The SPARK to your flame!


Photographs courtesy of Claire Starling


Brookens Library is an extremely valuable resource for UIS students. It provides a quiet, comfortable environment for students to study both independently and collectively; access to both physical and digital content to expand one’s knowledge; and research help through a team of expert librarians. Despite this great resource, many students are still unaware of how to utilize Brookens in terms of research help. All the necessary elements are available but students aren’t taking advantage of them.

Perhaps SPARK is the solution to this problem. SPARK, known as Students Promoting Academic Research Knowledge, is a new student-led initiative put forth by Brookens in order to create an easier environment for students to receive research help. SPARK seeks to offer help with research to students who may not feel comfortable in a library setting. Often there is both a gap in age and knowledge between the student and the librarian, so it can feel a bit intimidating asking for help. SPARK is composed of five UIS students/Brookens employees who act as a bridge between librarians and students by providing a one-on-one experience with a trained peer. This often results in more student participation overall and helps students to utilize the library’s resources more efficiently.

The idea to create SPARK began last spring with the team itself taking shape over the summer. During this time, SPARK initiated training with research practices and how to help students learn and adopt them easily. Training is important for the team in order to help interact with students successfully and offer guidance concerning bad habits that may be present in the student’s research process currently. This project is quite the undertaking and the team is essentially creating SPARK from the ground up with assistance from Brookens librarians John Laubersheimer and Sally LaJoie. They are all working hard on refining the team and continuing to improve it as time goes on, through both team experiences and student feedback.

One of the most intriguing aspects of SPARK is the fact that it is a fresh take on the idea of the reference desk. Reference desks are often static and, as of late, being reconsidered in libraries for the time and manpower they take up despite offering little productivity. UIS halted their reference desk services over two years ago and now are focusing on highlighting a peer-based reference model with limited faculty hours. With this change, Brookens can hope to see a better use of their time and services for students. These services will be available at Brookens 12 to 5 p.m. on Sundays, 12 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with librarians, and from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the Student Union with the SPARK team and the Learning Hub peer tutors.

SPARK also hosts a variety of fun events for students to help gain information about Brookens and research in general, offering food and activities, plus a variety of digital content. Students should be on the lookout for weekly blog posts available on the library home page under the what’s new tab featuring How to Tuesdays, videos on the Brookens YouTube channel and Flashback Fridays including photos from the library’s archive system.

Want to make sure this semester is a successful one? Come to Brookens and work with the SPARK team!