Libraries' Search Bar offers peer-to-peer support services in one location

Jennifer Cifelli
October 10, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students seeking assistance with writing, technology or research services for class assignments or papers now have a one-stop option for services at Pattee Library.

The Search Bar, a drop-in collaborative support center staffed entirely by technology tutors, writing tutors and peer research consultants, offers both valuable expertise to students working on projects and writing assignments, and educational learning opportunities for staff. Located in Sidewater Commons, on the first floor of Pattee Library, the Glass-enclosed workspace offers peer-to-peer services as part of a collaboration between the University Libraries, Penn State Learning, and Penn State Student Technology Services.

Students from all three units are trained to provide technology, writing and library research consultation services to assist their peers toward academic success by helping students conduct and use library research and information sources, help students express themselves clearly in the writing process, and provide help with course assignments requiring technology. Students often seek assistance from more than one consultant in a visit, which is easily accommodated by the Search Bar.

“It’s a great place for students to visit when working on papers and assignments,” said Jackie Zoppo, a research consultant and graduate student studying special education. “Reading a call number takes practice and locating books and research materials on your own can be stressful. For new students, especially, learning how to do so can be less stressful from a peer.”   

A low-pressure environment is just one reason that the peer-to-peer consulting model is widely considered the gold standard in writing center studies conducted over the past two decades, said Karen-Elizabeth Moroski, co-curricular program coordinator for writing and language communities at Penn State Learning.

According to Moroski, the writing tutors she oversees in the Search Bar regularly comment on the benefits they receive from tutoring, telling her that they appreciate the differing opinions, interests and needs of students they work with from a variety of majors and fields of study. This added benefit, said Moroski, gives students a glimpse of how those differences in coursework are tied to how they communicate and see the world.

“Peer-to-peer services facilitate meetings between people who are learning and doing different things in the world, who may not have had any reason to communicate otherwise,” said Moroski. “Not to mention that students are far more likely to be honest and clear about their needs to a peer when asking for help.”  

Zoppo agrees that working as a consultant has been beneficial to her own growth as a student.

“I work with ESL (English as a Second Language) students, and assisting them has really helped me with my instructional methods courses by finding creative ways to bridge the language barriers that working with them can present,” she said.  

Students who wish to utilize the Search Bar’s suite of services may do so when Penn State classes are in session during the fall and spring semesters during the following hours in Sidewater Commons, located on the first floor of central Pattee Library:

  • Sunday: 2 to 10 p.m. 
  • Monday through Thursday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 
  • Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Helping students with the resources they need, especially if we can help with more than they anticipated, is my favorite part of peer tutoring,” said Zoppo. “You can tell when you’ve been useful and the student is satisfied — and that feels really good!”

For more information about the Search Bar, or for questions about accommodations or the physical access provided, contact Claire Salvati at 814-865-0673 or kug509@psu.edu; Paul Burnell at 814-865-2314 or pcb15@psu.edu; or send an email to ul-kc-search-bar@lists.psu.edu in advance of your visit.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 10, 2018