Reaching First-Year Students during Orientation Week

By Collins, Nancy; Dodsworth, Eva | Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Reaching First-Year Students during Orientation Week

Collins, Nancy, Dodsworth, Eva, Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research


Every fall, academic librarians are given a fresh opportunity to attract first-year students to the library and its services. Often having only one chance to 'wow' the students, University of Waterloo librarians have discovered a recipe for a successful outreach and promotion program for first-year students. Focusing on a student-centered approach, the librarians have amassed a collection of testimonials, stories, and projects that are shared during library outreach events. This, combined with an effective delivery style, has left first-year students not only enjoying the presentation, but likely to develop a positive connection to the library.

In this article, the authors outline the specific outreach approaches that Waterloo librarians are using in their communications and presentations to first-year students during orientation week.


outreach; first-year students; academic libraries; orientation; frosh; library anxiety


Orientation week is an exciting and high-energy time. To reach first-year students during this week requires an approach that matches this level of energy and excitement while also thoughtfully addressing the circumstances and emotions that students may be experiencing.

At the University of Waterloo, librarians have been expanding their outreach to first-year students during orientation week dramatically over the past few years, with efforts including involvement in department, faculty, and campus-wide orientation events. The goal of librarians during orientation events is to provide students with a positive introduction to the library that will elicit interest and encourage feelings of comfort and connection with the library. Doing so directly addresses students' emotional state by acknowledging the anxiety they might feel not only about orientation week in general but also, more specifically, about the library.

Literature Review

Library anxiety is not a new phenomenon. A study conducted over twenty-five years ago by Constance Mellon revealed that 75 to 85 percent of 6,000 undergraduate students expressed fear or anxiety about using the university library. Since this time, librarians have been developing strategies to help reduce students' library anxiety, mainly in the form of library instruction sessions.

Library instruction is generally offered in the form of orientation events, lectures, course- integrated instruction, video recordings, and guides. Studies have shown that providing students with multiple exposures to library instruction can reduce their anxiety (Jiao, Onwuegbuzie, and Lichtenstein), and that personal interactions with librarians are more effective at reducing anxiety than computer-assisted instruction (Van Scoyoc). The timing of library instruction appears to be relevant also, with studies showing that library introductory sessions that are offered before school work intensifies, such as during the first six weeks of the school year, will foster a calmer and more positive learning environment (Keefer).

Some libraries have taken a less formal approach to library instruction and have introduced the element of fun into library instruction events. Examples include offering information in the form of scavenger hunts (Brown, Weinhart, Johnson, and Dance), online games (Markey et al.), and using social networks such as QR codes and YouTube videos (McDonald). Introducing the library in such ways may help to put nervous or otherwise unsure students at ease. Students can learn that the academic library is not to be feared, and that it is staffed by friendly, casual, and approachable librarians.

An informal and enjoyable first impression of the library can be an ideal way to alleviate any fearful preconceptions or anxieties that new students may have. The first encounter, however, may need to be provided very early on in the new school year - before new students have the opportunity to experience the library on their own.

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.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

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

Cited article

Reaching First-Year Students during Orientation Week


Text size Smaller Larger
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?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

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

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

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.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?