Connecticut College Libraries is pleased to announce the launch of an annual award dedicated to recognizing excellence in the undergraduate research process. While it is becoming more common today for academic libraries to offer an annual research award, a preliminary review of Oberlin Group library websites indicates that Connecticut College Libraries would be only the 11th of our 80 peer institutions to offer such a prize.
Why aren’t there more prizes at Oberlin Group libraries? This may be because it is a more common practice among research universities – our own efforts at creating the Connecticut College Prize for Undergraduate Library Research were based on previous work undertaken at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Temple University. Other recent prizes of note could include those at Brown University or Tufts University, or the one established this year at University of Toronto Libraries. If there is a dearth of library research awards at smaller colleges, could it have something to do with the hands-on approach to academic work undertaken at these institutions? What if it stems from a sense of ambivalence about the role of library research in the digital age?
Questions like these have called our attention to the potential benefits of offering an annual award. The Connecticut College Prize for Undergraduate Library Research would play an important role among other awards offered at the College, because it focuses on the research process more than on the final product, and because it is open to all currently enrolled undergraduate students who have done research in some form for a credit course. When we looked at other awards at the College, we noticed that a good number are focused within departments or applicable only to a certain type of student doing a specific kind of work.
The research in question for the library prize can be a traditional paper, but it could also be some other form of work for a class, including (but not limited to) a video, a presentation, or an artistic project. It is not hard to imagine the brush strokes of a painting being informed by creative or painstaking research. However, work created for honors projects is ineligible for this prize. For more information about the honors award, see The Oakes and Louise Ames Prize.
By offering an annual prize, the library aims to foster appreciation for outstanding student research at Connecticut College. Citations and research statements for all winners and finalists will appear in the Digital Commons – Connecticut College’s Institutional Repository. Along the way, we hope this new form of recognition will help demystify the importance of libraries for student research. This includes encouraging the use of library resources and collections, as well as enhancing the development of library research techniques.
The library’s commitment to scholarship will be reiterated formally each year by recognizing student work that demonstrates rigorous, innovative, and/or unique approaches to engaging with library collections and resources.