Promoting Library Reference Services to First-Year Undergraduate Students: What Works?

By Sobel, Karen | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Promoting Library Reference Services to First-Year Undergraduate Students: What Works?


Sobel, Karen, Reference & User Services Quarterly


Most academic libraries have limited budgets for promoting their reference services. Understanding which promotions best reach current and potential patrons is crucial to budgeting funding, as well as time, effectively. This article describes a study that sought to answer three questions: (1) What percentage of first-year undergraduate students are aware Of reference services? (2) What percentage of first-years seek information from reference librarians? (3) Through which media are first-years comfortable communicating with reference librarians? To answer these questions, the researcher surveyed 237 first-years during their first semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Awareness varied greatly by media (i.e., in-person, chat, and telephone reference services). Approximately 35 percent of students reported already having used the UNC University Libraries' reference services. About 69 percent of students preferred face-to-face options over virtual or voice media. Strong trends related to peers' and educators' recommendations of reference services also emerged.

**********

Reference and instructional departments at academic libraries often promote their services to undergraduate students through numerous methods. A few popular examples include distributing flyers at freshman orientation, placing links to chat reference services on the library's home page, and hanging a "Questions?" sign above the reference desk with the hope that students will come. Yet few libraries assess which efforts actually influence those students who choose to use reference services. The purpose of this study is to explore the motivations of first-year students who reported having reference interactions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). While several other factors, such as professors requiring the use of the reference desk for an assignment, proved more influential, the instruction-session scenario is the most influential factor over which librarians have direct control. Most currently available research evaluates only a single method of promotion. This study measures and compares the effectiveness of all the methods available at a single university's libraries.

In fall 2006, a 3,816 students began their first year of college at UNC. (1) The reference desk at UNC's R. B. House Undergraduate Library (generally referred to as the Undergraduate Library), primarily used by the university's first- and second-year undergraduate students, recorded 10,757 questions received during the 2006-07 school year. (2) This figure included questions asked through all means available at that library, including face-to-face, instant messenger, and telephone interactions.

In preparation for this study, UNC's reference librarians identified seven ways their services were promoted:

* Verbal publicity during library instruction sessions

* "Ask-a-Librarian" links on UNC University Libraries' webpages

* Participation in first-year orientation

* Professors requiring the use of reference services for class assignments

* Recommendations by peers

* Positive experiences using reference desks at other libraries

* Students noticing the reference desk at a UNC library

Why is it important to compare the effectiveness of all these promotional methods? There are two main reasons. First, knowing which methods of promotion truly affect students' choices to visit the reference desk can help librarians encourage students to visit the desk sooner. More specifically, when librarians understand how to reach out to freshmen, they can encourage more students to use the reference desk throughout their college careers, right from the start. Second, most academic libraries have less funding for promotion than their staff would like. Knowing which methods of promotion best reach new users--an important audience---can help librarians maximize the effect of their promotional dollars. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Promoting Library Reference Services to First-Year Undergraduate Students: What Works?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.