FYE Correspondent Raymond Pun recently interviewed Jessica C. Lewis and Yolanda Tugwell, librarians at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Library in Kingston, Jamaica. They discussed some of the proactive steps their library takes to meet new students in the dormitories and at the writing center, in addition to providing one-shots for almost 3,000 first year students annually.
Ray: Thanks for interviewing with us! Can you tell us about your roles, and briefly describe the FYE activities that you and your library have done recently?
Yolanda: Our role as librarians is vital to the life of the first year student. We assist in guiding and exposing them to research and the tools that will be pivotal to their success at University. Mona Library started The Hall of Residence Librarian Program in September, 2013, in collaboration with the Office of Student Services. By conducting “Research Rescue” events on the dorms, we get the opportunity to have 1-1 interactions with our first year students.
In addition, each semester we teach Information Literacy sessions to our students to familiarize them with the wealth of databases our library subscribes to. Credo Reference is always a favorite starting point in our presentations as this helps students identify keywords, definitions, and background information for their papers. The Mind Map is an amazing tool, and students are in love with it as it really aids in fine-tuning keywords for their research. The reference sources are wonderful in explaining the key concepts. However, we would love to see more Caribbean-themed reference material added.
Jessica: We are part of a team of 10 Hall of Residence Librarians who take this role very seriously. Most librarians also support first year students through library sessions offered in the compulsory English Language Foundation courses. We have one-shot sessions with almost 3000 first year students per year. Through our collaboration with the Campus Writing Centre, we also try to meet students at their point of need with weekly visits there.
Ray: That’s great to hear about your collaboration with student services and first year programs. Can you tell us why do you think it is important for libraries and librarians to be involved in supporting the FYE?
Jessica: Information overload and library anxiety are often experienced by new students. If the library can act as an academic ally, students can feel supported and empowered. Some of our students come to campus from high school never having used a large library or an online catalogue. It is important for librarians and library staff to make a good first impression and let students know that we are here to help.
The Hall of Residence Librarian Program is a Library outreach programme designed to facilitate First Year UWI students as they begin their university journey. We bring the library to the students by going on the dorm and making ourselves available to them. Once students have a “go-to” person in the library, it makes asking for assistance a little easier.
Yolanda: We are able to enlighten students at this stage about the wealth of credible resources available to them. It also gives librarians a chance to engage first year students and act as a catalyst, making them better researchers and more independent and responsible information users.
Ray: Thanks for sharing your activities with us! What's next for FYE support in your library? What upcoming projects or activities are you working on now?
Jessica/Yolanda: We will continue to be involved with students on our halls, in the classroom, and at the reference desk. We are hopeful that we will be able to add a new component to our Hall of Residence Librarian program by attracting upper level students who have benefitted from the program, now in their second year and beyond, to partner with us and engage students on a peer level when we are not available. We are excited about new projects being rolled out as part of our Strategic Plan, which will see the addition of more comfortable undergraduate collaborative and innovative spaces. We are enthused about plans to have new digital labs and a makerspace.
Jessica C. Lewis is the Coordinator of the Mona Information Literacy Unit, MILU at the Main Library and is a Hall of Residence Librarian. In this role she seeks to increase faculty/librarian collaboration and increase information literacy outreach on her campus. She holds a MLIS from The University of the West Indies, Mona. She is interested in Information literacy instruction and library management.
Yolanda Tugwell is an Acquisitions Librarian and a Hall of Residence Librarian at the Main Library, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. She received her MLIS from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. She previously taught English and Library Science to seventh and eighth grade students in Jamaica. She is interested in information literacy, reference, collection development, and professional development.