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Outreach ideas by librarians, for librarians

For university libraries, it can sometimes be difficult to get students—especially new students—comfortable with coming into the library and engaging with library staff. We asked some librarians how they get creative with their student outreach to welcome students to campus and to the library.

Maria Atilano, Marketing and Student Outreach Librarian, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida

The University of North Florida’s Thomas G. Carpenter Library hosts an annual “Week of Welcome” event targeted to new and returning students. Titled “Breakfast at Tommy G’s,” the event takes place during the first week of classes and is planned with and marketed by the University’s Office of Campus Life. Major objectives of the Breakfast include interacting with students in a fun and personal way, while also introducing elements of learning and assessment.

Students are asked to visit three information stations where they are told about key library services and resources, such as research help, collections, ITS support, and more. After visiting the stations, they fill out a quick survey before receiving their free food. Survey questions include how they learned about the event, their class year, what they learned during the event, and what ways can the library help them succeed academically.

For the past four years, the event has reached a growing number of students. This past year’s event on 22 August reached a total of 223 students, and survey results were extremely positive. Not only are students thankful for the donuts, coffee, fresh fruit, and free items, but they also always learn something new about the library they can use throughout their college career.

Photo courtesy of Maureen Rust, Student Engagement and Community Outreach Librarian, James E. Brooks Library, Central Washington University.

Liz Svoboda, Interim Head of Circulation & Reference Librarian, Frances Willson Thompson Library, University of Michigan-Flint

At the University of Michigan-Flint, we are trying to revive our outreach to students. Over the past three years, we have had a couple of standard events for finals (90 Hour Library and therapy dogs), but we wanted to do more throughout the semester. We started small by getting some promotional items and attending summer orientation resource fairs as well as the annual Fall Mgagement fair, where all the departments and student clubs have tables. Our goals were being present and friendly and trying to reach as many new students as possible.

This past fall, we kicked it up a notch by handing out candy to students who activated their student ID in our ILS for National Library Card Sign-Up Month and held the event “Selfie with a Skeleton,” which highlights our newest student suggested acquisition, while being quirky and fun. We’re trying to make the library seem more approachable and to be more responsive to student needs and requests, but at a slow pace so that we can sustain our efforts.

Maureen Rust, Student Engagement and Community Outreach Librarian, James E. Brooks Library, Central Washington University

Brooks Library welcomes our students back to campus the second day of each quarter by hosting a food and information giveaway at the library entrance. If the weather is warm, that may entail ice cream or Freezie Pops. The chilly temps of winter quarter means cocoa and cookies are served. We set up a table in our entrance and fill it with sweet treats and handouts, and staff it with friendly library faculty, administrators, and staff. It gives us an opportunity to wish our students “good luck” for the coming term, and to promote our student events planned for that quarter.

In early fall 2016, we partnered with Student Success to promote their new “Traditions Keeper” program by setting up tables outside the library entrance to distribute popcorn, traditions booklets, and library information, all accompanied by tunes from our campus radio station, 88.1 The ‘Burg.

We post promotional flyers throughout the library and across campus and campus online events calendars, and schedule radio announcements on 88.1.

By welcoming our students back with these events every quarter, we remind them they are the reason we are here, that the library is a welcoming space, and that we care about their success in reaching their educational goals.

By welcoming our students back with these events every quarter, we remind them they are the reason we are here, that the library is a welcoming space, and that we care about their success in reaching their educational goals.

Jessica Hayes, Head of Public Services Librarian, Auburn Montgomery University Library

In the summer of 2017 we organized a Board Game Day that would not only welcome students and introduce them to the library, but also provide them with a fun and relaxed time to hangout with librarians, library staff members, and other students.

On the day of the event, library staff members were active participants. They greeted students, popped popcorn, gave library tours, and provided detailed assistance with learning how to use the library resources. However, the volunteers’ main task during the entire event was to assist in creating a comfortable and relaxed environment for attendees, most of whom were new AUM students, and help reduce the innate library anxiety most students have when encountering academic libraries/librarians. In this task, the volunteers succeeded greatly.

To encourage the students to relax, librarians and library staff members dressed in jeans and t-shirts or their AUM Library polo shirts. I typically wear business formal or business semi-casual attire, but at this event, I wore a pair of jeans, tennis shoes, and a Doctor Who t-shirt, which thrilled a lot of the students who attended, and started discussions about the “Whovian” universe. The library volunteers actively participated in all games. This led to a lot of joking and laughing, which allowed students to see that library employees are just humans and there is nothing of which to be afraid.

As a closing example of this event’s success, the very next day after the board game event, two students who attended came to my office seeking help. There had been someone at the Reference Desk but because they already felt connected to me, they specifically sought me out for assistance. That entire first week, they visited me to receive help on various other new semester issues. Weeks later, we still interact and engage with each other when we see one another in the Library or around campus.

Featured image credit: La Trobe University Library by andrew_t8. Public domain via Pixabay.

Recent Comments

  1. Martin Serna

    Giving away ice cream and wearing a dr. who t-shirt, but nothing about the fantastic world of literature to get lost within. For example introducing new titles or completely new areas of study to eighteen year olds.
    –Martin Serna


    Congratulations! Thank you for sharing these creative and informative ideas for librarians to be more innovative, more engaging information specialist, friendly and welcoming to our clients. I am looking forward to have these program in the library.

  3. Gemma B. Alexander

    Thanks for sharing. Your events and activities are truly welcoming to new and returning students. This makes them feel comfortable to visit the library and ask staff for assistance as often as possible.

  4. Gemma B. Alexander

    Great ideas and events! Thanks for sharing your activities, they are truly welcoming to both new and returning students. Students will feel comfortable visiting the library and asking for assistance as often as possible.

    We will have to try the food and information giveaway.

    Keep up the good work.

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