General first-year outreach

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General First-Year Outreach (not related to classes): definition

If you ask 18-year-olds what an academic library would have to do to get them in the door, they always come up with "public library" PR ideas: book talks, game nights, music, movies, etc. Have you tried any of these? Were they successful?

General First-Year Outreach: Examples

Ohio University

Ohio University: 4+/pub/lge // Contact: Sherri Saines

The Code Game

The Code game is a series of 5 challenges through which students explore the library and earn prizes. They begin by asking for the first task at the Alden Library second floor library services desk. Solve that puzzle, return and get another one…. Students who successfully solve all 5 “codes” are entered in a drawing for one of three grand prizes of $100. This was expensive, and a lot of work! We only had 60 students finish the whole thing. But we liked the idea well enough to try it again in 08; results forthcoming.

Code Game Tasks

Gaming Night

We turned the Library into a gaming arcade for one evening during move-in weekend. This, too, was very expensive and time-consuming. We had about 160 turn out, but most ate up the pizza and left. Of the dozen or so who stayed late to actually play games, the reviews were great. We decided the audience was too small.

Precollege Lemonade

Student and parent groups tour campus during Precollege, the summer orientation program. In order to entice them to actually come in the library and look around for a few minutes, we serve lemonade. We buy the lemonade from food services, but librarians pour it and take 2-3 minutes to talk to each group about the library. We script the talking points. As this goes on for 3 weeks, we take volunteers from all library departments. It's a feel-good event that we think gains us a lot of good will for the cost of the lemonade.

Lemonade Instructions

Resource Fairs

These fairs are simply conference-type display tables set up in a room through which particular groups are invited: Resident assistants, New students, New faculty, undecided students, etc. We invested in a trifold, some nice laminated library photos, magnets with our IM handle (cheapest thing in the book), and chocolate. Stand and schmooze.

Resource Fair Instructions

Dorm Librarian

We've tried several approaches to being "Dorm Librarian."

1. A Residence Director asked me to be the "Jefferson Hall Librarian." In that guise I was introduced to the Resident Assistants, put up a bulletin board of book covers, set up a table to answer questions 3-5 times over the year, passed out my business card, and came to 2-3 evening activities with small library components. At the time, I judged it not worth the hours invested, as turnout was sparse, and questions from my visits averaged 1 per hour. Interestingly, however, for the next 3 years, I had students come up to me in the library and on campus and say, "I remember you. You were our librarian when I lived in Jeff Hall."

2. Working with the Head of Residence Life, we picked 3 dorms which are normally not singled out for special programs and offered them library programming. Each dorm took a different tack. The first dorm invited me to hall council and an RA meeting, set up a Library Fair date, then decided nobody would come, and cancelled. The second dorm invited me an RA meeting, and they never got back to me. The third dorm set me up with an RA rep who thought we'd do a book group together, but settled for a one-shot evening program with ice cream that had a dozen participants (a record!). Again, I decided this approach was not worth the hours spent. I was also asked to provide one in-service per term for RAs. These were regularly, but unenthusiastically, attended.

3. We have always told the RAs we would come and do evening programs if they handle attendance and refreshments. As they are required to produce so many academic programs in the dorm per year, we do get a 1-2 of these each year. We have tried many ways to advertise these: handouts at the RA orientation, workshops / in-service for RAs during the year, e-mails, posters, flyers, attending staff meetings, posting them on the RA webpage.


We post a slate of workshops every term, of which a certain number are aimed at New Students. workshops In a typical fall, I will post one per week, and get a term total of 3 attendees, usually graduates or international students who really just have one question they need to have answered. So why do we keep doing them? Because if you ask anyone on campus how we might be reaching out to the students, they say, offer free workshops. So we do. You can't say we aren't trying every possible avenue.

Yale University

Yale University: 4+/prv/med // Contact: Emily Horning

Personal Librarian Program

Our PL program matches each incoming freshman with a Yale librarian, or PL. The PLs send occasional announcements (approximately every 3-4 weeks) to their students about various research tools and databases, lead tours of Sterling Memorial and Bass Libraries (the two libraries most heavily used by undergraduates) at the beginning of the year and tours of other collections as the academic year goes on, and generally remain available for research assistance (by e-mail, IM or office hours) for the first two years of a student's Yale career. When the student declares a major, their PL will introduce them to their Subject Specialist, a librarian with collection development and research responsibilities in their discipline, who will help them with the work they do for the junior seminars and eventually senior essays or projects, which are required of most majors here.

We're technically in the second stage of the pilot phase of this program, the first stage being a tryout with a subset, 120 students, of last year's freshman class. The students in that group really liked the idea of having their "own" librarian. Once we got the support of Yale's Dean of Undergraduate Education and the Dean of Freshman Affairs, we entered the second stage of the pilot: determining whether we could scale up, and recruit enough librarians to work with the Class of 2012, which has 1320 students. We were able to find 31 librarians to join us this academic year. In order to make the offer more appealing, we said participating librarians could take on a minimum of 10 students, but the upper limit was up to them - if they would agree to participate for two years. So some of us are working with only 10 students, and others, like myself, have many, many more than 10 students. So far that isn't a problem, but this is something we'll be monitoring closely throughout the academic year. I should also mention that our PL program is based on a similar program (with the same name) that Yale's Medical Library has had in place for many years, which is very successful. I'm aware of the University of Chicago's Class Librarian program, which is slightly different (one librarian follows an entire class, for four years) but not of anything quite like ours. Perhaps I'm just not looking thoroughly enough.

Randolph-Macon College

Randolph-Macon College: 4/priv/v sm  : Megan Hodge, Circulation Supervisor

Pirate Orientation

As part of Freshman Orientation we have students come through the library for a themed orientation. This year the library staff dressed up like pirates and had piratey decorations all around the library, and students had to go to each library station (circulation, reference, etc.) and get their treasure map stamped to show they'd been there. While at each station, students received a brief intro to the station's functions and some food or a small gift like an R-MC highlighter. Treasure maps were turned in at the end of the orientation and those with all six stamps were entered into a drawing to win one of three Target gift cards.

Penn State University

Penn State University: 4+/pub/lge

Article: A Luau in the Library

Ellsya Stern Cahoy, Rebecca Merrit Bichel. "A Luau in the Library? A New Model of Library Orientation". College & Undergraduate Libraries Vol. 11. No.1. 2004. pp 49-60. DOI: 10.1300/J106v11n01_06. Haworth Press Abstract

Several weeks into the semester, Penn State offers a themed library open house. This article offers a 10-step how-to guide. It looks fun and successful, but expensive! Includes PR materials and assessment. About 2,000 students attended.