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AOP Summer Library Research Academy, Milne Library: 2016 LIRT Innovation in Instruction Award Winning Program

An Introduction to the AOP Summer Library Research Academy

For more than a decade, librarians have collaborated with our campus Access Opportunity Program (AOP) staff to meet the needs of underrepresented students, preparing them for the rigors of a SUNY Geneseo education. AOP is a federally funded TRIO program designed to serve student populations that include minorities, first-generation college students, and individuals from low-income and/or rural communities—populations that have historically displayed lower enrollment, retainment, and attainment figures in comparison to “traditional” student populations. As demographics change and many of these underrepresented populations increasingly pursue a college degree, the already-pressing need to support their academic success has become even more important.

In just four short weeks, the AOP Summer Library Research Academy accomplishes a great deal that is vital to student success. The objectives of the program are:

  • Students will explore the library in order to discover available resources and services.  
  • Students will critically investigate research tools and their advanced search techniques in order to find the most useful resources for their research and assignments.
  • Students will determine how to evaluate sources in order to use them appropriately in their research and assignments.
  • Students will develop familiarity with diverse perspectives in order to contribute to the scholarly conversation at an appropriate level.
  • Students will utilize reference librarians and staff in order to help in their research needs.
  • Students will work with peers on a collaborative project.
  • Students present their findings and opinions to their peers and college staff/faculty.

To accomplish these objectives, Milne librarians are embedded in the AOP summer bridge program—a program designed to acclimate incoming freshmen to the rigors of a college education here at SUNY Geneseo. Working with course instructors to build relevant research experiences, we scaffold this process by starting with a library scavenger hunt, and by culminating with an academic poster session in which students present their research and newfound abilities to faculty and administrators from across the college. The students report that the poster session is a transformational learning experience for them. Below are the details needed to replicate the program at other colleges wishing to impact student learning for underserved college students.



Milne Librarians are embedded in a four-week summer course, and we collaborate with faculty to build on the prior knowledge of new college students. The entire library is involved as we provide students with structured individual and group opportunities to build skills and confidence in many areas; we include the integration of technologies into our instruction to improve students' information and digital literacy. The Academy culminates in a unique poster session during which the new college first-year students speak at length with faculty and administrators about their summer research.

Building Research, Writing, and Presentation Skills

Developing Study Habits, Coping Skills, and Social Engagement

A post-summer 2014 survey gave us much evidence that the students learned valuable lessons about academic work during their summer project. When talking to faculty during and after the poster session, their comments confirmed they were impressed by the students’ levels of achievement.

Assessment Results

Classroom Assessment (throughout the four weeks)

Program Assessment (throughout the academic year)

  • Collecting student data by logging user interactions with various library services (reference, library instruction, circulation, and use of interlibrary loan)
  • Working with our institutional research office to analyze the data. Our current statistics show that AOP students are more likely to become frequent users of library services compared to their undergraduate peers, suggesting that participation in the program has an impact on library usage.
  • Using methods similar to those outlined by Nackerud, Fransen, Peterson, and Mastel's 2013 study, we assess the potential impacts of our program on participating students, correlating use of library services with measures of student success (e.g., retention, grades, graduation rates).
  • Survey administered to students in Fall 2014, two months after completion of the summer program (see blue callouts on this page for quotes from the survey)

  • In the survey mentioned above, all 26 of the respondents stated that they felt more comfortable and more confident using the library’s resources after the summer program.
  • 24 students said they have used the skills learned during the summer in their classes (Fall 2014).
  • 13 reported that they had already consulted a librarian one month after the start of their academic career.

  • Feedback from librarians involved with the program reveal that they build long-lasting relationships with the students.


These librarians have taught and/or planned instruction sessions in Milne Library's AOP Summer Library Research Academy in the last few years: Sue Ann Brainard, Daniel Ross, Michelle Costello, Bonnie Swoger, Tracy Paradis, Kim Hoffman, Justina Elmore, and Sherry Larson-Rhodes.

We'd also like to thank the following individuals:  Interim Director Kate Pitcher and the rest of the staff of Milne Library; the staff of SUNY Geneseo's Access Opportunity Programs, especially Gabe Iturbides and former director Calvin Gantt for fostering collaboration with Milne librarians; Ronny Tsang and the other INTD 170 instructors; and the many Geneseo faculty members who come to the poster session every summer to welcome and engage with the Academy students.

Reproducibility and Cost


The presence of a similar summer bridge program for incoming TRIO students will most likely be the biggest determining factor as to whether or not a similar library instruction program can be implemented at your institution.

The current iteration of the AOP Summer Library Research Academy, designed and taught by librarians from the Milne Library, consists of one session per week over the course of four weeks, and is based around the following activities, competencies, and assignments:

  • A culminating academic presentation, allowing participating students to showcase their newly learned library research skills and knowledge to the campus community, engaging in meaningful academic discussion with faculty members and peers. In past years, these have taken the form of digital presentations, oral presentations, and most recently, academic poster sessions.

Additional sessions could be added as needed, or as granted by your institution's TRIO program. If your library cannot host four full library instruction sessions, our recommendation would be to coordinate with your institution's TRIO program in order to ensure that students' knowledge gained within library instruction sessions is being utilized in the broader summer program curriculum.

The assessment piece for this particular project is likely the most difficult part to replicate, as it took almost a year to implement. Now that it is in place, it can be used not just for our Summer Library Research Academy, but for library usage as a whole.


As with most projects, staff time is the most costly aspect of our summer library academy. The additional costs for our library include:

  • Prizes for each winning scavenger hunt team
  • Office supplies such as easels, poster boards, markers, etc.
  • Food and drink for the reception at the final poster presentations

Staff time and office supplies are the only necessary costs, however, and any additional costs can be added or subtracted at the discretion of the hosting library.

Milne Summer Research Academy Poster Session, 2015