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For New Matamoras, a sparsely populated town 30 miles northeast of campus, the little branch of the Washington County Public Library that sits along State Route 7 is a major hub in the community. It’s one of four smaller branches of the library system, which is centered by the main location in Marietta.

Improving the communication between all of the locations was one of the main goals undertaken by the student-led communication and media consulting firm, Fifth Street Consulting. The firm is the result of what students learned in Dr. Alane Sanders’ Applied Organizational Development course taught during the spring 2016 semester. It consists of two sections: student leadership, who work mostly on the administrative tasks, and partners, who work closely with the client. Dr. Dawn Carusi served as the advisor for this year’s team members.

“This counts as a 3-hour practicum credit and some departments are substituting it as an internship,” says Clayton Evans ’17, an Organizational Communication major and member of the student leadership team. “It’s the same commitment as an internship, so one credit means you do 50 hours of work. And it’s meaningful work because you’re doing what you learned in the classroom. You get to put that knowledge to work.”

Once the Washington County Public Library system was identified as the team’s first client, the students met with the members of the library staff to determine what their goals were, as well as needs that the firm identified. Students sent out surveys, collected and reviewed the data, developed marketing and communication strategies for the library and planned to walk their client, including its board of trustees, through the recommendations so they could be implemented.

Emily Drabeck ’17, an Organizational Communication major and one of the senior partners, focused on the library’s internal communication needs.

“We visited all of the branches and I got to speak with the branch managers about their needs, which varied,” Drabeck says. “In Marietta, the library is an option for the people living in the community. For New Matamoras, the library is a necessity.”

Kelly Brady, branch manager for the New Matamoras location, spoke with Drabeck about the needs the library filled in her community.

“I love the library,” Brady says. “I love what we do for our community. We live in an economically depressed area, so what we provide — internet access, free Wi-Fi, access to books and DVDs — is very important. For some people, we may be the only way for them to file their taxes or to file for unemployment, so our role in the community is absolutely necessary.”

Though the firm is composed of mostly Communication majors, Evans says students in other majors have also taken an interest in being a part of the team. Caroline Sigmon ’17, a Graphic Design and Advertising/Public Relations double major, used her skills in graphic design to help the team, but also learned other aspects of being a part of a consulting group.

“My focus was on the branding and development of promotional materials,” Sigmon says. “What we did was more business focused, which was very eye opening. I learned a lot about working within the structure of a firm.”

For Evans, learning how other disciplines work and how to collaborate with people who have other special skillsets was one of the most meaningful aspects of the Fifth Street Consulting experiences.

“It’s honestly one of the most rewarding things I’ve done at the College,” he says. “Being a consultant is something I would like to do.”

-Gi Smith