The LibRAT Program at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo was first piloted in 2010. Although the program has expanded in scope and depth, the key to its continued success has been a commitment to core principles discovered during its initial launch. To this day, the LibRATs (Library Reference Assistance Technicians) form a small cadre of intensively trained students who are treated with respect as adults and as undergraduates. Communication, learning, and responsibility are multidirectional, and the LibRATs are full partners in the success of the program.

The original design of the program was to post students in residence halls to provide research assistance, but this model failed to generate research questions. However, we discovered the LibRATs to be an untapped resource and we were determined to find ways to repurpose them. In 2011, unforeseen librarian leaves created a staffing shortfall, and we found a solution ready at hand: LibRATs. Within one year, the LibRATs were full partners in providing research assistance and in leading lower-division information literacy sessions. As research assistants, LibRATs now staff all Research Help Desk and local chat hours at the Robert E. Kennedy Library. The LibRATs also now lead more than one hundred instructional sessions per year. The rapid and sustained growth of our instruction program made possible by the LibRATs’ participation resoundingly justified the hiring of a foundational experiences librarian, who now coordinates the instructional component of the LibRAT program.


Library and Information Science

Number of Pages



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/lib_fac/132