Research Rescue: Accessible Help at K’s Library

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

First Quarter at the Zoo

I knew it was probably a sign that I had picked the right college when pre-orientation registration felt like an embarrassment of riches. There are a lot of reasons to attend any college or university, but for me, academics was key – I wanted to go somewhere where classes were not only thorough and enriching, but varied. Thus, when I saw all the first-year seminars available to me right out of the gate – Salem Possessed, Rock & Roll to Rap, Telling Queer Stories – I agonized for a week before my actual registration date about what to pick.

While I really couldn’t have really gone wrong with any class like those and others, I have no regrets about ultimately deciding on Religion and the American Presidency with Dr. Sabella. Though I had initially entered the class to indulge my geeky love of history, I found myself surprised at the variety of content a single seminar could contain. You would think “Religion and the American Presidency” would consist only of the two things, both found in the title. And yet, Dr. Sabella seamlessly infused each session with topics like current events, art, pop culture, and philosophy. Not one class was ever the same, and I never did I find myself without enthusiasm for awaited me next.

Addie Dancer taking a selfie with Kalamazoo College President Jorge Gonzalez
Selfie with President Jorge Gonzalez

Even so, the content actually turned out to be only a bonus in the grand scheme of things – in truth, I am grateful every single day for the first-year seminar I chose because of the incredible friends I found within. Today, those I met through my seminar, either directly or indirectly, are part of my life every single day. We blow up each other’s phone with memes in the group chat, we have nightly “family dinners,” we struggle through workouts at the Fitness and Wellness Center, and we study together at Upjohn Library as often as possible. In a matter of months, we have made countless memories, whether it be going downtown to grab dinner and a movie, driving out to the countryside to pick apples at a local orchard, attending political rallies and getting involved by volunteering on campus, even staying in to play Cards Against Humanity or watch The Office on Netflix.

In addition to my lovely seminar friends, our peer leaders (or peer “moms,” as we quickly came to call them), were also incredibly honest, helpful, and kind. It was my senior peer “mom” who encouraged me to get involved with The Index, K’s school newspaper, and continues to mentor me in matters both personal and journalistic whenever I need it. What’s more, K’s faculty and staff have blown me away with their friendliness and approachability; my French TA once walked me home in the rain when I was without an umbrella, daily trips to Stacks have me on a first-name basis with the people behind the counter, and a single bout with a nasty cough introduced me to the college’s remarkable professionals at the health center, who are as knowledgeable as they are considerate. Even K’s president, Dr. Gonzalez, who might seem to be the most “untouchable” person on campus, has become a familiar face to me; upon our first meeting, he generously provided a quote for my very first story with The Index and happily snapped a selfie with me – a selfie I treasure, which proudly hangs on the door to my room.

Ultimately, it was really the people that made K feel like home so quickly. The school touts its academic renown, and rightfully so – two quarters in, I have yet to dislike a class or the professor that teaches it. But above all else, I have met individuals at K with whom I have connected with in ways that have truly changed me as a human being. Some of these people are unlike anyone I have ever met, while others have managed to make me feel as if I have known them my whole life. And for that, there are no words to describe the depth of my gratitude.

– Addie Dancer ’20