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First Year Experience

March 28, 2018

My colleague, Beth, and I recently attended The Personal Librarian and First Year Experience Conference at Case Western Reserve University. The two-day conference was filled with great ideas and practical advice for how to interact with and support our first-year students. I highly recommend this conference as a good use of our limited professional development funds.

At our library our most focused and reliable interaction with students is during their first year, particularly in the fall semester during their First-Year Seminar course. We assign a librarian to each FYS section to serve as the “Personal Librarian” to the students and the instructor. We also try to get every FYS instructor to invite us to deliver an information literacy instruction session. We usually get in about 80-90% of the sections depending on the semester. For our library once the fall semester ends, that is the end of the personal librarian relationship as well. During the two years we have assigned Personal Librarians to our FYS sections only a handful of students have reached out to their librarians for help.

One of my biggest takeaways from this conference was coming up with ways that we can try to maintain and build the personal librarian connection with students throughout their college career. We are considering emails timed to correspond with midterms, finals, or other high reference traffic times with reminders of library services that are available to them. We’re also considering trying to partner with RA’s to meet with students in the dorms during their floor programming to get them to associate us with support outside of a specific class setting. A great suggestions from our colleagues at Gettysburg was to implement Librarians with Lattes at the coffee kiosk on campus so we can meet the students where they are rather than making them come to us.

We are still discussing what is feasible at our school and how to implement some of these ideas but I am excited to see if continuing the connection past the fall semester increases student use of the program. Going to a conference always leaves me inspired by the awesome and creative things other librarians are doing. Is anyone else doing something exciting with first-year students? I’d love to hear about it! Comment on the post or e-mail me directly, smartin@washjeff.edu.

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