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Library Support for Adult Learners

A presentation from Penn State University Libraries entitled Library Support for Adult Learners was first offered as part of Nontraditional Student Week in November 2020. The short video — available via Zoom recording — was presented by Anne Behler, information literacy librarian & instruction coordinator at Penn State Library Learning Services, and reviewed some of the most important resources the Libraries offer to support adult learners, including Penn State World Campus students.

“We know our adult learners are busy, so they have many options to receive help how and when it works best for them,” Behler said.

We wanted to share some of the highlights from Behler’s presentation.

Virtual reference assistance services

Ask a Librarian offers real-time chat with a library employee. When chat is unavailable, there is always an email option. One especially helpful feature is the ability to get real-time personalized help. When a student requests an appointment, they will be connected directly with a librarian who specializes in their topic of research or who is assigned to the student’s campus. Some librarians offer direct appointment booking via other subject research guides, as well.

The Libraries staff is also very excited to be expanding their peer-to-peer research help services, which can be accessed best by clicking on the Ask a PSU Student button. This service — called The Search Bar — is based out of University Park but is available to students in any location using Zoom. This service is staffed by highly trained peer research consultants, writing tutors, and tech tutors. They can provide basic research assistance and can also make referrals to specialized research librarians when needed.

Scholarly publishing support and guidance

Students who need help with a more advanced level of research can get assistance from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright. They have expertise in areas such as open access and open publishing, copyright and fair use, and navigating publishing contracts. They offer informative webinars and workshops that are available on demand. The highly knowledgeable scholarly communications librarians — both of whom have J.D. degrees — are also an excellent source of guidance and information related to research. (They are unable to provide advice on legal matters, however.)

Online guides

The Libraries also offer many online guides on a wide variety of topics ranging from agriculture to languages, along with how-to guides with tips on using many common tools and resources. There is also consultation support for help with managing research citations.

HathiTrust Digital Library and emergency access

Many of the materials you may need for research were recently made available online, thanks to Penn State’s participation in the HathiTrust Digital Library. Several years ago, Penn State launched an initiative to digitize much of the Libraries’ print collection so these materials could be more widely available through both Google Books and the HathiTrust (subject to copyright laws). When many universities and libraries were forced to close last spring, HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) was quickly activated, giving Penn State students online access to roughly half of Penn State’s print collection. This access will remain available as long as the emergency designation is in effect.

Search for these and other materials using the FIND box on the University Libraries homepage.