Behind the Scenes: The Innovative Student Projects Transforming the Journalism Reading Room

The Journalism Reading Room is a book-lined, plant-bearing study space on the second floor of Vilas Hall. J-Schoolers cycle through every day for some quiet study time or to pick up equipment for various projects. 

For the first time this fall, Michelle Foster, Project Assistant Librarian, decided to have each of her four student employees choose a project to work on throughout the semester.

“The projects are meant to help increase engagement with the JRR and to give the student circulation assistants more experience leading and working on projects that they’re interested in,” Foster said. 

The students had complete freedom to pursue whatever kind of project they wanted. So where did the students take this assignment? 

Bridget Berens

Bridget Berens is a senior in the J-School studying journalism and strategic communications.

 What is your student project?

I am creating Instagram reels for the JRR this semester. These are just fun little videos Kendra Hill and I filmed for the @UW_JRR Instagram page that promotes the space for students. I enjoy making the reels as a way to introduce the JRR to students who may not know it’s there. And for the people who do come in frequently, now you have a chance to meet the staff and get to know us a little bit better. It’s a fun way for the students to get to know the space and what the JRR has to offer. 

What benefits did doing this project provide? 

This project is a fun way to work with social media marketing for a UW Brand. I have had a lot of fun looking up different trends and trying to find out how they apply to the JRR. 

Ben Murphy

Ben Murphy is a UW senior studying economics with a certificate in criminal justice. He hopes to go to law school in the future and has been with the JRR for a year and a half.

What is your student project?

For my student project, I decided to put together a display of a few of the notable alumni of UW–Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication that I found to have the most interesting careers through my research. The display consisted of a small poster introducing the project along with photos and biographies detailing the careers of six graduates of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Each alumni biography was accompanied by a few books authored by the alumni that were available in the UW library system. Many of the alumni featured graduated from UW–Madison in the late 1900’s but there were graduates from throughout the 1900’s featured who reported on a range of fields. The project was displayed on the shelving in the middle of the JRR visible upon entry. 

I decided to do this project because I knew I would be able to learn a lot about some very interesting people and that these people would all likely have focused their journalism on different areas, people, and places. For this reason I thought it would be a very interesting display.

What benefits did doing this project provide? 

I was given a lot of freedom in creating this project, which provided me with the opportunity to grow. For most tasks in my education and jobs thus far, I have been given guidelines to follow to reach a specific end product when working on a project. For this project, it was up to me to create something that people would feel added value to the JRR which was a new process for me.