This page contains materials that may be used as examples for the Undergraduate Research Library Fellowship. It serves as an example of a complete application, with submissions from a student, the potential University Libraries advisor and a letter from an advisor or faculty member within the student’s major department. While it is a sample, be sure to closely examine the stated requirements so that you are not missing any elements.
To download a PDF version of this content, click the button below.
Sample Cover Letter
March 17, 2022
Dear Craig Gibson,
Thank you for considering my proposal for the URLF for this coming summer. I am excited to work on this proposal and look forward to hearing the feedback from the Teaching & Learning Committee.
I am hoping to explore whether schools which of a majority of their students that are either economically disadvantaged and/or from minority backgrounds tend to also not have a public library location near them. Having grown up in a household which regularly visited a public library on a regular basis, I was amazed at the number of classmates who did not know about the resources available to them via the public library. It led me to think about how some people may not have had easy access to a library location, with the one I went to most often being a few blocks away from my home and also my elementary school.
Thus, I would like to see if access to a public library presents a challenge for some. It seems to be that schools that serve underrepresented populations and/or economically disadvantaged students often have fewer resources. Is public library access one of these?
I would like to examine this more closely by examining the schools in Ohio’s most populated (over 100,000 people) counties and mapping them against public library locations to determine how close the nearest location is to each school. By doing so, I hope to determine if public library access is another part of the equation for schools serving such populations.
While a sample using a selection of counties is not definitive proof one way or another, it can give some indication as to whether the distance question is indeed a concern for schools serving the indicated populations. Evidence that this may be another issue for our P-12 schools can point to another need that should be addressed to improve our educational opportunities.
My research proposal follows, detailing my planned methodology and timeline. This was created in consultation with my potential faculty advisor for this project, Elsie Dewey, the Library Sciences Librarian at Ohio State University Libraries.
I look forward to beginning my exploration of this topic and hope to be able to be a URLF student this coming summer. Thank you for your consideration.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with additional questions.
Bodley O. Thomas
Pedagogical Studies Major
Cumulative GPA: 3.76
Major GPA: 3.9
Sample Research Proposal
Do schools in Ohio’s most populous counties which have a majority of their students either from economically disadvantaged and/or minority backgrounds have public library locations further away than those which do not have such student population characteristics?
Overview & Literature Review
Public libraries play a valuable role in the education of P-12 students. A very quick search found several items that address the several articles that addressed the relationship between schools and public libraries, showcasing the importance of their relationship.
For example, Constantino (2005) found that areas of Los Angeles with lower income tended to have access to fewer books (in home, in their school, in their public library) than those at more affluent areas.
Fisher et al. (2001) found that even when a school has its own libraries, there are advantages to taking students to their community library. Academic and non-academic improvements (such as attitudes towards reading) were seen in students who visited their community library and even more so than those who used the school library. I would note is this particular case, not having a library in close proximity would make a trip there problematic.
Some public libraries and schools building strong partnerships, such as Pittsburgh’s BLAST program, where public library employees work directly with teachers to infuse literacy elements into the classroom (Genest, 2014). While reading and literacy seem like ways for public libraries to impact P-12 education, other disciplines benefit from public library programming, such as mathematics (Kliman et al., 2013).
Finally, while international in perspective, Krashen et al. (2012) found that students with access to reading materials (which included both school and public libraries, using specific data points) perform better in standardized testing.
It is clear that access to a library, including a public library, is an important factor in education. But how easy is it for P-12 students to get access to public library locations, especially when many school libraries are increasingly underfunded or even eliminated? With this important role, are students in Ohio’s schools able to easily access public libraries? I plan to examine the data for schools in Ohio’s most populous countries, map their locations against public libraries’ locations, and determine if schools with certain demographic characteristics tend to be further away from a public library location that those without those characteristics.
This project will use ArcGIS StoryMaps to map school and library locations from across the state in all counties (28 according to this Wikipedia article) with over 100,000 residents.
I will identify all of the applicable school districts within each county, excluding charter and specialized districts. NCSE has a search tool that allows for searching for districts, focusing only on “regular” school districts (this excludes charter schools, state schools, etc.) within a county. For each of the above counties, all applicable districts will be noted and get their own StoryMap section. For example, Franklin County has 17 districts.
Ohio School Report Cards gives schools within a district, their address, and demographic information about schools’ students population. Using this information, I will identify a school as:
Majority Economically Disadvantaged (over 50%)
Majority Minority Population (White, Non-Hispanic population under 50%)
Both (both of the above apply)
Neither (neither of the above apply)
Bexley High School (Bexley City School District) would be Neither
Avalon Elementary (Columbus City School District) would be Both
Each school district will get its own section of the StoryMap, with its individual schools and their distance to the nearest public library location, as determined from the mapping of school and library locations. College/University or other library types will not be considered. This tool also gives a list of all school addresses in the district, with their addresses. This will be used to map locations.
The State Library of Ohio has a directory of public library main and branch location addresses. This list will be used to map library locations. Since the list of libraries does not indicate county, I will use a tool such as Ohio Gazeteer to eliminate locations with zip codes not listed for the counties selected.
For the StoryMap, each school’s demographic info will be shared and indicate the nearest public library branch by distance, this distance determined by the mapping tool.
When all of the schools in the counties and corresponding closest library locations are determined, I will find the average distance from schools in the four categories to their nearest public library location to determine if schools with the three non-Neither categories tend to have library locations further away or nearer. This will also be determined for each county and each school district. This data will be examined simply using Excel.
Finally, an introduction will be written that summarizes the findings, shares info about the data sources, and also shares a short entry on the importance of public libraries for P-12 education, with links to readings in the scholarly literature (gathered via searching resources like ERIC, Library Literature, etc.).
The final product will be a StoryMap created using ArcGIS. This tool is narrative in nature, but also geographic. It can share the information about the locations of schools and library locations, but go on to share details about the examined school districts in the selected counties, their schools (with their demographics), and their proximity to library locations. A StoryMap can be widely shared as they are freely available for viewing online.
The story will begin with an overview of the project and overall findings, with a focus on the importance of access to public libraries. It will proceed through the counties and their districts, then end with concluding remarks and recommended readings and sources.
Concluding Remarks and Future Directions
I feel access to public libraries is important to P-12 education and am looking forward to seeing if schools serving populations more likely to benefit from this valuable resource are more likely also to be further away from a public library location. Given I only have ten weeks to complete my study, I have to limit my research in order to complete a subset of schools and libraries. If I am able to complete this project, I hope to continue with this line of inquiry for an honors thesis.
With additional time, I would love to gather data for the remainder of Ohio’s schools. I would also, if able to continue studying this issue, to find a way to accommodate for more rural counties having greater distances between locations due to population density issues.
Finally, one final step would be to see if I could dig deeper into the demographics rather than using basic categories. For example, looking at specific percentages for economically disadvantaged students to see if that number relates in some way to distance to a public library.
Given I hope to teach in elementary schools, I find this connection with public libraries highly valuable. I would be a big advocate of the services the nearest public library would be able to offer my students and my understanding of the demographic issues that are involved with both schools and libraries will give me a better understanding of this relationship.
Constantino, R. (2005). Print environments between high and low socioeconomic status (SES) communities. Teacher Librarian, 32(3), 22.
Fisher, D., Lapp, D., & Flood, J. (2001). The effects of access to print through the use of community libraries on the reading performance of elementary students. Reading Improvement, 38(4), 175-182.
Genest, M. T. (2014). Reading is a BLAST! inside an innovative literacy collaboration between public schools and the public library. Reading Horizons, 53(1), 73-87.
Kliman, M., Jaumot-Pascual, N., & Martin, V. (2013). How wide is a squid eye? integrating mathematics into public library programs for the elementary grades. Afterschool Matters, (17), 9-15.
Krashen, S., Lee, S., & McQuillan, J. (2012). Is the library important? multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1), 26-36.
Sample Libraries Advisor Letter
March 15, 2022
Dear Craig Gibson,
I write to you in support of the URLF proposal from Bodley Thomas. When Bodley approached me with his project, I was rather intrigued with this idea. Having become used to the number of library locations within Franklin County, considering what schools are close these branches and their demographics never crossed my mind (although I did think of the community surrounding the location). I think this project would be valuable. It would be advocacy for the value of public libraries, but could also be information libraries could use to justify the value of their locations and potentially evidence for additional locations.
I have never used the ArcGIS StoryMaps tool, but find it intriguing. Seeing examples of projects in this tool, I believe it would be a dynamic way to share Bodley’s findings. I note that others in the Libraries have been using this tool, so we do have expertise to reach out to as needed.
The tools Bodley is planning to use for gathering information are appropriate and I also endorse him limiting his scope to the specified counties as covering all school districts and public libraries in Ohio would likely take multiple extra weeks to gather the data. This demographic data provided by the state is a key part of this study and linking to it allows people to examine individual schools’ data more closely if they wish to see the detailed data.
Bodley and I will hold regular weekly meeting to go over the status of his project and he will send daily updates at the end of each day so that he can ask questions, share his progress, etc. I am available for impromptu meetings as needed. We can also share the spreadsheet in OneDrive so that I can examine any issues as he runs into them. If I am unable to answer specific questions, such as StoryMaps functionality, I may direct him to other experts.
We discussed in detail both his timeline, methodology, and plan for presenting his results. I feel all of these are solid plans as outlined in his Research Proposal. We will work together on minor adjustments as needed.
I look forward to seeing Bodley’s findings. I think it would be yet another example of a disadvantage faced by some of the schools in Ohio (and across the country). This information would be great to continue researching this for all of Ohio.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need additional information or have questions.
Library Sciences Librarian
246A Thompson Library
1858 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
Sample Major Advisor/Faculty Letter
March 18, 2022
Dear Craig Gibson,
When Bodley Thomas approached me about the project he had in mind for the URLF, I could readily tell his excitement. I have had Bodley in three of my courses and he always approaches topics related to different literacies and the importance of reading (not just fiction, but subjects of all types) on the education of children.
Bodley grew up in a home with books and he and his family remain regular users of public libraries. He often chimes in with recommendations for resources he knows of through the Columbus Metropolitan Library and advocates for solutions they, and other public libraries, may offer for issues we discuss in class.
It was thus no surprise that he was interested in doing a project with a public library angle. What I didn’t expect was the angle of geographic distance and the relationship to the nearby schools’ demographics. It seems to be a sad fact that more affluent areas get access to better and more grocery stores, healthcare, entertainment, etc. Might they also get better access to public libraries? I think this is a valuable angle of research.
We talk a lot in our courses about literacy issues. The impact of public libraries on P-12 students is a major factor in this as students who have easy access to books are far more likely to read. Students who are economically disadvantaged depend heavily on their public and (unfortunately, underfunded or non-existent) school libraries.
Bodley has performed well in his courses with me and is a highly enthusiastic and inquisitive student. He has written multiple longer and well-researched papers for my assignments, so I feel this fellowship is something at which he can excel. I look forward to seeing the results of his research.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you wish to ask additional questions or need more information.
Pedagogical Studies Program Manager
187 Knickerbocker Hall
188 College Rd
Columbus, OH 43210