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The LibRAT Program: Peer Reference and Basic IL Instruction

LibRATs Active in Their Own Training

Earlier generation LibRATs contribute to training sessions by pairing off with next generation LibRATs and practicing on CHAT and teaming up to find items in the library treasure hunts.  Next generation LibRATS also shadow at the desk two hours per week for nearly an entire quarter before flying solo. We also have one-on-one "coaching" sessions for instruction.

COVID, Online Documentation, and the Use of One-Take Zoom Videos

The COVID closure (followed 18 months later by the renovation closure) precipitated a shift of documentation and training to online, digital formats.  The "Desk" documentation migrated onto a libguide, and the reference coordinator created a series of one-take videos to cover traditional and emergent reference topics.   Our full response - which has led to many permanent improvements - is detailed in the article below.

Initial Training

The training format changes according to the number of LibRATs needing training, but the content remains consistent.  Initial sessions covered basics such as:

  • Safety
  • Confidentiality
  • The Reference Interview
  • Information about the Library/ Library Services
  • Catalogs
  • Databases
  • Advanced Google Searching
  • Chat Reference
  • Steps of Research  

          We did not expect all this information to stick at once but felt it should be introduced. During their first quarter of employment, they attended a series of one-hour subject specialty sessions provided by the College Librarians. With the addition of Instruction to their docket, training for teaching was also added. For more information, see the "Teaching" tab. In addition, during their initial training quarter, the new LibRATs shadow at the Research Help Desk for two hours per week. At the beginning of every Fall Quarter, all LibRATS participate in two 3-hour refreshers. Treasure hunts in all of the training are particularly helpful and useful. I deliberately found the kinds of items that typically cause trouble for students so the LibRATs could trip over the stumbling blocks themselves - things such as Oversize Books, Gov Docs, etc... The treasure hunts are, moreover, quite popular with the LibRATs, and we have begun incorporating a single-item treasure hunt in all the GE instruction sessions that we lead.  

          In developing training materials for the LibRATs we also developed a simplified database list, called "Database CheatSheet" which they found so helpful that it is now incorporated on our Library Website as "Most Useful Databases List".  Several of the LibRATs developed a procedure manual for the Research Help Desk, as well as some sheets designed to assist in finding basic information. Two of the LibRATs also helped cull questions from chat and desk reference transactions to create a "Basic Proficiency Test" that they all had to fill out during the first month of the Fall Quarter. A compilation of this document, including a version of the proficiency test, with answers, was posted later as a word document called "If you Get Stuck" so that it can be searched with the "Find" function. This is available as pdf in the column on left. At the end of each quarter, the LibRATs provide written evaluations about what works, what doesn't, and what can be improved. Their input is invaluable in continuing to shape the program and improve our services.

Helpful Training Documents

The first document above is a compilation of policies, help sheets developed by the LibRATs, and 40-odd questions that we developed over the summer based on actual questions received and answered (or, oops, not) during the previous year.