It’s not unusual for college students to struggle with college life during the course of an academic year, but the stress experienced at the end of the semester is in a category of its own. The extra pressure associated with wrapping up a semester makes it a particularly high-stress time for many students: assignments and papers need to be completed, finals studied for and preparations made for heading home. Or, for some, it means facing the reality that they cannot travel home due to lack of time or funds.
Supporting our students during this critical time is a collective effort at the Illinois Institute of Technology that involves faculty, staff, and university administration.
The Programming Outreach Engagement and Marketing (POEM) Committee at Illinois Tech’s Paul V. Galvin Library continually seeks new and innovative ways to participate in this effort and support students beyond providing research assistance and study space. Traditionally the library has offered activities such as therapy dogs (Pet a Pup), the Wall of Encouragement, games, crafts, and library-funded coffee breaks. While these popular activities are still offered, POEM wanted to try something new this semester.
The committee decided to partner with departments from across campus to provide services to students in one central location. The fact that Galvin Library is open 24 hours for 12 straight days during Study and Finals Weeks made it the perfect spot for these collaborations.
Tutors’ Row was one of the new initiatives implemented for Study and Finals Weeks this fall. POEM reserved a row of tables on the upper level of the library for peer tutors from the Academic Resource Center (ARC) and instructors from the Writing Center. The ARC tutors offered one-on-one tutoring in subjects such as chemistry, math, and physics. Tutoring services are always provided free of charge. The Writing Center instructors also offered one-on-one tutoring for undergraduate and graduate students. They assisted students with written and oral assignments lending their expertise on everything from outlining to final touches on a paper. Because both organizations offered drop-in tutoring services, students studying in Galvin Library were able to seek help in their moment of need.
The Wellness Lounge
For two weeks the library’s art gallery transformed into The Wellness Lounge, a quiet space offering aromatherapy, coloring sheets, fidget toys, papercraft, and puzzles. During Study Week instructors from Recreational Sports & Fitness (RSF) held drop-in yoga classes in the Lounge, even loaning students yoga mats and exercise balls for these sessions. RSF also sent Talon, Illinois Tech’s mascot, over to walk through Galvin Library and distribute flyers and candy and take selfies with the students.
Another Study Week collaboration held in the Lounge involved staff from Student Health & Wellness leading students through relaxation sessions. These sessions included breathing techniques, guided visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation.
POEM members designed flyers, wrote social media posts, and created a LibGuide to promote all of these activities. Promotional flyers were shared in Galvin Library, partner departments, residence halls, and academic buildings and were tagged with the line “Sponsored in collaboration with…” This cross-promotion not only helped raise the visibility of both the library and the partner department but sent the signal that we were working together to help students through this stressful time.
Assessment is an important part of any programming and POEM utilized a variety of methods to assess the Study and Finals Weeks activities. Quantitative methods used included the posting of a survey on the library’s social media platforms, calculating the number of views of the Finals Week LibGuide, tracking attendance at yoga and meditation sessions as well as tallying the number of tutoring sessions conducted. Librarians also collected verbal feedback from students during the Pet a Pup sessions.
Judging by student participation and feedback, many of them enjoyed POEM’s efforts during Study and Finals Weeks this fall. POEM Committee members have already started discussing future collaborations with our campus partners for Spring 2023 Study and Finals Weeks.
Today's guest blog post is by Nichole Novak, Head of Reference and Instruction Services, Illinois Institute of Technology Paul V. Galvin Library, Chicago, Illinois