Instruction. (They have been so incredibly helpful!)

The most recent development that has occurred during my time here actually took place this week. I have always been curious about cataloging, and what it exactly entails. So this past week Kate from Technical Services took the time to lead me through a crash course on cataloging. (Kind of like a Cataloging 101.) As someone who was not extremely familiar with cataloging (I knew the definition of cataloging, was familiar with MUSCAT, and had briefly seen what Sierra looked like (the catalog system we use here at Musselman Library)) the first session with Kate was a little bit overwhelming. Who knew that there were numerous fields, sub fields, and indicator numbers? Even though at first it seemed a little terrifying, Kate was patient and took the time to go over the structure of cataloging. She also answered any questions I had. By our third session Kate allowed me the task to pick a selection of books from the “New Books Cart” and look at their entries in Sierra on my own. After examining the format, I then was able to discuss the format with her. (e.g. Does the entry look okay? Should the table of contents be added, should it be removed? Does the summary of the book need to be tweaked?)

One of the major takeaways I learned is that even though cataloging is very structured and neat, there are occasions where it is up to the discretion of the cataloger. For example, when deciding whether to add a table of contents, a cataloger has to decide if the table of contents would be helpful. If someone was looking for a book on that subject and conducted a keyword search, would they be able to find this book? Are the chapter titles clear (e.g. British Imperialism in the 19th century) or do the chapter titles include figurative speech (e.g. How the Lion and the Unicorn Conquered)? I also learned that the best way to learn about cataloging is through examples and practice. By our third session I became more confident about the evaluating entries compared to my first session. In short, I have really enjoyed cataloging, and being able to see a book’s entry in Sierra and the “finished product” entry in MUSCAT is always neat to see.

I look forward to continuing my “Cataloging 101” crash course with Kate, and continuing my journey in the vast world of cataloging.

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

My experience as the Fortebaugh Intern in Research and Instruction these past few weeks have flown by. By sitting on the “other side” of the Research Help Desk, and being able to interact with various people (whether that be the inquisitive college student who has a question, or librarians here at Musselman library) my perceptions of what libraries are, their purpose and function, as well as the idea and practice of librarianship have altered and allowed me to look and think about libraries in a different light.

As the title of this blog post suggests, I have become more comfortable at the Research Help Desk. Now that my training is over, I have been perusing the research guides and databases of disciplines that I was not originally familiar with, such as Art History and Chemistry. By becoming more familiar with different types of databases, and exploring them and the features that they have, I am becoming more confident in my reference skills. I have even begun answering questions and assisting those who are in the midst of their research journey. In the beginning the questions were more general, (e.g. How can I print from my laptop? Where is the writing center?) but now that the semester is underway the questions are becoming more specific (e.g. What is MLA, and did I cite this source correctly? Can I access this newspaper online? Where can I find this specific article?). I expect that as the semester continues, and as projects and papers become assigned, the questions will become even more specific and require an increased amount of time dedicated in order to answer the patron’s question.

I look forward to continuing my work at the Research Help Desk, and I am excited of the potential questions that may come my way in the next few weeks.

A Small Introduction

Hello! My name is Abigail Major, and I am the Fortenbaugh Intern in Research and Instruction for the Spring 2017 semester.

Here are a couple facts about me:

  • I’m a sophomore History major with minors in Latin, Environmental Studies and Public History.
  • I’m from Wrightstown, New Jersey which is about an hour outside of Princeton.
  • My favorite book is The Hobbit. (I’m a J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis fan!)
  • The book I’m currently reading in my spare time is Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. (I’m a huge Downton Abbey fan but have refused to watch the sixth and final season because I don’t want it to be over!)
  • My favorite Servo cookie is the classic chocolate chip cookie!

I’ve always have had a special place in my heart for libraries. During my childhood, I spent a lot of time in the school’s library as well as my community’s. I spent so many of my lunch periods in the elementary school’s library that I became a ‘regular.’ I was eventually asked by the librarian to become a library aide, and assisted in checking in and out books, and shelving. I also was captain of the Battle of the Books team in fifth and sixth grade! Looking back at it now, those wonderful experiences instilled in me a love for libraries at a very young age.

Last year I was participated in the Center for Career Development’s Job Shadowing experience, and was able to shadow at the Library of Congress in the Geography and Map Division. It was an amazing experience, and gave me the chance to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of libraries. Having this valuable experience gave me the chance to consider a career in librarianship.

Which leads to the present: I am so excited to be able to work in the Research and Instruction! I have completed my first two weeks which consisted of training with various Research and Instruction librarians. They’re all so friendly and very helpful! I enjoyed being able to get to know each librarian in Research and Instruction, their story of how they got involved in librarianship, and their pieces of advice concerning research and instruction. Although it’s only been a couple of weeks, I have learned so much! My perspective concerning reference librarianship has changed by being behind the desk instead of in front of it. The process of research, of finding certain subjects, journal articles or specific books, is fascinating to learn about and is an invigorating challenge. Although my training is over, I know I still have much to learn during the remainder of my internship, and that makes me excited to be able to continue to learn and refine the skills I have learned so far.

Soon I will begin to work at the Research Help Desk, and help and assist those who come by the Research Help Desk, on my own. This makes me a little nervous, but I am excited too. You never know what someone will ask, and while that makes it a little bit nerve-wracking, it also inspires me to do my best and excel at the challenges that come my way.

In short, my experience as the Fortenbaugh intern in Research and Instruction has been wonderful, and I eagerly look forward to learning more about reference librarianship through real world practice (answering questions and assisting those who stop by the desk) as well as by spending time with the librarians here at Mussleman Library!