Posts Tagged ‘outreach’
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:
- Has anyone tried this?
- How would professors react to this? Would they be annoyed, thinking it was some sort of interference with their classroom/teaching?
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:
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?
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.*
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:
You can also visit her blog at http://theoutreachlibrarian.com/. 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!