A guest post from Tez Clark, a junior contentrating in philosophy from Tokyo, Japan, who lives in Adams. She is a Peer Research Fellow who helps students in the River Central (Adams, Lowell, Quincy) Neighborhood.
As the Library Peer Research Fellow (PRF) for the River Central neighborhood, I was delighted to play a part in making our new video for Harvard Library’s Peer Research Fellows (PRF) Program. The PRF Program, which was started two years ago, seeks to make Harvard’s extensive library collections, research tools, and expertise more accessible to undergraduates in their Houses, while also helping Harvard librarians keep their fingers on the pulse of undergraduate research habits.
Watching the video makes me reflect on my first weeks as a PRF. I had chosen to apply because I thought that it would be a good chance for me to hone my research skills, while also allowing me to become more involved in my House community. Indeed, my training as a PRF helped me cement my knowledge of the Harvard Library system, which I had been exposed to during my first-year expository writing course. However, my PRF training did more than that—I was trained in research skills that I had not been exposed to previously, and this helped me gain confidence in navigating the (sometimes confusing!) Harvard Library systems. Although I had been expected to know how to research as a college student, I had never before been given an opportunity to learn about the library research guides or the differences between various databases—let alone have an opportunity for learning about them in a one-on-one setting as I did with my mentor librarian, Ramona Islam.
This in-depth training has allowed me to transfer this knowledge base to my peers. By focusing on the Houses, which serve sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the PRF program seeks to build upon the foundation of library skills that are introduced in the first-year expository writing course, while also filling in any gaps that might remain. Part of this program includes active outreach efforts, such as weekly study breaks and monthly “Write Nights.” In addition to this, the program is unique, in that it works with students’ schedules. As a PRF, I’m available throughout the week, both in person and by email—especially outside of business hours, when many students do their work.
My role as a PRF feels like more than a job—I genuinely look forward to my meetings with Ramona each week, because of her support for my work, both as a PRF and as a student. When I was still a trainee, I was also mentored by Vegas Longlois, Adams House’s incumbent PRF. This type of support network is exactly what we hope to cultivate through the PRF program: a way for students to get assistance in a friendly and accessible way from their peers.
It’s hard to believe how much the program has grown already. Since I’ve joined, we’ve added two new PRFs, for a total of four, each working alongside their own Mentor Librarian. We’ve expanded from only two Houses during the pilot phase into all four undergraduate “neighborhoods,” thereby dramatically increasing the number of students who can access the expertise of PRFs. Through this video, I hope you can get a sense of the work PRFs do, and the excitement and dedication we bring to this program.
By Tez Clark.
Published on March 8, 2017.