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Supporting students in the Google age

Last fall Google turned 20. 

Today's ubiquitous search engine is now older than the majority of Arizona State University’s freshman class — many of whom have never experienced a Google-less world.

“Technology has changed everything,” said Israel Zaldivar, a student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. "Everyone focuses on doing a Google search. Many students aren’t aware of all the resources we have access to.”

Zaldivar is part of a new library peer mentorship program — the ASU Library Barrett Mentors — aimed at helping Barrett students develop university-level research skills.

As a Barrett Mentor, Zaldivar and his fellow library mentors, Max Hernandez and Lauren Barnes, do everything from conducting workshops on how to use Zotero, an online citation management system, to engaging in lunch-hour conversations with other Barrett students on how to determine the most appropriate research database or develop a thesis question.

“Research is a general skill that applies to many fields, but a lot of students don’t have these skills,” said Hernandez, a sophomore at ASU who is double majoring in accounting and computer science with a minor in sustainability. “By providing support, we’re making sure that students are prepared and equipped for the work they’ll be encountering at the university.”

The Barrett Mentors are paid student worker positions, embedded within the Barrett community for ultimate student accessibility, with the goal of discussing and modeling research skills with and for their student peers in both casual and formal settings.

A good percentage of his classmates at Barrett, Hernandez says, are first-generation college students, unaccustomed to the resources and services of an academic library. 

Figuring out how to navigate those resources is half the challenge of being a college student, he says.

“Even for non-first-generation college students, college is kind of a new experience,” Hernandez said. “It’s much easier to do a quick Google search and pick the first three articles. We want to show them that the library can be accessible and what sources are valid and what sources are not valid. They know what they want, they just don’t know how to find it. We’re helping people discover all the stuff the library has.”

All the stuff includes 740 online databases and more than 200 million print and digital resources, including 150,000 journals and over 4 million print volumes; a center for data science and geospatial research; a makerspace; more than 100 study rooms; and some of the world’s leading rare materials collections.

Tomalee Doan, associate university librarian for the ASU Library, who oversees engagement and learning services across nine libraries, says student mentorship and leadership opportunities are helping steer a changing library infrastructure, focused on active, adaptive and informal learning spaces, where students come first.

“Many of our undergraduate students are part of the most diverse generation ever seen before in the United States,” Doan said. “The question of how to best support their success, their varied learning styles and unique contributions, is driving a number of new and interesting initiatives at the library, many of them student-led.”

Read the full story on ASU Now.

- Melovee Easley and Britt Lewis