Experiential Learning within the Campus Community

Jennifer Campbell-Meier (UBC)



In previous years, students in LIBR 530 Subject-Based Reference at the University of British Columbia's School of Library, Archival and Information Science (SLAIS) had assisted campus librarians with a drop-in reference service provided on campus.


In an attempt to revitalize that project, LIS faculty, English faculty and librarians worked together to identify other possible areas to continue the project. Rather than wait for random students to "drop-in", the LIS students provided a "reference desk experience" for the ENG 112 students, who were writing a final essay in response to topics covered in course readings. March – April 2007, 16 students in LIBR 530 provided the reference services which were open to 70 students in two sections of ENG 112. The LIS students were able to work within the campus community to share their knowledge and understanding of database searching with the English composition students by identifying search strategies, keywords, and controlled vocabulary and, in some instances, helping to narrow down topics, engaging first year students (freshman) in an experiential learning activity.


The LIS students were able to hone their reference skills while the first year students were able to interact with a "librarian" and apply the skills taught in an option information session. Following the research of Nahl, Coder, Black, and Smith (1994), this project identified partnership opportunities that allowed LIS students to develop skills by providing research and reference services. In addition, the research extends Riddle's (2000) models of "Engaged Library Instruction" by allowing LIS students to provide information literacy instruction, linking theoretical knowledge about reference services with their provision.


Students from both departments were given surveys containing closed and open-ended questions and took surveys prior to the experience to assess library experience. The English students were asked about previous library experience as a patron while the LIS students were asked about their library work experience.


At the end of course, all of the students were asked to reflect on the experience, their perceptions of the activity and how it could be improved. This paper identifies the perceived benefits of the project to LIS and first year students and areas of improvement.