The Charger Blog

Peterson Library's Unique Program Trains Students to Be Research Experts

The student workers who are part of the Marvin K. Peterson Library's Researcher 2 Researcher Program serve the Charger community, offering support to students and faculty members while also building their own research, interpersonal, and critical thinking skills.

May 28, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

The Marvin K. Peterson Library
The Marvin K. Peterson Library at the University of New 51.

As a Charger, Ethan Reeder '24 enjoyed working at the circulation desk in the University's Marvin K. Peterson Library, where he helped students and faculty members find the materials they were seeking for their research. Whether they'd stopped by in-person, called the library, or reached out via email or through the library's online chat program, Reeder offered them a friendly source of support.

A new graduate of the University's homeland security and emergency management program, Reeder was a student worker for the library's Researcher 2 Researcher (R2R) Program. He and his fellow student workers, who received a comprehensive training before beginning their positions, are committed to making sure members of the Charger community find exactly what they are looking for.

"I've loved being able to help students with their research and to have academic conversations with faculty about research topics," he said. "I wouldn't have been able to gain such an understanding of research without the help of the amazing faculty in the library. Through this position, I have come to call the library a second home, and many of the faculty I regard as friends and mentors."

'Help them become lifelong learners'

Reeder was one of the program's four student workers during the Spring semester. R2R was developed in 2019 by Joe Scollo, MLS, M.A., an information literacy librarian at the Peterson Library, and he continues to oversee the program. The idea was to provide students with an experiential opportunity to learn in-depth and advanced research strategies and techniques. They also gain a robust knowledge of the library's database and resources, and help their fellow Chargers learn what's available to them and how to find it.

Ethan Reeder '24 on campus.
Ethan Reeder '24 (front, in gray) on campus.

At its core, the student positions are focused on customer service, enabling them to build their interpersonal skills. While interacting with faculty, staff, and students, they learn to professionally address challenging questions, whether verbally or in writing. They understand what questions to ask as they serve their fellow Chargers.

"To see them excel means so much to me personally," said Scollo, who also serves as associate director of the University's award-winning Model United Nations program. "My role as an information literacy librarian allows me to be an educator. This program is one of those opportunities in which I get see students learn, develop, and apply my teaching to get ahead in life.

"Not only does this help them find better jobs, but it also helps them become lifelong learners," he continued. "It is extremely rewarding when former students reach out to me to talk about their new job, or just to catch up. It makes me very proud."

'Unique for academic libraries'

Scollo says that research supports the benefits of the program, and that many students who may be reluctant to interact with a staff librarian are more comfortable asking a fellow student for assistance. The student workers help foster a friendly and comfortable environment in which all students can feel comfortable seeking support.

Lauren Slingluff, M.S., the University librarian, says the program's success is a testament to Scollo's leadership and training, as well as the students' commitment to the program.

"Having students provide research assistance in this way is unique for academic libraries," she said. "I'm constantly struck by their skill, their creativity, and their commitment to supporting other students. Some of our best ideas for program enhancements have come from our wonderful researcher-to-researcher team as they blend their knowledge of the student experience with their advanced library training."

'A remarkable opportunity'
Allison Mahr '24.
Allison Mahr '24.

For Allison Mahr '24, who recently accepted her bachelor's degree in international affairs, the opportunity to collaborate with her fellow Chargers in the library was her favorite part of being a part of the R2R program.

Mahr, who recently earned a prestigious Boren Fellowship Award and will soon travel to the Republic of Georgia to continue her own research, says R2R was an incredible way for her to learn how to explain complex topics in a way that is understandable – a skill that she believes will be crucial as she completes her fellowship and begins graduate school.

"This program has been a remarkable opportunity to enhance my research skills and to learn from Joe Scollo about information literacy," she said. "I've also worked behind the scenes to help create some posters and graphics to help advertise library services, and I've been helping Joe and the other R2Rs revamp the library website and other key materials."

'An advanced understanding of research methods'

Scollo envisions the program helping students in all majors develop their own ability to learn – and teach others – as well as their critical thinking skills. Student workers become research experts, of sorts, and that's a skill that he believes will serve them well as they begin their careers or continue their education.

For Reeder, the new homeland security and emergency management grad, the program was a great way to serve the University community while also developing his own abilities. He's now applying for analytical positions with federal agencies such as the U.S. Secret Service, and he also plans to pursue his master's degree. He believes the program was a great way for him to develop the skills he'll need to excel.

"Through this program I have gained an advanced understanding of research methods, as well as a wide understanding of research databases across a variety of academic fields," he explains. "I've been able to use these skills from this position to benefit my personal research as a student and as a developing professional in the field of homeland and national security."