The first time I had to write a research paper at Kalamazoo College was for my First Year Seminar, a course that all freshmen take during their first quarter at K. It’s safe to say, I was a little overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure where to start, what sources would be considered credible enough for an academic paper, or where to find my information online, let alone how to navigate the library and its three stories of shelves full of books.
It turns out that I had nothing to worry about because one of the great things about attending a smaller college like K is that not only do the First Year Seminar professors here anticipate freshmen students’ needs, but also that there are resources for help readily available. My professor set up a class period dedicated entirely to learning how to find sources for a research paper called the Beyond Google workshop, where the class works with a librarian who explains how to access K’s databases, electronic journals, and physical copies of books.
The Beyond Google workshop made me feel more prepared going into future essays, even if they weren’t explicitly research-based. I suddenly had access to resources that provided a better context to frame ideas within and to studies and evidence that solidified my arguments. Through this workshop, I also learned that if something wasn’t available through Kalamazoo College’s library or subscriptions, I had options to find materials online, in a statewide book-sharing database, and even at Western Michigan University.
All of this information was helpful to get me through my first quarter here at K, but what really amazed me was an information session I sat in on with my Women, Gender, and Sexuality class during my second quarter. Leading up to our final project and research paper, one of the K librarians had put together a whole workshop and webpage catered specifically to our class. The webpage was set up with step-by-step guides on how to find physical copies of books, how to navigate online journals and databases, and how to request resources from WMU. The librarian had taken the time to pick out the databases and indexes that were most relevant to our class, to suggest guiding keywords that worked best for different types of searches, and even to check the credibility of non-academic websites that could supplement our academic research. She then spent our class time going through real possibilities that students were specifically interested in researching, explaining how to search in an effective and timely manner, and offered us the option of individual help through a scheduled meeting with a Reference Librarian called “Research Rescue.”
I was struck by the specificity of the help available for students, something that a lot of people don’t get at larger universities. Because of K’s size, resources for help, whether it be academic or not, are easy to access and can be accommodated to meet individual needs. The Beyond Google workshop and info session with one of our Reference Librarians have provided me with the tools I need to be successful at K and have better prepared me for my academic future here.
-Emiliana Renuart ‘20