Librarians Share Tried-and-Tested Library Student Outreach Methods and Tools

Eglantine Ronfard
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As we know, STEM librarians must actively engage and work with their on-campus student constituents. Luckily, there are more methods than ever, with those that are web-based, such as email and internet social media, frequently augmenting the traditional face-to-face techniques.

In our previous blog, we discussed how librarians rate tools and methods for faculty interaction. Now we’ll review how they view the various means to reach out to students.

Winners for Librarian-to-Student Outreach

The following rankings are based on responses to our recent librarian survey. The respondents ranked top outreach methods as follows:

  • Consultations: 82%
  • Library classes: 70%
  • Orientations 51%
  • In-class meetings: 50%
  • Emails: 46%
  • Website: 36%
  • Library events/lectures: 35%
  • Social media: 24%

Making the Most of STEM Interactions

The student findings were similar to faculty interactions. It appears the more personal and quality the touch, the better, judging by the rankings. Topping the list was consultations (at 82 percent); next came in-library classes (70 percent); and third was orientation services (51 percent). “The one-on-one or small workshops work best,” as a survey respondent puts it.

The value of student consultations is no surprise to Carolyn Bishoff, physics, astronomy, and earth sciences librarian at the University of Minnesota. She states: “One-on-1 consultations are important ways to connect with students.” However, orientations and in-class work tend to be much less personal than private meetings; generally, students need a strong reason to seek out the librarian privately after attending group events.

To Email or Not to Email

Then there are the web-based approaches, of which email was ranked as the top successful method (46 percent), topping even library events and lectures meetings (35 percent). Then came the library website, with a 36 percent success percentage.

Email provokes different opinions, depending on the audience. While Bishoff says that it’s not a good way to communicate with faculty, it is a solid way to reach out to students. “People are always emailing them [students] with opportunities and announcements so I have no qualms emailing the grad student list with helpful tips from the library once a week,” she states. “I send along event announcements, cool tool alerts, and timely information when I know there’s a big conference coming up, or when I see a lot of thesis defenses pop up on the schedule. I have built so much engagement from weekly emails and holding office hours.”

A Variety of Tactics

Creativity is a plus. Stated one respondent: “The library faculty on my campus do not offer student instruction. I facilitate book discussions and art exhibitions which allow me to interact with a few students a couple times a year.”

Science Cafe at the University of Southern Mississippi

Another proven method is to inquire about which STEM instructors offer extra classroom credits for library workshops or other related events. “You would be surprised by who offers extra credit for what,” states Tracy Englert, associate professor and science, nursing, and health librarian at the University of Southern Mississippi. She says: “I have a chemistry and a math instructor who offer extra credit for students who attend citation management and other library workshops. That is a huge way to get to connect with students.”

She suggests librarians learn what teachers are offering extra credit and provide an appropriate workshop. “Make sure to let the instructor know that you can provide a sign-in list for the credit.” Additionally, it helps to reach out to student chapters of different disciplinary groups. Let them know the library will back the chapter members if they want to hold an education and outreach event.

“That’s a great way to connect, and if the student chapter is the sponsor of a particular library event, you’ve increased your event attendance!” states Englert. Also, assist them with their chapter goals and objectives. “Some are required to put on events and you can help them make that obligation a success, plus help out a busy, stressed-out faculty advisor!”

Among some of the other specific methods librarians suggested were:

  • Holding a library day celebration
  • Offer a library quiz event
  • Being available at the student’s time of greatest need
  • Casual conversations with students
  • Curriculum-based student consultations for projects, papers, and presentations
  • Technology and software solutions and demonstrations
  • Recording studio/collaborative assignments

Perhaps you have your own favorite outreach methods. If so, we’d love to hear about them. Stay tuned for our next survey blog.