From Trivia to Lit Reviews: Research Services 2018-2019

By Courtney Walsh and Vicky Ludas Orlofsky

As the librarians of the Library’s Research Services department, our primary role here at Stevens is to work with students, faculty and staff to provide research support. We also devote a lot of our time to planning and presenting a variety of workshops and special events throughout the year. While our colleagues in the Archives & Special Collections sponsor a number of events, which are often of interest to students as well as staff, faculty, alumni, and others, the events planned by the Research Services department, with occasional aid from our colleagues, tend to be more student-focused.


Library workshops give us the opportunity to present on topics of interest to the Stevens community. Most are accompanied by a research guide to provide perpetual access to the information and resources presented in the workshop. 

We, along with our colleague Romel Espinel, choose topics based on timeliness, departmental interest, and through collaboration with other administrative departments, such as our work to increase outreach to graduate and doctoral students with the Office of Graduate Student Affairs and the Center for Faculty Engagement and Advancement. As a result of these collaborations, the most popular Library workshops we presented this year were on subjects of interest to graduate students, including literature reviews and citation management tools. Sessions on data visualization, taught by Romel in both the fall and spring semesters, attracted a great mix of students and staff.

We also present workshops in collaboration with the Stevens Career Center’s Graduate Student Career Development team, to demonstrate the many ways in which the Library’s valuable resources can help graduate students with their career-related research. As an outgrowth of these popular presentations, we have developed a monthly workshop in the Library where students can come for further guidance.


Like our workshop schedule, our event schedule spans the academic year, from the annual Open House at the beginning of the fall semester to the last finals support of the year at the end of the spring semester. 

Some of our programs occur over the course of the academic year. We ask a new question every week during the fall and spring semesters on the “Question of the Week” whiteboard, which is very popular with students. Topics range from favorite local restaurants and advice for new students in September, languages spoken and interest in study abroad in November for International Education Month, favorite music in February, and inspirational messages for finals. The whiteboard also gives us a good opportunity to survey students as we annually do for Banned Books Week in late September to see what banned or challenged books students have read.

Banned Books survey, Question of the Week board, October 1, 2018.

Question of the Week board, February 11, 2019.

As April is National Poetry Month, our theme for that month is poetry. Last year we created a set of magnetic poetry using common engineering terms, and it is always interesting to see what students come up with.


National Poetry Month, Question of the Week board, April 2 and 3, 2019.

We also use the Research Desk whiteboard to promote upcoming workshops and events and display information on topics like voting and Stevens history. 

Voter support drive, Research Desk board, October 10, 2018.

Women’s History Month, Research Desk board, March 25, 2019.

Some of our events are perennial. Every November, as part of Stevens’ International Education Month program, we present International Games Day. On the last day of class in fall and spring semester, we set up stations in front of the Research Desk that stay up through the duration of the finals period for students to stop by and make use of activity sheets, games like chess and Scrabble, and a rotating selection of jigsaw puzzles. We will often come in on a morning to see that a puzzle was completed overnight. 

Fall finals activities, December 2018.

We are always on the lookout for interesting event ideas, such as Harry Potter Trivia, introduced here in spring 2018. The Trivia Committee - the two of us and our colleague and trivia buff Mary Ellen Valverde - have since presented Harry Potter Trivia for the second time in fall 2018 and Game of Thrones Trivia in spring 2019, to precede the debut of the eighth season of the show. Game of Thrones Trivia took place on March 27, 2019, to an audience of ten students and one librarian (Romel, a big fan of the show, joined team Ghost). All teams competed valiantly, but the clear winner was The Citadel, which took 71 of a potential 81 points, while runner-up Ghost came in second with 31. Winners and runners-up received themed figurines. As in 2018, we will be repeating the trivia event in the fall semester, but with new questions, which will, of course, encompass the most recent season of the show.

The Citadel, winners of Game of Thrones Trivia. 

Team Ghost, Game of Thrones Trivia runners-up.

By developing a diverse array of educational events and social activities for students, we seek to fulfill the Library’s mission of fostering an innovative environment with technology, education, and culture. We have enjoyed meeting the students who have attended our workshops and events this year, and we look forward to planning and presenting more educational, fun events in the coming year!