Two Librarians Attempt to Knock Down Walls

A few weeks ago we toured Columbia College Library (love the web site!) as part of my intro class. I bumped into a librarian who had heard me speak about extending services outside the library walls. She mentioned they had tried it to some interesting results. I asked her to write a few sentences to share with TTW readers – and here it is:

As promised, I am sending you a note about an activity that I and another Reference Librarian undertook to advance our Library along the Library 2.0 way! Following a model you mentioned in your talk with us in February 2006, wherein a faculty member with a laptop frequented a Panera Bread, we took some laptops and sat in a dorm lounge and student campus hub for 2-hour stretches at what we deemed to be crucial times in the semester (mid-term, two  weeks before the end of the semester). Students to our surprise…and dismay…actually didn’t embrace this idea as wholeheartedly as we hoped.  They seemed startled and uncomfortable about engaging in library-type interactions in non-library settings. While students are usually thought of as the open-minded ones, on this note they seemed firmly set in their thinking that they must be in the Library for this kind of exchange to occur. Even so, my colleague and I admit we still learned a lot through our attempts. The most important is that we need to be sure that Library wants and will support the work that will be necessary to build this as a means of communication and assistance with our students over the long haul. Also as I write this, a couple of other things jump out at me: first,  establishing a fruitful connection as we conceived it could take quite a bit of time given the limited opportunities in which we allotted to work  it and secondly, since our guesses as to when and where to host it have not met with the greatest of success, it’s apparent that we need to solicit students’ thoughts on where and when (and if) such a service might be useful to them.

Shirley L. Bennett, Reference & Instruction Librarian, Columbia College Chicago

Thanks Shirley. I appreciate the candid take on trying new things. maybe time and student input would make the path clearer. What have other librarians found as they move outside the library? Care to share?

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3 thoughts on “Two Librarians Attempt to Knock Down Walls”

  1. I have been offering satellite reference in the School of Business at the University of Mississippi for four years. I consider it a success. If one were to look at my stats it might not look like people were lining up to talk to me (but sometimes they were), I consider any and all interaction a success. And because most of the interaction was subject-specific, many of the consultations were longer. Being in the School of Business also allowed me to become visible and get to know the faculty–it wouldn’t have happened as easily as it did if I hadn’t spent time in their building. I sit in an open atrium with a laptop, table, and sign.

    Spring semesters are slower than fall semester, but spring semester is slower at out main reference desk, too. I spend Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons in the B-School. I have considered changing the Thursday hours–it doesn’t seem to be a busy time.

    It works because of the culture of the department. Students and faculty both spend a lot of time in the building–faculty in their offices and students hang out in the building.

  2. We’ve been doing this for almost a year now at Baylor – called “Librarians on the Loose” and have met with some success and some not so much. It really depends on the place. We started out last semester going to the Business school, the student union and the new honors college dorm. The B-school was by far and away the place where we had the most success, so we tweaked it for this semester, dropping the student union and the dorm and adding the science building and the writing center. We figured that it’s the academic buildings where students are actually thinking about papers and projects and might be looking for library assistance outside of the library. Basically we’re just trying to go where students already are and already are studying.

  3. This semester I decided to pilot reference hours twice a week in the computer lab of the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston. So far, I’ve been really happy with the results. I’ve gotten to know students much better, and I can follow up with students after one-shot instruction sessions. Plus, just the act of leaving the library and prowling through my liaison college’s building is beneficial. I usually end up bumping into a professor or two, and the flyers pasted in the student lounge let me know what events are taking place in the college.

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