Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘Millersville

On Brainstorming

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My colleague Greg and I recently facilitated a fun and successful brainstorming session at my library. We had everyone watch this video, asking them not to focus on the specific technology being used, but on the possibilities— how the technology impacted the experience of the family depicted. Then we talked about how the new library (including our new building, new website, changing staff and services) is shifting to focus on the overarching experience students have when they encounter “the library” on or off campus. We also talked about how the Millersville library has been soliciting user feedback for years about the renovation— what chairs would students prefer, what kinds of spaces do they need, what technologies should we support? We are moving in that direction with our new website as well, and at the moment are privileging input from our target audience over internal input in order to ensure that our “digital branch” exists primarily for the user, not the library. It’s a shift that has been happening for years (ever since I arrived in 2008), but I don’t know that anyone has ever presented it quite so holistically before.

Then everyone split into groups and did a brainstorming exercise. We had people count off by fours to ensure diverse representation in the groups— we wanted to get the broadest intermixing of the minds: front-line staff with administrators, student employees with librarians, etc. You can adapt/re-purpose our Brainstorming Handout if you’d like. The handout asks participants to consider a few everyday situations: buying and drinking a cup of coffee at Starbucks vs. a local coffee shop; listening to music on Spotify vs. iTunes; shopping for produce at the market vs. a grocery store. Greg and I asked the groups to use markers and big pieces of paper to brainstorm about an experience listed on the handout or another transaction/interaction, considering the following questions:

  1. What did you prefer and why?
  2. What made your experience better at one or the other?
  3. What would make the experience even better?
  4. What do you imagine this experience looking like 5 or 10 years from now?

Everyone started working and Greg & I circulated the room to observe and chime in. Interestingly, all of the groups decided to discuss the experience of grocery shopping. Here are notes from some of the groups (I lost one of the big pieces of paper before getting it typed up):


  • Convenience
  • Social interaction
  • Central Market – Better customer service – local is better
  • Drive-up grocery
  • Co-ops (but land is disappearing)
  • Ordering online
  • Customization
  • Continuing to meet expectations
  • Convenience – Depends on location, more process/services coming to you vs going to it
  • Grocery stores – convenient, open space, variety, cheaper, self checkout/single checkout
  • Market – specialty items, freshness, fun, expect to spend more time
  • 5-10 years from now – Electronic – order from fridge – personal grocery shopper – Multifunction cooking device – Ordering of items based on prior purchase

My purpose with this post isn’t to compare libraries to grocery shopping. But honestly, who can ignore the similarities when you look at the brainstorming results? Many of the things that came up as memorable parts of the experience of shopping have been talked about when discussing the future of libraries. Making services/resources/spaces convenient for the user. Providing an element of social interaction. Good customer service. Locally-focused collections. Electronic access. Customization and personalization. Multifunction devices. Recommendation services. Open spaces. Self-service points. Interesting…

Coming back together in a large group, we did a debriefing where each team talked about their brainstorming for a few minutes. Observations included that what is convenient for one group or person might be inconvenient for another (echoing the differences between target audiences at an academic library – freshmen vs seniors vs commuters). Another interesting point was that much of the discussion revolved around the customer experience (service, convenience) rather than the content (quality of food). Although one team did mention freshness and specialty items, it wasn’t the focus. It’s almost as if content is a given, a certain standard upheld so that consumers can focus on other factors when making their decision of where to shop. I wonder how much transferability this has when considering the library. Should we be staking our name and our futures on content alone? Should we downplay our content to focus more closely on other reasons users would want to choose the library as an integral part of their lives?

I deemed the brainstorming session a success. People didn’t feel threatened. They weren’t being asked to brainstorm about the library specifically, which could unintentionally underscore fears of job/organizational re-visioning. Instead, we deconstructed the everyday experience of grocery shopping. I think it was the first step towards opening a productive line of dialogue for the future of our library. Have you had success with brainstorming at your library? I’d love to learn how to do this better and more frequently!

Image CC BY-NC 2.0 courtesy of ericmay

Written by Erin Dorney

February 28, 2012 at 8:04 AM

“There’s the silver lining I’ve been looking for”

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Real Life:

  • 3-8 inches of snow predicted for tomorrow.
  • A Very She & Him Christmas.
  • Jack Frost Tea (African Red Bush, Vanilla, Peppermint & Spearmint).
  • Ventriloquism zine by Prathna Lor, courtesy of meg woog via Portland, OR.
  • Evening agenda includes baking an apple pie & writing an essay about my personal library. Rock.

Work Life:

  • Massive technology outage on campus killed our library website, which has both positives and negatives. Get excited.
  • Got to work with our awesome reps from Supply Source on the design for the Outreach Team Work Space for the new library & am attending my first “design expo” next week with them – NeoCon East. ::swoon:: Check back for pics of sweet furniture!
  • Invigorating conference call with co-presenters/facilitators for our LJ/Temple Future of the Academic Library Symposium panel discussion.
  • Invited to do a session for students on how to be wise with social media for the Office of Experiential Learning & Career Management.

What are you looking forward to?

Written by Erin Dorney

October 28, 2011 at 6:07 PM

Posted in Libraries, Life

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Last glance at the old Ganser Library

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Took a few minutes on Thursday to do a walk through of our old library building before we hand it off to the contractors. All of the people, furniture, books, blinds, shelving and signage are gone. Pay particular attention to the image on the middle left – look at those power pop ups. This is our new reality – we need power and we need it everywhere. Plan ahead! Let the renovations begin!

Written by Erin Dorney

October 21, 2011 at 1:11 PM

Orientation Fair – Library Stylie

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Meeting the incoming freshmen is one of my favorite parts of the fall semester. Despite the fact that they continually make me feel old (the age gap is becoming harder and harder to ignore), it’s rejuvenating to witness their energy, ideas and styles. Learning about their past library experiences and listening to their concerns about the upcoming year are equally impressive, giving me touch-points to base my library spiel/elevator speech on as they stop at the table.

This year, our table hosted a bowl of lollipops (BlowPops are apparently far more desirable than TootsiePops), a handout highlighting our temporary library in Gerhart Hall, a handout highlighting all of the ways they can get in touch with a librarian, giveaways of post-it notes with the library website printed on them, and a display showing pictures of all the subject librarians, methods to Ask A Librarian, and some upcoming library events:

orientation fair table 2011

Some interesting things that I observed/learned during the 1.5 hour fair:

  • While many students asked about library employment, two students asked about how to volunteer for the library. They said they had volunteered for their library at home and wanted to do the same at college. Work. For free. For the library. How awesome is that?! I quickly recruited them for our student advisory board.
  • Eye contact, smiling and saying hello are key to getting people to come to your table!
  • Students were impressed when I explained that each major has a subject librarian. They were even more thrilled when I let them know that the subject librarians are familiar with their professors and assignments, and could start them off in the right direction for research.
  • Lots of interest in my ear plugs (tiny, size 2 gauges, usually hidden by my hair) – one student said he really wanted to gauge his ears but his mom said she would stop paying his tuition. Yipes! I told him a college education was cooler anyhow.
  • More than one student expressed their desire for print books – some for fun reading (asked if we had a popular collection in the temporary library space – yes) and some for studying (“I just like to have the real thing in front of me”).
  • Students love post-it notes. Well, anything free, really. And the Orientation Leaders are amazing!
  • Some students were sad that they couldn’t go up into the tallest academic building on campus (our old building that’s closed for renovation). I explained that it really wasn’t that awesome in there, detailing the a) fires b) elevator issues c) broken air conditioning d) ghosts.
  • “Goth” is still “a thing.” And, they are still super nice.

Overall, an awesome day. How do you welcome students back to campus? What have you observed about the incoming freshmen?

Written by Erin Dorney

August 30, 2011 at 8:50 AM

Librarian office hours

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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.*

Written by Erin Dorney

August 23, 2011 at 5:40 PM

A day in the life: Monday

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I’m participating in round six of the Library Day in the Life project! Here is what I did today:

7 – Woke up and got ready. Breakfast. Went to the post office to mail a Postcrossing postcard to Brazil, a package to my best friend in Ohio, and a package to the Deans in Arkansas.

9-10 – Got to the library, grabbed a vanilla latte from Starbucks, caught up on some email from last week/the weekend. Started this post.

10-10:45 – Meeting with Vice President of Information Resources, Systems Librarian & student worker to discuss our website redesign project. We’re moving to Drupal (hopefully sometime this semester) but have run into a few roadblocks across the way. Goal is to get the new site up before we move out of the current building this summer.

10:45-11 – Talked with a co-worker who stopped by my office about the upcoming ACRL conference (she’s presenting two posters and I am doing a virtual presentation).

11-11:30 – Meeting with Learning Technologies Librarian to discuss our new Library Student Advisory Board. We’re approaching some of the campus organizations for representation (including Graduate Studies Association, Pre-Scholars Institute, All Greek Council,  Asian & Friends, Black Student Union, Society on Latino Affairs and Commuting Students Association) and holding an election with Student Senate to populate the group. The first meeting is in February and I’m stoked!

11:30-12:10 – Email. Talked on the phone with a previous library intern & friend (same person) about the job interview she just got out of. Fingers crossed!

12:15 -1:20 – Lunch meeting with a Communications professor to talk about integrating her public relations students with the library renovation project. We also talked about some upcoming library instruction sessions for her COMM 100 classes.

1:20-2:15 – Email. Sent out invitations to student organizations for the Library Student Advisory Board. This seems like an awful long time but I honestly can’t remember what I was working on…

2:15 – Meeting with editor of  The Snapper (MU student newspaper) to discuss a series of advertisements for this semester relating to the upcoming library renovation. Found out their ad deadline for this week is tomorrow, eek!

2:15-4 – Pardon my language, but sh!t really hit the fan this afternoon. It was just one thing after another – phone calls, people coming into my office, emails. In my hazy stupor I seem to remember designing the first library renovation advertisement and submitting it to the paper. Made some phone calls and scheduled some meetings relating to V-Day 2011 (I’m working on Millersville’s production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” again this year, and we have had quite the headache trying to find a performance space on campus with all of the construction projects currently underway). I sent an email to the off-campus participants for tomorrow’s “Joy of Text” webinar (sponsored by the PaLA College & Research Division) including directions and parking information.

4:15 – Cleaned this post up & hightailed it home.

Does this make you want to be a librarian? Haha. If you’re interested in comparing, my previous Library Day in the Life posts can be found here:

Written by Erin Dorney

January 24, 2011 at 9:02 PM

ACRLog guest post

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I have a guest post over at ACRLog today, so check it out if you have a few minutes! I decided to talk about our upcoming renovation project since it’s the thing I’ve been spending the majority of my time on at work lately. As outreach librarian I have been coordinating lots of communication about the project (including its spot in the University Soar to Greatness campaign) as well as the transition and design planning.

My thanks to Richard James (@DElibrarian), Jason Dean (of The Dean Files), and Lindsey Main (@librarianlinz) for offering valuable feedback on a draft of the guest post.

Written by Erin Dorney

December 8, 2010 at 10:43 AM