Posts Tagged ‘students’
Last week I got to facilitate a really fun session for the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association. For my breakout session I decided to copy a format I had seen Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches use back in November 2011 at the Library Journal Summit in Philadelphia.
We recruited students from four local colleges/universities and basically ran a live focus group, talking openly with them about why they use the library, how they do research, and how they use technology. I’m not going to name names to protect these innocent students who so kindly shared their honest opinions about libraries, but we had representatives from Northampton Community College, Widener University, Penn State, and Muhlenberg University. And guys, they were amazing. Everyone was professional and had great, well-articulated thoughts to share. It was really inspiring to work with them (thank you!!!).
In my introduction I shared a little bit about why I wanted to do a session like this instead of just talking to attendees about academic libraries. We talk a lot about initiating change from within (or outside of) our institutions and change-resistors. “User experience” is also a phrase that has gained traction in recent years. In my position, I’ve found that talking directly with users has provided me with the tools I need to initiate change in my library. I realized when we started our Library Student Advisory Board that when I talked with students about different projects or initiatives, they gave me actual evidence as in “yes this is a good idea” or “no, no one would use it like that” that I was able to leverage to bring about changes in the way things were done and the projects I pursued. I think it’s really important for us to talk to our users, to be open to what they have to say, and most importantly, to make changes accordingly. Sometimes it’s difficult to do this because there are so many things vying for our time but I think it’s critical in terms of designing the future for academic libraries.
I remember walking away inspired and excited from Aaron and Amanda’s session in 2011 and I hope attendees had a similar experience after participating last week. If nothing else, perhaps they learned one new thing about the life of a college student, or left feeling empowered to talk to the users at their own institution. Personally, this was one of the most fun presentations I’ve ever done.
A couple of people wanted to see my list of questions, so you can steal those here (no worries, I borrowed most of them from Aaron and Amanda and added some of my own—you have permission to steal this entire idea!). Mine are at the top—the numbers are the initial questions I started with and the indented letters are follow up questions that I asked on the spot based on student responses. If anyone has questions about how this worked, just leave a comment and I can share more details.
Sending huge thanks out to Aaron and Amanda for sharing their questions and advice for the student panel, to LVPALA for inviting me to present at the workshop, to Courtney Eger for being an excellent speaker contact and helping recruit students, to Tina Hertel and Muhlenberg College for helping recruit students, and of course to the students who volunteered their summer time to participate in what could have been a very uncomfortable experience (I hope it wasn’t too bad!). This was truly a session that couldn’t have happened with just me alone. Collaboration for the win!
I’m planning to do another post about things I thought were intriguing about the student responses but I have to transcribe the audio from the session first… stay tuned!
Quick evals from two different upperclassmen (in the same class) following a library instruction session I did a few weeks ago. Please discuss:
- “What confuses me is how the university thinks we don’t understand the website – we know how to find everything online, it’s what our generation does.”
- “I think the whole library page setup is confusing and difficult to navigate.”
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?
Depicted below was, at one time, the root cause of much anxiety and self-doubt: job rejection letters.
From the following employers: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Towson University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, East Stroudsburg University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Health Sciences Library, Virginia Tech University of Delaware, Washington County, Oregon, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina Greensboro, University of Denver, NC State University, University of Washington, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, MacroSys, Swarthmore College, Moravian College, Yale University, Davidson College, Northern Arizona University, and University of Colorado.
And I didn’t even include the list of places I applied for online… Over 45 applications were submitted before I secured my position at Millersville University. Do I resent any of these companies/institutions for not hiring me? Absolutely not, it was just not the right fit at the right time. I’m posting this for all of the new librarians, recent graduates, those still in school and those considering librarianship as a career. I was doing my job search back in 2008 and the marketplace is even tougher now due to the economy. I’m sure many of you have similar piles of rejection letters (or maybe you throw them out as they come… or maybe you’re awesome and found a job on your first or second try). I am writing today to say: don’t give up hope!
I’ve seen a lot of good posts lately that might be of interest to those of you who are at various stages of the job search:
- Kiyomi Deards gives some phone interview advice
- Julie Strange discusses 10 tips for landing an interview
- Patrick Sweeney’s 5 tips for successful librarian interviews
- Bobbi Newman has put together an amazing collection of resources on becoming a librarian
As always, feel free to ask me any questions about my job search (and search committee) experiences. I would love to help bring more passionate professionals into the field. Are you currently looking for a job? How many places have you applied to? Any surprises so far?