“Compassionate Consults: The Art of Human-centered Research Consultations with Online Adult Learners” (Standard)

Tuesday, June 8, 11am EDT

Sarah B. Stevenson (Vanderbilt University)

Today’s adult learners face pressures from all sides of life. They have school readings and projects, work responsibilities, families, pets, and homes to care for, and so much more. With the global COVID-19 pandemic, many new pressures were introduced into students’ lives with many working from home, supervising K-12 children learning at home, navigating relationships in a socially distanced world, and so much more. With all of these pressures it is not surprising that students arrive at research consultations looking for fast advice and quick fixes to their information needs so they can get to the next item on the to-do list. Often these consults are scheduled in between work Zoom meetings and feature pets walking across the screen and the sounds of children playing in the background. How do professional librarians respect and navigate this new vulnerable space? This session will introduce a framework for conducting compassionate consultations with students that will help them succeed wherever they are in their research journey.

Beyond the usual elements of a reference interview, there are some additional keys to success in conducting research consults with graduate students online. Setting clear expectations of what research consultations are for and how they will work is essential to success. Using your outreach programs, instruction sessions, and marketing efforts to ensure students know what to expect can improve the experience when they arrive for their consultation. This session will provide ideas of how to set expectations with students so that consultation conversations are an effective use of time for all.

During the consultation, compassionate listening and forming safe connections with students are also key. We can disarm their fears about research and asking for help by reminding them they are not alone and that we are their partner in the process. Respecting students’ privacy is important, so this session will discuss some ways to connect that invite students in while giving them space to participate and connect on their own terms.
Once you have established a connection, setting an intention together for the meeting will ensure you are on the same page about desired outcomes. Being responsive to the information needs presented, librarians can weave information literacy concepts into the interaction at points of relevancy and engage in deeper conversation when it will help the student to get to what they need. This session will discuss strategies for engaging in information literacy conversations at relevant times.

Research consultations with online adult students can be the start of a great relationship between the student and the library. When students leave a consult with their questions answered and a clear sense of where to go next, they will feel confident to engage in the research process and may even tell others about their experience!