Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Librarian office hours

with 4 comments

Photo of my office door

My Office Door

Due to the library renovation taking place at MPOW (you can read more about the project here) the librarians are embedded around campus in different academic buildings. We tried to relocate each subject librarian to be near at least one of the departments they liaise with or, in some cases, in highly student-trafficked buildings. Some goals of the initiative are to improve library visibility to the entire university community, develop more meaningful and effective relationships with faculty, and provide research assistance more closely to the point-of-need for students (before, during, between, after classes, etc).

Another facet of this “experiment within an experiment” is that librarians will be holding regular open office hours – starting with three hours per week. As far as I’m aware, this hasn’t been done at Millersville in the past, but I am very excited to give it a try. It’s one of the many things we are adding to our “suite of services” since we are not staffing a traditional reference desk for the time being. Yes, you heard right, but that’s the topic of another post coming very soon so you’ll have to wait to learn more.

I think one challenge to offering librarian open office hours will be promoting it. It’s not simply a case of “if you build it, they will come.” Teaching faculty have class syllabi where they can list this sort of information and they also have the power of grading on their side. Some things I am doing (or are in the works) to promote my office hours include:

  • The creation of this simple landing page which includes my contact information, subject areas, office location, photo and will eventually list my regular open office hours.
  • QR codes leading to said landing page on my office door and courtyard-facing window.
  • Emailed all faculty in my subject areas with my information, the landing page link, and the QR code inviting them to list it on their course syllabi.
  • Will mention office hours in all of the library instruction sessions I teach this fall.
  • Will have a sign on my door listing my office hours.

Problem #1: I have not set my hours yet (and have to within a week)! Has anyone tried this and had success or failure with any particular time slots or days? I suppose it depends on the institution, but I am interested in any feedback you have. I emailed an MU colleague and he suggested that late morning and lunch hour-ish tend to be best (between 10:30am-2:30pm). I also have to consider commuter students who have evening classes. Thoughts?

Problem #2: What am I not thinking of in terms of promoting this new initiative? How can I encourage students (or even faculty & staff) to stop by or schedule an appointment? All creative ideas are welcome!

*Note: Open office hours are not the only way we are providing research assistance to the university community during the renovation. I’ll also be doing at least 5 hours/week of virtual research assistance (monitoring phone, text messages, chat/IM & email inquiries) and we’re planning strategic “blasts” of in-person research help during the busiest times of the semester based on past statistics.*

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Written by Erin Dorney

August 23, 2011 at 5:40 PM

4 Responses

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  1. Well, as for problem two, you should sweeten the deal – food? Movie tickets? What do those kids like these days (ha!) Maybe some kind of an agreement of requirement through teaching faculty in conjunction with major writing assignments to force them there? I know positive reinforcement is preferable, but some real consequences to get them in the door so to speak might help. Once they realize how helpful librarians are, they will hopefully keep coming back for more.

    Meet them where they are. How about setting up outside with a sign or something? Sitting in a study area at a desk? Just some thoughts!

    Jason W. Dean

    August 23, 2011 at 5:50 PM

  2. My idea: You dress as Kid and another librarian is Play. There is a boombox. And a Costco size container of Twizzlers. It is a Monday morning. Sweet jams are serenading the students as they leave their dorms. The students begin to flock to your card table decorated in Hyper color. While you may have the urge to pounce and ask how you can help, your smooth flattop and sunglasses coerce them to share much more than you imagined. You, Dorney, are the new library goddess.

    Jen Dean

    August 23, 2011 at 8:41 PM

  3. @ Jason – Good call with the food idea! I think partnering with the teaching faculty is a great partnership idea too – maybe they (or their groups) have to schedule one appointment with me to discuss research for their project and I keep track and let the professor know. That would also give me an opportunity to work with the professor on what strengths/weaknesses I observed when the class came in for one-on-one help. Yes? As for doing things from outside or a more visible area than my office, I certainly want to try that. I was thinking I might try it when I am scheduled for my virtual research help shifts, though, rather than my office hours? Cuz I could bring laptop/ipad/phone and monitor all the virtual channels, then have a sign or tee shirt that says something like “Ask me, I’m a librarian” and sit in the lobby or study area. Then I would be adding an in-person component to those periods of time. Thanks for the comment!

    @ Jen – http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_llf486mVFI1qhpsoyo1_500.jpg.

    Also, I thought of another idea while I was falling asleep last night: List my office hours in my email signature!

    Erin Dorney

    August 24, 2011 at 12:01 PM

  4. I think supporting the professor on strengths/weaknesses is really good – we could all use another perspective on things like that – and you might have insights that the class setting does not provide. Of course, convincing the profs that you have legitimate insight might be challenging…

    If it were me, I’d take away the librarian title from your sign outside and just have a sign stating “Questions? Ask me!” People seem to be intimidated by the “librarian” title. If you do virtual reference as well – how will you balance the virtual and the face to face transactions if they start on top of one another? Something to think about.

    Also, I see you are a subject librarian for art – awesome! If you ever need something from CB/etc – let me know – I am always happy to help!

    Jen totally cracked me up on the Kid N Play thing! I think she wins best comment!

    Jason W. Dean

    August 24, 2011 at 3:45 PM


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