The topic was a highly charged government issue with a myriad of shapes and angles, and bringing it all together would be a challenge. But Lauren Smyle, an urban studies and planning major, decided that she wanted to determine, through her senior thesis, whether Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) could compensate for the elimination of redevelopment agencies.
That decision, and the many hours of research into the conclusion, ultimately led to Lauren’s receiving the second place 2012 Undergraduate Library Research Prize for outstanding research skills in the Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities category. The Prize is co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and the UCSD Alumni Association.
The jury selected Lauren for this honor because she excelled at asking a complex research question and logically and doggedly pursued answers, noted Brian E.C. Schottlaender, the university’s Audrey Geisel University Librarian. In Lauren’s essay on undergraduate library research, she was able to describe how research is a continual process that requires refining one’s search until one can come to a conclusion.
Lauren said she spent "at least 10 hours a week" in her six-month research sequence, identifying, evaluating and synthesizing a wide breadth of library resources in the course of work on her senior thesis. She utilized course guides in combination with journal databases and the Library’s online catalog to do an extensive literature review. The “Chat with a Librarian” service allowed her to discover additional resources and to assist in locating specific information.
"When I couldn't find something that I specifically wished to use, I connected with the librarians and they were able to direct me to whatever resource I needed, such as internet sources and print materials. These resources were selected because they gave me current, supported information to cover my ever-changing topic."
And the conclusion of her thesis? "BIDs cannot reasonably compensate for the loss of the redevelopment agency unless significant alterations are made to BID law to include several aspects of redevelopment law, suggesting that we need to look at other solutions to compensate for the loss of this agency that we heavily rely on," she said.
Lauren credited Steve Erie’s political science classes for interesting her in redevelopment districts; Cary Lowe’s urban planning class where she learned about business improvement agencies, and her advisor, Keith Pezzoli, with helping to bring it all together. Most importantly, she said, "the library was crucial in my process of discovery. Each resource led me to another that supplemented my knowledge. Even if the research was not included in my thesis, it still allowed me to have a better understanding of my topic which led to a better presentation of my research."
Since graduation in June, Lauren has been helping with her family business and is looking for a career in the real estate development field.