Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

My first presentation – academic outreach panel

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In addition to attending the previously posted sessions at the 2009 SSHELCO Meeting, I had the opportunity to participate in my first library conference presentation, addressing the topic of academic library outreach. I was lucky that my first presentation didn’t have to be solo – I had a bunch of great colleagues from different PASSHE schools to alleviate some of the pressure. Here’s how we worked our panel session:

I contacted peers at other PASSHE schools who were obviously working with outreach/marketing/pr (I was able to tell from their job titles or previous communications). My goal was to have as many institutions represented as possible in order to gather different viewpoints. We ended up having six of the 14 universities represented (initially seven but one panelist had to drop out due to other obligations). We collaboratively wrote up the proposal and submitted it to the conference committee. After it was accepted, we talked via email until about three weeks before the session. At that point, I created a survey soliciting questions that academic librarians had relating to outreach, promotion, publicity and marketing. We got over 60 responses with 47 concrete questions. If you are interested, please view Outreach Questions, which includes the responses we received. It was cool how similar questions seemed to naturally fall into distinct categories, which can be seen with my headings in the document. It’s also telling that my (our) peers have so many questions about why, exactly, we need outreach/pr/marketing in academic libraries. I bet I could do something interesting with this data… hmmm…

After compiling all of the submissions, I forwarded the list to the group of panelists and had everyone rank their top three choices. I thought that it was important to let everyone decide which question they would be focusing on based on their different skills, job responsibilities and comfort levels. We also tried to touch on something from at least one of each of the main question categories. When we got together for the panel session, we had a very simple slideshow (basically stating the question, job title of the person who submitted it, and the name/title/contact info. of the panelist who was addressing it) and everyone talked about their question for approximately 9 minutes. At the end of the session we had time for questions and group discussion.

Overall, I think the panel went great. A few weeks ago I received the audience evaluations which were positive (comments included below) and gave me a nice little boost of confidence moving forward with other presentations/publications/research opportunities. Hopefully, this post will encourage other new librarians to try their hand at professional development – it’s not as bad as you might think! Panels are a nice way to start out because co-presenting helps distribute the workload, isn’t as nerve-wracking, and in the end provides you with a connected group of like minded colleagues (yay for networking!). Panelist Karen Wanamaker started the blog The Heart of the Campus as a follow up to our discussions at the conference, so check it out if you’re interested.  Thank you to the SSHELCO conference committee for giving us the opportunity to present and to my fellow panelists for a job well done!

Panel questions that were addressed:

“What unique partnerships are libraries taking part in to offer unique promotions (theatre, athletics, first year students, etc.)?” – from a Help Desk/Web Support Librarian, addressed by Kelly Heider, Education Librarian & Chair of the Library Events Team at Indiana University

“Is there value in outreach events that are not seen as academic but are more for fun?” – from a Science/Outreach Librarian, addressed by Catherine Rudowsky, Outreach Librarian at Slippery Rock University

“What assessment tools or data collection measures have you designed to judge the effectiveness of any of your outreach efforts?” – from an Assistant Vice President of Technology and Library Services, addressed by Matthew Syrett, Reference Librarian at Mansfield University

“Some institutions have newly-developed positions for outreach librarians; what exactly do their  job responsibilities include (and not include)?” – from a Science Librarian, addressed by Erin Dorney, Outreach Librarian at Millersville University

“How do you select which communication channel to use for outreach (Library Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Paper Newsletter,  Email Newsletter, etc.)?” – from a Systems & Electronic Resources / Web Librarian, addressed by Karen Wanamaker, Education Librarian & Library Public Relations Committee Chair at Kutztown University

“With faculty busy and bombarded by email, how do you reach them to share important library information?” -from a Collection Management Librarian, addressed by Linda Neyer, Reference Librarian, Science/Health Sciences Subject Specialist & Co-Chair of the Library Marketing Task Force at Bloomsburg University

Comments from audience evaluations:

What I liked most about the session:

  • Great suggestions and ideas about Outreach.
  • The panelists were well-prepared, and seem to be doing exciting projects at their universities.
  • Very inspiring – very knowledgeable; the format was nice too – culling questions in advance kept on task.
  • Practical advice.
  • Different perspectives on the topic, good ideas for marketing and outreach.
  • Very informative topic & discussion; should continue each year or as a SIG or roundtable.
  • Liked the format w/each panelist focusing on a specific question; great ideas!!
  • Lots of good ideas on an important topic!
  • I really loved the panels ideas, suggestions and programs that are working for outreach at their campuses.
  • Interesting to see what various schools are doing.
  • It was an interesting way to start discussion by doing the survey ahead of time and then using the questions from the survey.
  • Couple of nice ideas.

What I liked least about the session:

  • Would have been great to have examples of many of the things they talked about i.e. newsletter, blog, twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • I liked the multiple-presenters set-up; it kept you engaged.
  • It would be nice to see pictures/examples of outreach efforts – but thanks for offering to send them along if we ask!
  • As a staff person, we see are very involved in helping patrons whenever we can.
  • Not very motivational, could not hear them at times.
  • Presentations were generally very good, one or 2 not as informative, did not focus on the question.
  • Not very overwhelming.

Other comments:

  • As an undergrad at our campus, I was very intimidated by asking a question of a librarian, and now they seem so friendly and helpful to all. Now  I am one of them. We all really reach out to help patrons and the community.
  • A+
  • Next year could we have a discussion of outreach techniques that have been successful & those that failed?

Written by Erin Dorney

May 15, 2009 at 6:40 PM

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