SCARLA hosted a panel on outreach and programming in academic libraries that was coordinated by Roslyn Grandy, secretary of SCARLA. It was held on Tuesday, March 25th at 6:30 at the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers. Outreach is often addressed in the school or public library setting, but there is little said in MLIS classes or written in library science literature about outreach at colleges and universities. We consider it an important topic because forming and strengthening connections with the students and staff at our respective institutions is vital to raising awareness of our resources and services.
We had four excellent panelists who presented on outreach activities they have conducted and answered questions afterward. Our first presenter was Megan Lotts, Art Librarian at Rutgers University. Here are some of the ideas she discussed:
- During finals, push around a book cart with free snacks for students (peanuts, granola bars, candy, etc.)
- Pet-a-Puppy stress buster with personal pets or service animals
- Holiday card maker space
- Have a caricature artist in the library
- Woodblock Woodstock – an event she coordinated at SIU-Carbondale that involved “a 14th-century printing press in the back of a Honda Element, loud music, and two members from Drive By Press (DBP), printing and educating the SIUC campus about the ideas of printmaking and mobile art in the 21st century.”
- Polynomiography at Rutgers Day – Rutgers professor Bahman Kalantari helped attendees turn mathematical equations into art using a software he developed
- Edible Books festival – participants represent a book’s title or content with food
- We are more likely to learn when we’re having fun. We can sneak in research resources while we’re interacting with people during outreach activities.
- Collaborate with people who have money – she got several restaurants and stores to donate gift cards as prizes for Edible Books. Academic departments can also be a funding source.
Our next two panelists were Amanda Piekart, Information Literacy Instructional Designer at Berkeley College, and Bonnie Lafazan, Library Director at Berkeley College. They gave a joint presentation, which was adapted from the one they gave at the VALE 2014 conference.
- Be proactive in promoting all kinds of literacy: art, consumer, financial, medical, etc. – hold workshops on money management or finding reliable medical information
- Sex Ed trivia night – collaboration with Student Life
- Food For Fines – forgive fines when students donate canned food
- Volunteer at a community organization with Greek life or other students
- Meditation group
- Poetry reading
- Be a mentor to a student
- Book clubs with online students using Google Groups
- Weekly program or activity that meets in library – chess club
- Ask professors to offer extra credit for attending library events
- LibraryLand (like Candyland) or Library Olympics – compete with other campuses to see whose students can read the most books or watch the most foreign films in a given period of time
The last panelist was Heather Dalal, Instruction and Emerging Technologies Librarian at Rider University.
- Be a faculty adviser to a student group – Tashan at Rider
- Collaborate with student cultural groups for a Food Around the World event near the dining hall (so that people will go there instead of eating at the dining hall)
- International dance flash mob to promote study abroad programs
- Let’s Get Published faculty writing group – proofread and bounce ideas off each other
- Hold focus groups (bring food) to see what services students value or would like to see improved
- Library Minute videos – short videos that promote research resources
- Academic librarianship involves much more than being a bibliographer. Educating our constituents on how to find and evaluate quality information is part of our job, and they are more likely to seek our help if they have already had positive, informal interactions with us. We are cheerleaders and promoters for our resources.
- If planning outreach activities seems daunting, try helping another librarian with an activity that is already in the works, and you will get a feel for what kinds of things will work for your institution and possible partnerships that could be forged.
- Incorporating in personal hobbies and interests into outreach makes it more meaningful and effective (e.g. Megan is an artist so many of her activities foster creativity. Heather has family connections to Southeast Asia, so she is personally invested in the Bollywood student dance group).