Library and Academic Technology introduces new peer-resource research program

By Jordan Fairchild

Elm Staff Writer

The Washington College Office of Library and Academic Technology is adding a new program to its resources: the Peer Information Consultants Program, also known as the PIC Program.

PIC employs students at the Help Desk and the Clifton M. Miller Library where they consult with their peers on academic resources, research, and other essential skills for college success. 

According to the Dean of Library and Academic Technology Mary Alice Ball, consultations are led by students because it is less intimidating for students to ask questions of their peers. 

Other peer education programs such as the Quantitative Skills Center and Office of Academic Skills already exist at the College, but the PIC Program is unique because its primary focus is research, information-seeking skills, and technology skills. 

While this program is available for all students to use as a resource, the inspiration behind the PIC Program came from students who are historically underserved in the campus community, such as first-generation college students, students from various socio-economic backgrounds, and “other affinitive peer groups,” according to an Aug. 26 email from Dean Ball. 

Dean Ball said that one of the key concerns the PIC Program addresses is the barriers which those underserved students face regarding access to technology and library resources. 

The PIC Program will make receiving assistance easier for all students, according to Dean Ball, making LAT more inclusive and fostering healthy relationships between peers who can aid in each other’s successes throughout college and beyond. 

PIC consultants will serve as a “safety net,” according to Dean Ball. This means that students can rely on their trained peers for guidance while navigating college learning. 

“[Students] that come from backgrounds that had more challenges… had to work harder to achieve academic access,” Dean Ball said. “I think it is great if we can offer them an opportunity to develop a sense of expertise and pride that they can then pass on and share with other people.”

The opportunities for students to pursue new knowledge and learn life skills makes the PIC Program mutually beneficial for those students who are employed by and serviced by the program, according to Dean Ball.

As the PIC Program is a pilot initiative at the College, one might not understand the impact that it has on campus as of now. However, Alexandra Rivera, advisor for the 35-year-old PIC Program at the University of Michigan and former co-worker of Dean Ball, gave some insight into how the PIC Program benefited the students at the University of Michigan. 

Rivera said students working for and using the PIC Program at the University of Michigan are “grounded in the research practice,” something which she feels is essential to being marketable in post-graduate endeavors. 

Dean Ball also touched on this idea, saying that “anybody coming out of the PIC Program will be more marketable when it comes to getting a job… and applying to graduate programs.” 

Rivera said her PIC consultants have embarked on many career paths, such as dentists, urban planners, lawyers, and librarians.

“When you are able to see that you are doing something positive for yourself and others, it just really brings an incredible amount of energy and synergy and growth to the program and all of those involved,” Rivera said.

To access the resources provided by the PIC Program, students can go to the LAT webpage under “Library and Archives” and use the “Chat Now” icon or the “Ask a Librarian” link. Both will be managed by PIC consultants during the allotted times of service. 

For requests to the Help Desk, students can still email helpdesk@washcoll.edu

Students interested in becoming a peer consultant can find the jobs posted on JobX. There are two levels of employment; Level 1 consultant positions are for students who have no background in peer consulting, and Level 2 positions are for students who previously worked in LAT. 

Both positions qualify for Federal Work-Study (FWS).

Featured Photo caption: The Clifton M. Miller Library houses many of the campus’ research resources, including the librarians themselves. The Office of Library and Academic Technology wants to make those resources more accessible to underrepresented and underserved students by establishing a peer-led research and technology assistance resource, the Peer Information Consultants Program. Photo by Mark Cooley.

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