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Around the Campus in 8 Days: Learn How Librarian House Calls Can Create a Buzz About Your Library

October 18, 2009

Around the Campus in 8 Days: Learn How Librarian House Calls Can Create a Buzz About Your Library
Renate Sachse, Catalog and Circulation Librarian, and Andy Gulati, Systems Librarian, Franklin & Marshall College

This was a very engaging presentation about how F & M librarians take 2 weeks each semester to visit academic departments on campus. Ten librarians make ‘house calls’ with their liaison depts. F & M is a very walkable campus, and the library has a good-sized collection with lots of study space. Librarians do not have tenure at F & M, and they thought that ‘house calls’ would provide a perfect excuse to visit faculty and staff, and dept. coordinators.

How does it work? Each semester, for 2 weeks after fall and spring breaks, librarians travel in pairs, and tour for no more than 2 hours per slot, and no more than 2 slots per day. Traveling in pairs is optimal — 3 was too many, and 1 doesn’t work too well, as the librarian-faculty relations is not really an ‘equal’ one.

Advertising is primarily done through 2 emails; first email 6 days before program, setting up program, telling them what to expect, give them talking points (ill, requesting books, etc, new resources). In the email, they do ask for appointments, but there has not been much demand for that. They select a 2 hour period when people are likely to be in their offices. They also send second email at beginning of 2nd week of visiting, highlighting some of the ‘good questions’ they’ve gotten, which seems to spark interest.

They travel with literature (a nice brochure about the Library which is also used at Parents’ weekend plus a brochure with all the librarians’ pictures and their liaison areas) and pens. In the past they’ve also given a coupon for free coffee for ‘significant interactions’.

They only knock on open doors, introduce self and their purpose– ‘we’re here to see if you have any research questions…’ If there is no response, they will fall back on ‘talking points’ until they have a question 1) highlighted databases 2) their dept. budget 3) where students can go for help

Highlights over the years:

-Andy writes up a report with abbreviated questions, and for whole year to see what they’ve done and what to do next year

-2003 – 33 contacts first year (15% of faculty)

-2004 – # of house calls jumped ~50%
-2005 – start of successful outreach program to international students, faculty are pleased with the new patron-initiated (EZborrow) –

-Their outreach program was an outgrowth of their house calls.

They are careful to respect faculty members’ confidentiality.

2006 – started promoting digitized programs, quiet study areas, ‘Ask Andy’ (over 1,000 questions a year, including texting, up to 2 am) and librarian research appointments.

2007 – faculty members’ ongoing concern for students’ knowledge of research processes; marketing of good will.

2008 – citation concerns; increase in student/faculty collaborations.

2009 – sciences demand online journal access and SciFinder Scholar; LibQUAL survey currently.

Average number about 50 – 60 per semester (out of 200+). There is enough turnover among faculty, so that about 30% of their contacts is with new faculty.

-Their focus is on quality vs. quantity. They know they are not going to you get 100% involvement. The process can’t be a numbers game, it’s about building relationships
-You have to be sensitive to office space dynamics and human nature – you are entering their space and should be sensitive to that; the interpersonal interaction is everything
-They have been considering inclusion of computing services, but are not sure how to do that
-They are building their mission statements and goals
-This service can be adapted to university library settings (with college focus); special libraries; public libraries (legislators? constituents?)

-Possibly including members of library staff or computing services (if have good interpersonal skills), pros and cons
-Understanding budgets and finding ways the library can best support the College mission
(time of opportunity?)
-Get the most out of what you have, despite library budget cuts; faculty are not often aware (let them know something about library budget)

-Q & A Period – Renate and Andy answered our questions
-Do try to get librarians to go to other depts. outside their areas
-Liaisons tend stick to own areas, but good to get them to branch out
-Do visit admissions, and other offices; but visiting some depts. wasn’t so productive, so they do tend to focus on academic depts. However, they’ve had productive meetings with Advancement/Development offices, International Students, Admissions, Career Services, Writing Center

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