Senior Independent Study (I.S.) at The College of Wooster is a 2-semester project required of all seniors. Seniors are “awarded” a Tootsie Roll upon submission of their I.S.’s to the registrar’s office, which are due the day after Spring Break. That same evening, the seniors, along with a few brave faculty and administrators, join together in a parade around campus. Needless to say, I.S. is a BIG deal, a sort or “rite of passage” into the real world.
At many college and university campuses, libraries and other support services, such as writing centers and learning centers, have worked together for many years to support student success at their institutions. Their services often complement one another and can be even more effective when offered together, suggests Sheril Hook in her essay. For instance, writing center staff help students with structuring their writing, developing their thesis, integrating their sources, and documentation, while librarians typically help students with critically thinking through which databases to use, appropriate search strategies, choosing sources, and citation managers. If these support services were integrated through joint workshops and cross training of staff, the students would benefit by gaining a better understanding of the fluid nature of research and writing as a whole.1 In Elise Ferer’s thorough survey article describing numerous library and writing center collaborations, she states, “Much of the literature on partnerships…encourages any type of partnerships between writing centers and libraries because it can be beneficial to students, faculty, and staff and encourages those working in higher education to begin to collaborate with each other.”2 I have had occasional opportunities for such collaborations in the past, with both our writing center and learning center, and always believed our efforts benefited the students and/or teaching assistants.
Early September 2013, I received an email inviting me to join the learning center and writing center directors in offering a workshop series for seniors taking I.S. Of course I said yes, and “Operation Tootsie Roll” was launched. Operation Tootsie Roll involved a series of workshops to help the seniors on their I.S. projects throughout the process. During the September workshop, the learning center covered the importance of the students creating an “elevator speech” to communicate a basic overview of their projects to others, the writing center covered how to plot out project goals on a calendar and the importance of sticking to them, and the library encouraged the use of services such as our one-on-one research consultation service, organizing sources using Zotero or RefWorks, using interlibrary loan rather than paying for articles, and seeking help as the need arose. The librarians’ advice is summarized in an online LibGuide.
During the November workshop, the writing center shared useful strategies on overcoming writer’s block. The learning center emphasized using a calendar to plot out the remainder of the projects and recommended the students tell their families they must work on their projects over the break. The library reminded the group to renew their books before the break, suggested there’s still time to seek help from a librarian if they need it, and showed them where to find instructions on accessing library materials from off campus.
The February 2014 workshop was designed to offer encouragement and assistance to seniors, with pizza as the “carrot.” The learning center touched on time management/calendar work during the remaining days, suggestions on preparing for orals, and a few basics regarding I.S. submission in print/bound and electronic formats. The writing center gave advice about how to write abstracts for their I.S. projects, distributing a handout that prompted the students to consider abstracts they had seen in journals and to determine key words that would appeal to a general academic audience and enable them to be concise. They shared the writing center’s Spring Break hours, offering to assist students with their abstract writing. The library provided a handout describing a web page with instructions on formatting and submitting an I.S. online into the Libraries’ Open Works institutional repository. We all stayed for a while after our brief comments and helped those who desired assistance.
Overall, the workshop series was better attended than expected, which tells us we were on the right track. Perhaps Operation Tootsie Roll will become an annual series that we can tweak as needed. I truly appreciate my learning and writing center collaborators for inviting me to be a part of this well thought out initiative.
Collaboration between the library, writing center, and learning center has become much easier and almost expected in recent years since we are all now located in the same building. There have been other similar collaborations between the library, the writing center, and our instructional technology department, as well as between our APEX advising group (of which our learning center is a part) and the library. So, we see collaboration as an area of outreach we hope to continue to grow.
1Hook, Sheril. “Teaching Librarians and Writing Center Professionals in Collaboration: Complementary Practices.” In Centers for Learning: Writing Centers and Libraries in Collaboration, edited by James K. Elmborg, 21–41. Publications in Librarianship, no. 58. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2005.
2Ferer, Elise. “Working Together: Library and Writing Center Collaboration,” Reference Services Review 40, no. 4 (2012): 543-57, http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00907321211277350.
Julia Chance Gustafson
Research & Outreach Librarian at The College of Wooster