PERC up: research papers aren’t so bad with help from library

Michelle Poje

For many students, the library can be an intimidating place. With its 12 floors of resources and well-known status as the tallest building in Portage County, finding the right book or article for a research paper may feel, at times, like trying to find a typo in a 20-page term paper.

And that’s where PERC comes in.

PERC, which stands for Personalized Research Consultation, is a program offered through the library that teams students and librarians together for hour-long research sessions. Aimed mainly at undergraduates and incoming freshmen, the program was created to teach students how to find information for papers or projects.

“Our goal is to help students who are unsure of how to get started,” said Tom Warren, manager of Reference Services. “We also want to help break down the fear and initial shock of having to do research, search through the catalog and navigate around the library alone.”

Students having difficulty finding information for an assignment can schedule an appointment over the phone or in person through Reference Services. The librarian will ask students basic questions about what information they are looking for and an appointment will be scheduled, usually for the following day.

On the day of the meeting, the assigned librarian will then show the student how to find information through the Internet, the card catalog or other services offered in the library. The librarian may also provide the student with information they have gathered themselves.

“We help the students to generate articles for their research and learn how to look for them, but we try not to make decisions for them,” Warren said. “We feel it is their paper and they should decide what they can and cannot use.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, students are encouraged to keep contact with the librarian through e-mail. The librarian may also continue to look for information for the student and pass it along.

Sophomore exploratory major Colin Moriarty said he feels the program is a good idea.

“I started out at the Stark campus and was used to doing research at their small library, so there was definitely a difference when I transferred here,” Moriarty said. “It’s sometimes hard to know where to begin or where to look.”

Warren said the program has grown since it was first implemented Fall 2001. The number of students attending PERC sessions has since grown from 100 to 250 per semester.

“It may not seem like a lot, but it’s actually a major growth in students looking for assistance,” Warren said.

Warren said the busiest weeks for PERC sessions are the fifth and sixth weeks of school, with spring semester usually being busier than fall. During these weeks, Warren said students should call to make their appointments several days in advance.

He also said PERC sessions are geared more toward undergraduate students who are not doing intensive research in a particular area of study.

“We do have subject specialists here that can help students who are studying a topic more in-depth, but PERC is more about introducing students to basic library research,” Warren said.

PERC sessions are offered during the fall and spring semesters, but students who are taking classes in the summer can find research help by calling Reference Services.

Contact student affairs reporter Michelle Poje at [email protected].