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In case you missed it: A recap of the CRD Spring Workshop

June 5, 2015

We are pleased to announce that the CRD’s Spring Workshop was nothing short of a great success! This year’s program took place at Millersville University on May 29th, featuring three keynote speakers, a panel of PA librarians, and a rich selection of donuts. Below is a brief recap of each presentation.

Melissa Bowles-Terry, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Helping Students Cross the Finish Line: Libraries Contribute to Student Retention and Graduation

In her presentation, Melissa asked the audience to think critically about their work as librarians and how that work either contributes to or hinders student success. Pointing out that the average graduation rate in U.S. colleges and universities is just 59%, Melissa provided an overview of recent research on student retention and more specifically, the potential of librarians to increase retention via high impact practices, increasing student engagement, assisting with course and assignment design, and sharing research data with faculty. Melissa also discussed the various initiatives that UNLV is taking to increase student success, including professional development certificates for student workers, targeted assessment of student work from first-year courses, and an increased focus on research consultations and direct instruction. Librarians at UNLV also practice transparency—in other words, making sure that the purpose, task, and criteria for instruction sessions is made clear to all students. Collaboration with faculty on course and assignment design is regular and often involves real-life learning experiences in order to increase student engagement. For example, one recently-created assignment involves students observing criminal behavior (under the supervision of police officers) and connecting their observations to the research they find in library databases (um, how cool is that?).

Key takeaways from Melissa’s presentation:

  1. Data is a powerful story-telling tool. While some faculty are comfortable with numbers and statistics, it doesn’t work for everyone; therefore, using data to tell a story and sharing that story with faculty in order to influence course design can be a powerful skill for librarians.
  2. Library services have been proven to have a stronger correlation with student success than library spaces.
  3. Sometimes, keeping track of student retention means gathering personal information about students; this tends to raise privacy issues that could be tricky to approach. (If you have any experience/thoughts on gathering personal data to increase student retention, please share them in the comments below!)

Melissa’s slides can be accessed via the link below (see slides 21 & 22 for relevant research and reading materials):

Nancy Kranich and Megan Lotts, Rutgers University

Listening to Many Voices: Community Conversations at Rutgers University Libraries

Nancy began the discussion by describing the future roles of library liaisons at Rutgers, mentioning that librarians need to turn outward and serve as primary catalysts for community conversations. She emphasized the importance of focusing on aspirations rather than identifying problems or visions for the future—the reason being that aspirations create possibility, whereas identifying problems leads to complaining, and visioning creates false hope. As a result of the conversations at Rutgers, librarians learned that they need to focus on building inclusive communities, engaging students through informal relationships, and teaching critical thinking skills that will help students succeed both in and out of school.

Megan continued by describing current initiatives to build such connections. She spoke of her own efforts in reaching out to the Rutgers SAS Honors Program in which students choose the primary theme and reading material for their own colloquium course. Megan took the liberty of immersing herself in the course by visiting student spaces, creating a LibGuide for the course, and providing information about the library. Other initiatives include “Scarlet Knight Days,” which features caricatures, open mic night, and snacks in the library, and “RU Game?,” an event in which librarians partnered with the campus’s Super Smash Bros. Club in order to increase engagement and strengthen informal relationships with students.

Key takeaways from Nancy and Megan’s presentation:

  1. Librarians need to turn outward in order to hold successful community conversations (be where the students are; “just show up”)
  2. We need to build connections, not just collections!
  3. Building informal relationships is essential to increasing engagement (especially if it involves Super Smash Bros….and food).

Nancy and Megan’s slides can be accessed via the link below:

Finally, the afternoon ended with a panel of PA librarians featuring Marilyn Kay Harhai from Clarion University; Tina Hertel from Muhlenberg College; Monty McAdoo from Edinboro University of PA; Lisa Stillwell from Franklin and Marshall College; and Rob Weidman from Lehigh University. Nancy served as moderator and posed questions regarding outreach initiatives, student retention efforts, and our role in preparing for the next generation of librarians.

Key takeaways from the panel:

  1. PA librarians engage in a variety of outreach initiatives including Librarian House Calls, Happy Hour, and circulating bicycles.
  2. Outreach is a mutual effort; if you want others on campus to attend library events, you must attend theirs as well.
  3. Attendees: please add your own comments below! What did you learn as a result of our awesome panel?

We would like to thank ALL presenters and attendees for making this year’s program so successful; it wouldn’t be possible without you! We must also give credit to Christina Steffy, Vice Chair of the CRD and head of the Workshop planning committee, for pulling together such a successful event.

See live tweets from the workshop by searching for the hashtag, “#crdpala2015” on Twitter. (Don’t forget to follow us @CRDPaLA).

Stay tuned for details about next year’s workshop. We hope to see you then!

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