The graduate student experience poses an interesting challenge in connection with the Library, not unlike that of distance learners (some of whom may overlap). As many graduate students work full or part time, are engaged in internships, or take classes mainly in the evening, they are not physically present on campus as often or as long as undergraduates. As a result, they have the potential to feel on the fringes of the college community. This problem is certainly not unique to John Jay or CUNY, and a fair amount of research has been published about the specific needs of graduate students nationwide. The Office of Graduate Studies has made significant strides in the hopes of bridging this inevitable gap, including a monthly social hour for fellow students and faculty and a robust series of workshops offered in early evenings. Each semester this workshop program includes at least two library sessions covering topics such as library database searching.
There is an unfortunate perception that graduate students don’t need assistance with using the Library, but this is far from the case. Not only are many students returning to school after many years away (some before research was mostly conducted online as it is now), but a basic level of library research skills in graduate students is assumed and expected. Graduate students who feel deficient in this area generally must take the initiative to self-educate. The more insidious problem is not recognizing the need for strengthening research skills and therefore not being aware of resources the Library offers.
The Office of Graduate Studies and the Library continually try to find ways to navigate the perennial task of effectively communicating with and attracting students to programs and to take advantage of resources. In addition to the workshops mentioned above and representation at Fall and Spring orientations, as the Graduate Studies Librarian, I have participated for the past two years in the Professional Development Fair organized by the Masters Student Research Group, and this Spring, I am piloting a “walk-in research clinic” for graduate students, offered at six strategic points throughout the semester. Thus far, the clinics have been visited by a few students who have appreciated the one-on-one attention, and we hope more will attend as time goes on. The Library offers an online Research Guide devoted to Graduate Students. This is a targeted way for graduate students to utilize the library’s wealth of online resources. Since these students are often unable to visit the Library in person, and because so much of today’s academic source material is available electronically, the Library can serve as the ideal partner in their graduate education. I am always happy to meet individually with students seeking help with their research, to visit classes, and to serve as an embedded librarian. Any graduate students or faculty should feel free to contact me with questions or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.