UNLV Libraries Inspire Summer Graduate Fellows in their Roles as Researchers and Historians

This summer, the UNLV University Libraries provided multiple fellowship opportunities for UNLV graduate students. Faculty librarians in three departments hired and directed graduate students to work on a variety of key projects.

Partially funded by the Library Advisory Board, graduate students worked as information literacy fellows and in Special Collections.

The Special Collections graduate students worked as researchers, archivists, and historians as they processed hundreds of unique items. Special Collections faculty and staff taught the students national professional descriptive standards and trained them to use the ArchiveSpace collection management system.

The training and learning opportunities for the graduate students extended beyond researching archival collections and describing them online for researchers. “Special Collections faculty viewed the internships as opportunities to demonstrate the value and practical application of the campus wide University Learning Objectives as well as opportunities to mentor the students in a way that would prepare them to compete for and land entry-level professional positions,” said Cyndi Shein, head of special collections technical services. Students were asked about their goals regarding their chosen career paths, given feedback on their interviewing skills and best practices for representing the experience they would receive on their curriculum vitae, and participated in biweekly staff meetings.

Shein emphasized that the students were selected based on the skills they possessed as historians. “The Libraries recognized that a solid education in the field of history equips students with critical thinking skills, the ability to synthesize information from a variety of sources, and the advanced writing skills needed to communicate the information to the public,” said Shein. “These students were a perfect fit for the tasks at hand, and compensating them fairly for their unique skills helped them support themselves while in school.”

The students reflected on their experiences upon completing their projects. History graduate student Hannah Robinson wrote, “As my knowledge about Jewish culture and history is limited to family stories and food, I jumped at the chance to assess, research, and learn more about Jewish history in Las Vegas while writing a collection description for the Nat Hart Papers (MS-00161). Overall, this experience has been really interesting to me on both personal and academic levels.”

“My favorite part of working with the Robert Beckmann Photographs has certainly been seeing Mr. Beckmann’s process,” wrote graduate student Lindsay Oden. “To me, these kinds of photographs underscore the importance of archival work because they provide the context and setting for works of art that seem to uniquely blend into the background of daily life.”

While the history graduate students focused on making unique Special Collections available to researchers, three information literacy fellows were selected to work on information literacy research projects. Graduate students supervised by project leaders Erin Rinto, undergraduate learning librarian, and education librarian Samantha Godbey.

Two fellows worked on separate projects related to the information literacy component of English 102 (ENG 102). One project evaluated research topics collected from a library topic narrowing tutorial while the other project scored random samples of annotated bibliographies to determine how students evaluated information sources.

“The information literacy fellows contributed to two research studies by creating rubrics and following a research methodology that would provide recommendations for improving the library instruction component of ENG 102,” said Rinto. As the fellows evaluated areas where the library could provide targeted information literacy instruction in ENG 102, they also completed extensive literature reviews related to their research projects. “Both fellows were able to provide invaluable input into developing solutions and strategies to the challenges that instructors and librarians experience when teaching inquiry to novice researchers,” said Rinto.

Godbey directed a project to conduct a qualitative analysis of focus group transcripts related to the information literacy skills of UNLV College of Education students. The fellow conducted a literature review and analyzed teacher education standards as they related to information literacy.

The library has hired graduate students to work as fellows for several summers. “The focus of our fellows this year was on specific projects with outcomes that we could immediately put to use in our practice. An added benefit was the research aspect of each project and the opportunity for fellows to be co-authors on an article,” said Nancy Fawley, head of the library liaison program. Fawley noted that one fellow commented that the knowledge and skills she gained from the experience compared to taking a graduate level course.

The Libraries are proud of the projects this summer’s graduate fellows completed. Their work product and research contributions are representative of the valuable learning opportunities available to library graduate fellows.

For information about summer 2015 information literacy fellow opportunities contact Nancy Fawley. For information about summer 2015 Special Collection graduate student opportunities contact Cyndi Shein.

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