We have a small MA program, and one of the ways the department tries to help these folks financially is with research assistantships. Faculty apply for help, and get a student assigned for so many hours.
I've tried in the past, but I don't really know how to use student time well. When I was a grad student, I had a research assistantship, and my task was to independently find everything written on a given text (which I also read), make photocopies, read and annotate/summarize them, and then prioritize them for my supervisor so that he'd know which I thought were most important or interesting for his work. Then I'd hand over the hard copies. I also read his works in progress and gave feedback. I learned a TON doing the research, because it was in my field and his work is really interesting.
I tried to have past students do that sort of work, but it didn't really work out. They had a harder time finding appropriate resources, and they don't want to take time to read original texts, aren't interested in the field, so don't really feel a benefit to themselves.
I'm thinking of applying for a research assistant this year, and hoping you folks can give me ideas for using their time wisely and well.