Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘outreach

Session notes from PaLA 2011

with 6 comments

Below are my notes and key takeaways from the 2011 Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Conference. Some of the sessions have posted slides and handouts online and more are being added daily. You can also check out photos from the conference on my Flickr or on the PaLA photostream.

Service-Learning @ the University Library

Featuring Kelly Heider, Education Librarian, Indiana University of PA & sponsored by the College and Research Division.

My takeaways:

  • National Service-Learning Clearinghouse = resources for K-Higher Ed.
  • Libraries could investigate support from/collaboration with advancement and admissions.
  • Key ingredients for service-learning are community service, instruction & reflection. There is an increase in student motivation to learn content because they are putting it directly into practice. Students have the ability to transfer knowledge to different situations.
  • Ideas from attendees (but, always have to remember, what is the library role?):
    • Campus daycare/Early Education students – students read a story, teach a mini lesson, hold a reflection session
    • Local shelters/Social Work students – students teach basic information literacy/computer skills
    • Community center/Art students – students work with children at community centers to create murals or do beautification projects
    • Disaster-stricken communities/Disaster and Emergency Management students – students create and implement plans
    • Community members and historical societies/History students – students work with Archives & Special Collections librarians to learn about preservation, community members bring in items they want to preserve for assistance
    • Retirement home/Computer Science students – students teach basic computer skills

A Safe Space on Campus: Winning Strategies Academic Libraries Can Use to Serve GLBTQ Students and Faculty

Featuring Matthew P. Ciszek, Head Librarian, Penn State Shenango; Kristen Yarmey, Digital Services Librarian, Weinberg Memorial Library, University of Scranton; Tara Fay, Faculty Specialist, University of Scranton & sponsored by the College and Research Division. Link to slideshow.

My takeaways:

  • Although there is a rise in self-identified GLBTQ students, there is still an invisible community with a variety of needs.
  • Libraries should offer an electronic format research guide so that LGBTQ students can access information online rather than have to come into the library and ask for help. The guide should have an actual contact person for follow up, ideally someone who has been through safe zone training. Identify someone as the point person for student organizations, faculty doing research in LGBTQ areas. (TO DO)
  • Encompassing the resources described above under “Diversity” or “Women/Gender Studies” may not be helpful – less intuitive, less findable.
  • Organize GLBTQ training session for all library staff, as everyone working in this space should have a basic knowledge of LGBTQ issues, particularly when dealing with the public (Circulation, Help Desk, etc).
  • Find out what the needs are of LGBTQ students on campus and then ask how we can meet those needs. For example, could ask students/faculty to complete: “as a lgbtq ally/ library user, I feel welcome when…”
  • Invite a representative from LGBTQ/Allies student organization to serve on library student advisory board. (TO DO)
  • October is GLBTQ history month. Library display ideas include connecting to student life, history of LGBTQ groups on campus, hook into archives and special collections for images & ephemera.
  • As a safe, neutral space on campus, the library could host LGBTQ/Allies student organization meetings.
  • Check out Matt’s article: Ciszek, Matthew P. “Out on the Web: The Relationship between Campus Climate and GLBT-related Web-based Resources in Academic Libraries.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 37.5 (2011): 430-436.

Get Off the Bench: Low Cost Outreach Initiatives @ Your Academic Library

Featuring Robin Wagner, Library Director, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College; Jennifer Luksa, Head of Collection Resource Management, Bevevino Library, Misericordia University; Colleen Newhart, Access Services Manager, Bevevino Library, Misericordia University & sponsored by the College and Research Division.

My takeaways:

  • Have the campus theater group do a preview show in the library – free programming for you, practice and pr for them.
  • When communicating with faculty and inviting them to library events, have them bring their best students with them.
  • Look for a balance between formal and informal events to improve visibility.
  • Students love cake in the library. Announce it over the PA system. Making/decorating the cake could also be a staff activity. When you’re serving the cake, hang out near the table and talk to students.
  • Students seem to love cardboard cutout people – presidential candidates, pop culture icons, etc. Can dress them up for special events.
  • Feature the photography of students who have traveled abroad as a rotating art exhibit. Have them write an accompanying artist statement.
  • For artwork, pull line art from old college yearbooks.
  • Paper airplane making/flying contest.
  • If you have a large staircase, have a slinky race.
  • Hand out bags of microwave popcorn with “tickets” to film/AV databases on them to departments. Track usage statistics.
  • Have a make-your-own-valentine table. Ask students to write a valentine to the library, what they love about the library. Collect those and you have great testimonials for annual reports, etc.
  • Create valentine cards, distribute them to staff members. Tell them to mail a card to anyone who has done something nice for them during the semester/year. This helps with visibility and fostering goodwill. (TO DO)

Nature, Nurture, and Pennsylvania Academic Library Managers

Featuring Russell A. Hall, Reference Librarian, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College & sponsored by the College and Research Division.

My takeaways:

  • Hall did a survey of academic library managers in Pennsylvania. He sent out 313 surveys and received a 38% response rate. 62% of respondents were female, 38% were male, and all had MLS degrees.
  • When asked about the most difficult aspect of library management, 64% responded “Personnel/Human Resources.”
  • When asked what management skills students should learn in LIS programs, respondents said: evaluation/ assessment, strategic planning, communication, human resources & budgeting
  • Respondents also called for a “safe environment” to talk about management issues.
  • Survey results showed that the top personal attribute to being a manager was interpersonal skills, then integrity and vision.
  • Survey respondents said personality traits were more important than learned skills in nature v nurture aspect (75/25)
  • Audience members questioned the differences between library leadership and library management. Also asked what instruments exist to evaluate leadership, management, and change within an organization.

Beyond the Library Walls: Community Hot Spots

Featuring Hedra Packman, Director of Library Services, Free Library of Philadelphia; Khaleef Aye, Community Outreach Specialist, Free Library of Philadelphia; Jenn Donsky, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program Hot Spot Coordinator; a gentleman from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation whose name I forgot to write down & sponsored by the Library Administration & Management Round Table and the Public Library Division.

My takeaways:

  • Free Library is taking the library out into the community through partnerships. They looked for established community gathering places instead of trying to create a spot of their own. Organizations had to be lockable, open to everyone in the community, closely knit & sustainable.
  • The hot spots also offered technology connected to library resources. 40% of homes in Philly don’t have Internet access. All content at the hot spots is filtered, even wireless.
  • However, there is a difference between access to technology and access to the knowledge of how to use that technology. Some of the people running/working int he hot spots are actually members of the community organization, not library staff. When the grant money runs out, they hope there will be a knowledge transfer. They will leave the equipment and someone within that organization will be trained.
  • Target audiences for this project were job seekers, new Americans, families with young children, the digital savvy, and entrepreneurs.
  • Hot spot partnerships bring vibrancy to neighborhoods and visibility for the library. There has been a lot of demand – they have donors coming to them who want to sponsor a hot spot.

Technology Tools for Assessment Toolkit

Featuring Linda Musser, Head, Fletcher L. Byrom Earth & Mineral Sciences Library, Penn State University; Michelle Belden, Access Archivist, Penn State University; Emily Rimland, Information Literacy Librarian, Penn State University & sponsored by the Library Instruction Round Table.

My takeaways:

  • Before you can assess, you have to know why you’re doing it. With Twitter metrics, pick a few that relate to your library’s goals. Which are most relevant to you?
  • Use analysis = followers, readers, retweets, replies, mentions, clicks. Content analysis = content relevance to mission, composition, tone of writing, number of tweets per day/week.
  • Twitter tools/ideas:
  • Google Analytics
    • Visitors: You can see what browser visitors are using, their screen dimensions (web designers can use this data to meet user needs), if they are accessing the site via mobile, and service providers (can use this to determine on and off campus locations)
    • Traffic: Shows you keywords used
    • Content: Overlays on top of your site and visually shows where visitors go once they’re there.
    • Funnels: The series of pages users would go through to get somewhere. You can find new paths and see where you lose people to design better sites.
    • Use Google’s Conversion University forums for help.
  • Poll Everywhere – Live polling via SMS, web, Twitter
    • Ask: How would you describe your feelings about research? (free text response)
    • At the end of the instruction session, ask: Where I am going to begin the next time I need to do research? (free text response)
    • At the end of the instruction session, ask: How many resources have you found for your assignment?
    • You can use Poll Anywhere to measure pre and post instruction. Emily got IRB permission for this, might depend on your university.
    • Poll Anywhere has a filter that you can turn on or off, she has never had any problems.
    • Reassure the students that it is all anonymous and not connected to phone numbers or names.

Rethinking Information Literacy: Classroom Evidence for Incorporating Students’ Social Media Practices into our Professional Understanding

Featuring Donna Mazziotti, Public Services Librarian, Weinberg Memorial Library, University of Scranton and Teresa Grettano, English Professor, Department of English & Theatre, University of Scranton & sponsored by the College and Research Division.

My takeaways:

  • Librarian and English professor co-taught a course on rhetoric and social media, incorporating ACRL information literacy standards. There were 13 students in the class and the instructors viewed the class as a series of case studies. They started with a research question: What are the effects of social media use in our students information seeking behaviors and processes? Another overarching theme was that “it’s about culture, not technological functions.”
  • Instructors obtained informed consent to use student’s assignments for data and created a private Facebook group to take screenshots. Students were asked to keep a log of Facebook activity for 3 hours per week.
  • They found: That information now comes to users, via customized feeds, RSS, etc. By customizing feeds (like curating their Facebook news ticker settings) students are articulating a future information need. However, this creates a filter bubble. Students don’t know what has been edited out, similar to the idea of the echo chamber.
  • They found: That information recall and attribution are now social. Recall is not based on the source, but the person who shared that link with them (ANDY this is where you were quoted but the slides aren’t up yet).
  • The layout of a post on Facebook contributes to rhetorical strategy and provides clues on what is being privileged: the sharer, not the content. Students were asked to analyze a Facebook profile and determine what assumptions could they make from the information presented on the profile.
  • They found: That “expertise and passion are conflated.”
  • They found: That evaluation is social. Students don’t care about what is being posted unless they know the person. Also, the more engagement an article has (comments, shares, RTs), the more relevant/reputable the information is to the students. If the information is behind a paywall, why? We could relate this to peer review, open comment systems. (FOLLOW UP ON THIS IDEA)
  • They found: That information is now open. Students are creating information on a daily basis on Facebook, contributing to radical transparency on the web.
  • Student log quote: “We won’t feel forced to share, we will simply be terrified of not sharing” (related FB to the idea of the panopticon).
  • Student log quote: “If people are conditioned to be transparent, they will be better people.”
  • Instructors concluded that “Information literacy now situated within a social and decentralized, non hierarchical information environment”

PA Poets Write About Pennsylvania, and Other States of Being!

Featuring Julia Kasdorf, Erin Murphy, Todd Davis and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley & sponsored by the Local Authors Committee.

I can’t write too much in terms of “takeaways” for a poetry reading session, but I strongly encourage you to check these poets out. Their work was reflective of Pennsylvania and hearing them read was very inspirational.I purchased a few of their books in the PaLA store but I unfortunately had to run and check out of the hotel so I didn’t have time to chat with them or have them sign my copies.

Written by Erin Dorney

October 11, 2011 at 3:33 PM

Library student employee referral system – would it work?

with 6 comments

Image of purple wall and yellow flowering tree

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Joseph Robertson on Flickr

Over the summer and into this fall, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to interact with library student employees. The bulk of our students work in Access Services and Archives & Special Collections. Currently, I only supervise the occasional intern and graduate assistant, but I am in the process of hiring one student employee to work on communication/outreach. I do work pretty closely with a few of the student employees in Access Services, though. They help me with making copies & assembling handouts, posting signage around campus during down-times at the Circulation Desk, assisting with events, etc. I would honestly be lost without them (thank you)!!

Due to our renovation transition, I have been able to forge a new bond with the public services student employees. We have done a few training sessions with them to solicit feedback about how the temporary library is working from their perspective, gather ideas on how to publicize our services and new locations, and help them with referring students to the librarians who are now distributed across campus. Overall, I have found these sessions incredibly useful, particularly in terms of the wealth of new ideas the student employees have brought to our attention. From a communication/outreach standpoint, their feedback is invaluable because they know how students think, where they look for information, and what kinds of information could be better communicated. All of this contributes to the identity of the library on campus and in the lives of our students.

I was thinking about how we might be able to harness the advocacy power of our library student employees. We spend a lot of time bringing them up to speed on various project and initiatives, so they end up being really great library champions. When you connect that with their social nature (in-person and via the web), it seems like the perfect avenue for peer-to-peer information sharing. On more than one occasion, I have spoken to library student employees who have done informal updates about the library within their classes, either at the request of a professor who knows they work there, or in order to correct misinformation that a professor is sharing.

Here’s what I’m thinking: What if there was some kind of library student employee referral system to build on this sort of organic advocacy? For example, library student employee could earn points towards some kind of reward (or dare I say, a raise?!) if they:

  • Convinced their professor to invite the librarian to do an information literacy instruction session or general library update
  • Directed a student to their subject librarian for a group or individual research appointment

It could be kind of interesting. I see referral systems all the time – at hair and nail salons, when meeting with a new dentist or doctor, when signing up for new web services where if you convince 5 friends to join, you get a reward, etc. And we can see from websites like Yelp and Amazon Reviews that people are anxious to know what others think about a product/service before they are persuaded. Would it be better for a recommendation to visit a librarian to come from a peer than a librarian? Because no matter what we do to seem more approachable, I still think some students are intimidated asking for our help.

I am wondering:

  1. Has anyone tried this?
  2. How would professors react to this? Would they be annoyed, thinking it was some sort of interference with their classroom/teaching?

Written by Erin Dorney

September 10, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Orientation Fair – Library Stylie

with 3 comments

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

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.*

Written by Erin Dorney

August 23, 2011 at 5:40 PM

C&RL News – Job of a Lifetime – Lizz Zitron

leave a comment »

My fifth interview for the Job of a Lifetime (JOAL) column in College & Research Libraries News is now available online! I spoke with Lizz Zitron, outreach services librarian at Carthage College Hedberg Library in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I have been itching to interview someone working as an academic outreach librarian since I started editing this column, since it’s my job title as well! Lizz is doing some very innovative and creative things at her library, including student-run community workshops and Family Fun nights. Check out the interview here:

Job of a Lifetime – Lizz Zitron, outreach services librarian at Carthage College Hedberg Library

You can also visit her blog at I want to thank Lizz for her wonderful interview and for her patience (this column was ready a while back but was bumped due to some publication scheduling issues). Keep up the good work.

Do you have the job of a lifetime? Enjoy & feel free to leave comments!

Related posts:

Written by Erin Dorney

April 7, 2011 at 1:00 PM

A day in the life: Monday

with 5 comments

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