Like many academic libraries, the University of Dayton’s Roesch Library houses a writing center. Currently located on the Library’s 2nd floor, it will soon move and become integrated with the library’s reference service. Since the writing center operates independently from the library (e.g., it is staffed by students and reports to different campus administrators), the library reference team, comprised of tenure-line faculty librarians, wanted to better understand writing center services. Given that research and writing are often intertwined, the library was particularly interested in learning how the writing center addressed the evaluation, integration and attribution of sources, tasks similar to the work of reference librarians. A deeper understanding would assist in properly integrating both services. To do this, we performed an assessment of the writing center’s consultation reports.
We analyzed reports from the Fall Semester, which is the writing center’s busiest time. Approximately 1,200 writing center consultant transaction reports, representing 80% of all consultations, were collected over a fourteen week period. Each report was transcribed, coded and tabulated for further analysis. Coded elements include student demographics, course information, date, time, session length, and session topics as identified by the consultants. Any extra consultant comments were transcribed and included in the assessment.
An initial analysis of the first six weeks primarily focused on client demographics and time spent with the consultants. We discovered that the majority of writing center clients were first year students seeking writing help with their general education courses. One unexpected result was the discovery that international students used the writing center in disproportionate numbers, with the graduate student category comprised almost entirely of international students. We will next be looking at the data to discern how the writing center consultants assist their peers with incorporating and documenting sources. Based on early findings, we changed our training component with the writing center consultants. What was once an informational session about library services became a hands-on session where the consultants articulated standards for referral to the reference desk. Throughout this process, the research team coordinator and the writing center coordinator are meeting regularly to discuss issues of common concern. Although not a direct outcome of the data analysis, performing the assessment has provided a common thread between the two units and facilitated greater communication and understanding.
This study offers a more sophisticated understanding of the clients and tasks performed by writing centers. It informs how we work with the writing center student employees and examines the points of intersection between the two units. The baseline data will be useful in navigating shared tasks and delineating areas of expertise. With the growth of information commons and other efforts to combine and align student support services, this study provides insight about the related work of our cross-unit peers, and offers lessons learned for other libraries with similar writing center arrangements.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/heidi_gauder/3/