ProQuest Creates A Q&A Community For Grad Students

Most academic libraries target their information literacy efforts to the undergraduate population. There may be an assumption that graduate students are well equipped to meet the demands of their research assignments. But I suspect that most of us know, at least anecdotally, that graduate students need just as much help, and possibly more, than the average undergraduate. But given staffing constraints it can be a real challenge to meet the needs of graduate students who may be struggling with research and navigating the library’s e-resources.

Though it’s not specifically geared to research, a potential source of help may be a new online community for graduate students call GradShare (in beta of course). According to an interview with a GradShare spokesperson that appeared in the Wired Campus blog “Gradshare will become a way for graduate students to use peer mentoring to get answers to questions that they’re either not comfortable asking their advisors or unable to ask their advisors.”

What I found interesting is that GradShare is a creation of ProQuest. Given their role in the dissertation publishing process, it would seem ProQuest has a strong connection with graduate students. There is no advertising in this community which is good because it wouldn’t feel right if there were ads for ProQuest products all over the place. There is also an institutional tie in. A college or university can join the network and then make available its resources for their students. So far about 20 IHEs are listed as members. Grad students can select their institution, get access to dissertation guidelines for example, or see a list of their library’s databases on a particular subject area. As you might expect, ProQuest databases are prominently featured.

GradShare strikes me as a potential channel for academic librarians to further extend their reach into our students’ social network spaces. If GradShare takes off and achieves popularity, given that it’s a Q&A service first and foremost, I would hope that ProQuest would offer librarians more opportunity to get involved. Why not have academic librarians answering grad students’ questions about research? Why not allow the grads to access the name of their library’s subject specialist for their discipline? Take a look at GradShare to get a sense of how our community may be offer value in that social space. These days we need to take advantage of any and all opportunities to connect with our students wherever they may be going for research advice and assistance.