Keep Calm and Book a Librarian

Book a Librarian program offers a one-on-one session with a librarian to help with the research process

Chandler Cooper, Content Editor

It’s 3:00 a.m. and the internet is no longer your friend. The amount of cat memes seem to outweigh the number of scholarly articles related to your research topic, and the midnight oil is burning low.

Research can be a college student’s greatest learning experience and worst nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be the latter. The Book a Librarian program helps students with any and all information needs — that includes the often dreaded word on campus, “research.”

Although students are always available to go to the library to ask for help, booking a librarian ensures a dedicated, uninterrupted one-on-one session with a librarian.

Courtney Block, instruction, reference and user engagement librarian, created the Book a Librarian program in 2016 after researching other libraries with similar ideology.

Since its launch, the program has had approximately 102 sessions. Anybody on campus and those within the surrounding community can use these services as well. That includes graduate students, professors and faculty members.

What Can Book a Librarian Help With?

Booking a librarian can help individuals with the following:


  • Starting the research process
  • Brainstorming keyword searches and different ways to frame a research question
  • Finding scholarly, up-to-date sources
  • Overcoming research-related challenges
  • Learning how to use library resources
  • Answering specific questions about the research process itself

How Sessions Work

The session is a learning experience with the primary goal to teach students how to build upon their research skills.

Sometimes these skills take time to develop, and that’s why Book a Librarian sessions are not limited by time.

“I’ve met with students before and the session takes 20 minutes and I’ve met with students before, and we’ve sat and done research for two to two and a half hours,” Block said.

There are no limitations on how many times a student can Book a Librarian.

Signing up for a Session

Scheduling a session for the Book a Librarian program is an informal process intended to fit around the student’s schedule. Students will be asked for their availability, and librarians will work around the student’s schedule to ensure their needs are met.

“If there’s somebody out there who can’t meet in the traditional 9-5 work schedule … or they sent me a request because they really need immediate help, I’m just going to make it work,” Block said.

Students may sign up online, by calling the library or by walking up to the library’s reference desk and asking to schedule a Book a Librarian session.

When signing up online, the library will respond within 24 hours on weekdays and 48 hours on weekends.

Preparing for a Session

If students are working on an assignment, it’s beneficial for them to bring instructions or a rubric to their session so the librarian can understand the requirements of the assignment. That is the only physical item needed to prepare for a session. The rest is all about having an open mindset.

Block said it’s important for students to feel comfortable and understand that there are no right or wrong answers during a session.

“That’s really damaging to the research process when somebody has [a negative] mindset because then they’re just going to get discouraged, feel overwhelmed and just give up,” Block said.

Photo by Meleena Richardson

Block said she loves when students see her struggle because it shows that even skilled researchers experience difficulties sometimes and that research doesn’t always come easy.

Impact on Campus

Deborah Finkel, professor of psychology and former director of the MIS program, required her graduate students to Book a Librarian for two of her graduate level courses.

Finkel said her reasoning behind this is so graduate students could familiarize themselves with the IU Southeast library. Another reason is so graduate students who have been out of school for a while can learn all the new utilities available for searching resources.

“Librarians are the ultimate detectives when it comes to finding the sources students need for their projects and papers – why not use that freely available resource as often as possible?” Finkel said.

Finkel said Book a Librarian is a fantastic source for students at IU Southeast.

“Among the primary purposes of a college degree is to learn how to find, sort, interpret, analyze and summarize information,” Finkel said. “They are skills that will serve you well in any job anywhere.”

Rebekah Dement Farmer, honors program activities coordinator and adjunct faculty member, is an advocate for the Book a Librarian program and promotes it on her Canvas home page for her honors and first year seminar classes.

Farmer said research almost always requires a combination of materials.

We’ve become so accustomed to Google or Siri providing an instant answer to a question that it seems awkward to consult multiple sources in order to fully answer a single research question,” Farmer said. “The Book a Librarian service helps students to combat this tendency and dig more deeply into the materials available.”