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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Malcolm A. Love Library Malcolm A. Love Library

The SDSU Library: Here for You

Students have multiple avenues to reach specialists for research and project assistance.
By Rebecca Williamson

The steady flow of foot traffic in and out of San Diego State University’s Malcolm A. Love Library may have paused, but not the help students count on to complete their research, finish class assignments and access course materials.

Librarians, staff and student assistants have remained at work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, operating one-on-one chats, referrals to expert sources, pre-recorded tutorials and other tools are being brought forth to assist through a virtual library.

Here are some of the ways library resources are available even when the doors remain closed, and how students have made use of them:

SDSU Library Chat

The live, 24/7 SDSU Library Chat fields 300 to 500 inquiries each week, many seeking research assistance, an article or a book or other help for a paper or project.

“You just click the tab and you can ask a quick question,” said graduate nursing student Susan Murphy. “It’s so convenient.”

Librarian subject specialists are available in nearly 90 categories from art to women’s studies. Murphy called upon health sciences librarian Margaret Henderson for help with health care informatics. “She shared her screen and I could see exactly what she was doing. It was even easier than if I had been there in person,” Murphy said.

Gregory Simons, a joint doctoral student in education, pointed out another advantage of working with the expert assistance: better sources mean better grades and less time spent on research. He recounted how librarian Linda Salem helped him write targeted research searches on the internet, narrowing potentially thousands of hits to only a hundred.

Help via Zoom

In addition to working one-on-one with students, librarians also work with entire classes and regularly appear in Zoom sessions.

Business librarian Tim Tully created pre-recorded tutorials for use in Canvas, and live Zoom sessions for small group work and project-centered questions. 

Some professors add links to a tutorial or research guide in their course material. Online instruction is critical for students who haven’t been able to visit the library in person, especially upper division and graduate students doing capstone projects or other research. 

Popular culture librarian Pam Jackson and Pamella Lach, head of the Digital Humanities Center, worked with students in History 157, the first comics course at SDSU offered for general education credit. 

“Pam Jackson developed terrific resources that helped students learn how to access digital comics materials,” said history professor Elizabeth Pollard, who teaches the subject. “With its curated collection of digitally-accessible comics, Jackson’s ‘Teaching Online with and about Comics’ was an indispensable resource. She went above and beyond to digitize content that enabled us to pursue our comics and social justice theme.”

And students agree.

“Ms. Jackson was a really friendly and helpful resource for our class last semester,” student Luke Heine said. “She took time to talk to our class about SDSU library resources and really walk us through them in detail, as well as inform us about some of the research that SDSU is doing on comics.”

Saving money

Sophomore Amaya Childes is a student library assistant and a University Towers resident advisor. In advising residents to utilize library services, “I always start by suggesting students check out the course reserves so they can save money on textbooks and course materials,” Childes said. “Librarian Rebecca Nowicki created great videos to help students use the library. The online tutorials and research guides are really helpful.”

Ask a librarian

Librarians are also help with assignments other than library research. Natalie Aviles Alvarez is a first-year graduate student in English who reached out to Anna Culbertson, head of Special Collections and University Archives, to satisfy an assignment for her English 600 class to interview a faculty member whose research interests matched hers. 

“Since I am interested in the field of Archives and Special Collections I reached out to get an inside perspective on our campus services and the field itself,” Alvarez said. “Anna was very helpful and provided a lot of insight.”

Library Dean Scott Walter emphasized longstanding library services have taken on new significance in the pandemic environment and the library staff is ready to assist students however it can.

“If you have an idea for something else we can do to help you, we would love to hear about it,” said Walter. “If you have a question about how the library can help you, we are here, ready to help.”