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Reference Services Review


Purpose: This paper describes both the development of a peer research consultant program – using student assistants to staff the reference desk with minimal supervision while providing high quality research assistance to their undergraduate peers, and the steps taken to create buy-in for the program from campus and librarians.

Design / methodology / approach: The authors provide a description of peer reference services and describe how a remodel of the library building facilitated a redesign of services. The paper covers the process of developing program guidelines, securing funding, expectations of peer research consultants, the training process, and lessons learned from a medium-sized academic library.

Findings: The findings after the first year demonstrate that undergraduates are highly skilled at providing high-quality reference services when provided with quality training and support. In addition, undergraduate students are now seeking out peer researchers for assistance with research items such as topic formation, keyword development in databases and proper citations.

Originality / value: This paper draws on multiple iterations of peer reference models to create an original program, involving training student employees to provide reference services at a paraprofessional-level, as well as providing the methodology for other academic libraries to develop and launch a similar program.

Practical Applications: Well-trained Peer Research Consultants (PRCs) provide valued assistance to librarians in freshman composition classes, at the Ask Us reference desk, and to their peers. The program has allowed librarians to provide more outreach to their subject areas.

Social Implications: Students prefer going to their peers for research assistance rather than a professional librarian when given the choice. The training the PRCs are provided by librarians provides credibility and trust, which encourages undergraduate students to approach PRCs for assistance.





Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License