Being a Library Study Volunteer

This is a bespoke article written by Janet MacKay for the second edition of the printed Hoot magazine for students in secure environments.

The people who assist you when you make an OU Study Research Request are all volunteers, and your fellow students.

I first became aware of Library Study Volunteers (LSV) through an item on Student Home inviting applications for the role. At that point I had just finished my Level 1 modules with an End-of-Module Assessment (EMA) involving independent research and couldn’t imagine undertaking OU studies without access to Library facilities.  The LSV scheme seemed like a practical and imaginative way to address this issue within secure environments, and I was attracted to a role enabling me to support fellow-students while also developing my own research skills.

The system is based on volunteers self-selecting research requests from an online list; we then undertake the research and send a list of resources to be printed. Compulsory training covers data protection, copyright and searching strategies as well as the practicalities of the process. I was initially apprehensive about finding appropriate resources across different subject areas, but these fears were quickly eased. Volunteers have access to 24/7 Library support as well as advice from Students Association staff, and experience is shared with fellow-volunteers in a friendly online environment.

It is always helpful to get as much specific information as possible about the resources sought. Volunteers have no access to individual module content, and if a request simply asks for resources relevant to ‘TMA X’ or ‘Block Y themes’, we need to ask for further details. Sometimes it is not possible to find resources which exactly match the request, and in these cases we usually attempt to provide alternatives which are as close a match as possible to the original request.

As an Arts and Humanities student, I have taken on requests ranging from International Development to Environmental Science to Art History. I have, however, avoided Maths and Physics requests where I didn’t understand even the basic terminology used. Fortunately, there is a wide range of disciplines represented amongst the volunteers. As the system is anonymous, volunteers have no direct contact with the students making the requests, and I always hope that what I have provided is useful to the student.

I have now been a LSV for a year and I have really enjoyed the experience. Undertaking the role has definitely increased my research skills as well as providing a sense of satisfaction each time a request is successfully completed.  I have appreciated being part of the volunteer community, and I am glad that I have been able to contribute towards helping other students to achieve their goals.

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