Swem research help made more available

Students at the College of William and Mary will soon be able to get research help without a trip to Swem Library.

The Swem library staff will offer a new service called “Swem on the Spot,” which will allow students access to research aid at a reference desk set up in the Sadler Center.

Library Instruction Coordinator Paul Showalter, Head of Reference Services Don Welsh and Reference Librarian Martha Higgins created the service as a way to help students, faculty and staff find research assistance conveniently and efficiently.

“The idea, which we’ve been talking about for many years, is that instead of us sitting at the reference desk waiting for students, we will go where the students are,” Coordinator of public relations and publications
Hope Yelich said. “It’s a way to get away from the traditional sitting at the reference desk.”

Showalter said the service will be similar to what students can find at the reference desk inside Swem, with a few adjustments.

“The main differences are that there won’t be office supplies for students to use at Swem on the Spot, and we might not know where the bathrooms are in order to direct you to them at the remote locations,” Showalter said. “But for real, live research help or for questions about the library, Swem on the Spot will be the equivalent of the reference desk in Swem.”

Yelich said the service could be expanded beyond research assistance if it is well-received by students.
Services could include account information regarding late fees and borrowed materials.

“It’s just an experiment for now, but eventually, people will hopefully appreciate us being there with a laptop to help them,” Yelich said.

According to a survey, 80 percent of students indicated they would like Swem on the Spot to be set up in the Sadler Center.

A majority of surveyed students also said they would most likely use the service during lunch hours on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Swem on the Spot will be available in the Sadler Center from 11:30a.m. – 1:30p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, but may expand to this and other locations.

“We’re definitely open to setting up shop, with permission, in the Campus Center, the Caf, the Daily Grind, and other locations, too,” Showalter said. “We’ll explore those options once we see how popular the service is during our pilot period this semester. I can foresee the service in an eventual rotation among several hot spots on campus.”

Yelich said she and others are working to spread the word to students about Swem on the Spot.

“It’s featured in ‘The Throne,’ and maybe we could make posters to put in the dorms, or advertise through Facebook,” Yelich said. “We want feedback from students, though.”

Showalter said Swem on the Spot will be staffed by librarians.

“For the most part, reference librarians, all with at least one graduate degree, will be staffing Swem on the Spot,” Showalter said.

Showalter hopes to eventually incorporate other library staff into Swem on the spot to answer questions about issues other than reference.

“We’re also thinking that it would be a good idea to have staff from the library’s Circulation Department as part of ‘Swem on the Spot’ in the early days of each semester,” Showalter said. “When folks might have more questions about their library accounts and checking out books and reserves than they would have about finding the best sources for a research paper.”


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