Team profiles spotlight groups across Harvard Library. In this Q&A, we spoke with Laura Farwell Blake, Head of Services for Academic Programs.
Who they are: Services for Academic Programs (SAP)
What does the team do?
Services for Academic Programs staff work on the front lines of public service—staffing desks in Widener and Lamont libraries, providing virtual reference and chat, and managing Ask a Librarian questions, which come from around the world. Staff members meet with students and researchers one-on-one and teach courses and workshops for hundreds of students in Expository Writing, Freshman Seminars, and General Education courses, as well as departmental courses. We are library liaisons to many academic departments, supporting graduate students and faculty. We also work closely with campus partners including the Writing Program, the Bok Center, and the FAS Academic Technology Group. With partners from the College and library colleagues, we organize special tours and host showcases for events like Freshman and Junior Family Weekends and Visitas. We host weekly tours of Widener and events like our research clinics in Lamont that help undergraduates feel comfortable in our spaces. In addition to this, we connect with undergraduates in the Residential Houses through our Peer Research Fellows.
What’s one project you’re working on right now?
This spring, our group is excited to partner with Life Sciences 1B in order to provide instruction on the importance of citation and its role in the research process, not just for accurate documentation of sources, but as a tool for tracing intellectual conversations and assessing the impact of individual papers and journals. A team of 15 librarians from 8 libraries across 5 schools will be teaching in 27 sections this spring to introduce over 400 undergraduates to these concepts through PubMed and Zotero, as well as organizing office hours and drop-in research clinics to help the students with their research projects.
What is an accomplishment that the team is most proud of?
We are very proud of the Unabridged Master Class for Library Research. This week-long course each January brings together graduate students from all around FAS. We are proud to be team-teaching the sessions in collaboration with dozens of librarians, archivists and curators and other campus partners including the Bureau of Study Counsel and the Peabody Museum.
What is one big challenge your group is facing?
Undergraduates love Google, in part because they’re so familiar with it. That means they often miss out on the far superior research experience HOLLIS+ can provide, in an environment less biased by outside factors like advertising revenue and search engine optimization. One of our goals is for them to learn to be skillful consumers of information. Part of that work is teaching them to be smart searchers of library databases and to understand the relevance and value of the items they find. Sometimes the top page of Google results is just not the best foundation for their research.
How do you feel your team impacts the Harvard Library community?
We are a close-knit department with a strong sense of community and the importance of connecting. We work with colleagues across the library network and we love team-teaching as well as collaborative projects with subject specialists and colleagues in other libraries. We’re beginning to deepen our work with a network of library experts and to expand how we use Canvas to connect with courses, bringing the libraries and our community closer to our students.
Who's on the team?
- Anna Assogba, research librarian for Student Outreach
- Emily Bell, research librarian for Virtual Reference
- Laura Farwell Blake, head of Services for Academic Programs
- Colleen Bryant, library assistant
- Fred Burchsted, research librarian
- Mikel Burt, program administrator for Services for Academic Programs
- Geoff Carens, library assistant
- David Cort, library assistant
- Sue Gilroy, librarian for Undergraduate Programs for Writing
- Odile Harter, research librarian for pedagogy
- Ramona Islam, curricular design and research librarian
- Steve Kuehler, research librarian
- Cheryl LaGuardia, research librarian
- Reed Lowrie, manager, Reference and Information Services, Cabot, Lamont, and Widener Libraries, Virtual Reference Services/FAS Libraries
- Kathleen Sheehan, research librarian
- Anu Vedantham, director of Learning and Teaching Services
- Susan Gilman Yamada, research librarian for Anthropology