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A new fall, a new way of reaching out

September 12, 2013

AASL Column, September 2013
Barbara Opar and Barret Havens, editors

Each new fall brings all of us in academia new challenges- faculty and librarians alike. But at the same time, it is a time of new beginnings and we all start the fall ready to reach out and try new ways of doing things. For librarians, this means trying to maximize our effectiveness with students and faculty. We want them to become familiar with who we are, with what we can do to help them and what kinds of new and different resources exist in our libraries and online.  Here are some of the ways our members are trying to help educate students about new tools and new initiatives:

Fifteen Minute Mini-Orientations.  Responding to the oft heard complaint that students don’t have enough time to attend workshops during orientation week, UC Berkeley’s Environmental Design Library instituted thematically-based 15 minute long “mini-orientations” beginning every half hour for two hours over two days.  Themes included “10 Things You Should Know about the Library”, “Finding the Right Electronic Resource”, “Linking Google Scholar to Berkeley Resources”, “Using Alerting Services”, “Avery Index”, and “Finding Images”.  Held on a drop-in basis, most students came for one session and stayed for three or four, asking their own questions in the time between sessions.  Eight 15 minute sessions held over two days attracted a total of 60 students with more than a few “wow” moments.  Berkeley library personnel jokingly considered holding a future session for graduate students entitled, “Writing Your Dissertation in 15 minutes”.

Flash Mob Table Tents.  A couple years back UC Berkeley’s Environmental Design Library purged the library of unwelcoming paper signs that warned of theft, prohibited eating and cell phones usage, and explained arcane policies best left to the website or face-to-face contact.  We then purchased 20 5”x7” acrylic table tents. Most of the time the four and eight person study tables remain sign-free, but when staff  need to promote a service (e.g. Zotero trainings, our group study room, a new resource, a community event) paper signs are quickly printed out on the color printer, inserted into the table tents, and placed on the large work tables.  Because there are so few signs in the library, these seem to get noticed and Berkeley personnel has seen a direct correlation between setting up the tents and the use of services advertised.  The tents stay up for 1-3 days and then “disappear” for a couple weeks.  Just like a “flash mob”, they appear all at once to make their statement, and then disappear nearly as quickly.     

Student Organized Workshops.  Scheduling topic- or resource-specific workshops is a thankless task, rewarded with low attendance and requests for additional classes at “better times”.  Berkeley Environmental Design Library staff  informed students that if they organized a group of at least five students for a topical workshop (generally citation management), the instructor would find a mutually agreeable time to hold it, and then advertise it to the rest of the college.  Generally two or three such workshops are scheduled by students each semester and attendance has increased from 1-4 participants to 5-20; no more one-on-one workshops.  There’s something about students organizing themselves that seems to work.

Trainer the Trainer. At Syracuse University, the architecture librarian has worked with the Director of Recruiting to offer a training session for the peer advisors. The peer advisors help orient new students and often become the go-tos for incoming students. By having a special session for the advisors, both the new students and advisors receive updates on the library.

Name Our Catalog. As a way of making students aware of changes to the library management system, the Library at the NewSchool of Architecture+ Design in San Diego sponsored a student competition to name the new online catalog. Library staff was able to market its services while engaging students in library operations.

Exhibits of Student Architecture Work: Art libraries have created galleries or other such spaces to show student work, but displaying architecture student work in the library has not been as prevalent. At Woodbury University, library personnel have collaborated with architecture faculty on the installation of exhibits of student-generated 3D prints, plans, and models.

Show & Tells: Inspired by C-Span's "Book TV," Woodbury plans to host a reception where members of the campus community will showcase publications, designs, exhibits, or any other creative project they have completed within the past year.  The informal "show & tell" format will foster discussion and, hopefully, future collaboration.

Film Screenings: Using documentaries from the library collection, Woodbury personnel hope to host a film series next spring that would feature screenings and a discussion facilitated by an architecture faculty member whose focus is related to the subject of the film.

Special attention to faculty: Offerings in this first group are focused on both students and faculty. But libraries do try to give special attention to their faculty through other venues as well. Copyright workshops address academic integrity. But in addition to training sessions, many libraries host new faculty to lunch to allow for informal discussion. In the case of the NewSchool, the library has a happy hour the first Friday of the term. Faculty can catch up on new library initiatives, chat with their colleagues and develop collaborations with other faculty as well as the library.

These are some of the ways in which architecture librarians have been trying to “get the word” out there. Perhaps your libraries and librarians are trying other new ways of reaching out to students and faculty. Perhaps you can think of other ways. Tell us!  We would love to hear from you. 

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