Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Attracting Users in a Special Library: A Personalized Approach to a Standard Library Initiative

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Attracting Users in a Special Library: A Personalized Approach to a Standard Library Initiative

Article excerpt

Open houses are a great way to introduce your services to your patrons, especially those who may not otherwise be regular visitors. Librarians at the Engineering Library on the Pennsylvania State University, University Park campus developed a tailored open house event to connect with the College of Engineering community and introduce patrons to the resources and services available in the library. The Engineering Library benefited greatly from these events, and students now feel more comfortable approaching librarians with questions. The open houses have also provided a way for the librarians to learn more about the needs of their faculty and students.--Editors

With several libraries on the Pennsylvania State University's University Park campus, the Engineering Library can be easily missed. The library is one of four smaller branch libraries and occupies a top corner of a large College of Engineering building which makes it difficult for faculty, staff, and students to locate. In addition, historically, the College of Engineering community has considered themselves self-sufficient and use the library infrequently. Engineering researchers have "adapted quickly to the online environment and expect information to be on hand instantaneously." (1) As a result, some users may be unaware of the resources and services available in the library. A solution to these problems was to develop a personalized approach to a standard open house event which catered to the distinctive needs of Engineering Library users. Specifically, the plan was to target an individual department in the College of Engineering and showcase the specific library resources that would be most relevant to that unit.

There were three primary goals for the open house:

1. To get students and faculty to the Engineering Library;

2. To introduce the students and faculty to their librarians;

3. To show students and faculty that librarians are available to help and support them.


Libraries seek innovative ways to connect with their users. For academic libraries that serve traditional student populations, eighteen- to twenty-two-year olds, one of the barriers to making connections is library anxiety. The anxiety is the fear of librarians, research processes, and physical library space. (2) The goal is to "make it more likely they will come back for assistance throughout their academic careers." (3) Libraries have tried various ways to alleviate users' anxiety and make the library a valued resource. The focus of this article is on library open house events. These events strive to "provide students with a positive introduction to the library that will elicit interest and encourage feelings of comfort and connection with the library." (4) The Penn State Libraries have achieved this by having open house attendees interact one-on-one with librarians or library staff. (5) For most academic libraries, new students are the target audience for open house events. By targeting new students, library anxiety is alleviated early in the student's academic career. This means many open house events are held during orientations or the first several weeks of classes. (6)

The librarians at the University of Waterloo found that "students may forget most of the information they are exposed to [at open house events], but that they will likely take away a general impression or feeling about the library." (7) This makes it important to ensure open house events are fun for users. This can be done by including games with prizes and having giveaways for attendees. (8) The inclusion of these activities and giveaways provides incentive for students to attend the event. Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) University Library ensures that everyone has an enjoyable time by having the attitude that "everyone is welcome, everyone wins, and we all have fun." (9) The process demonstrates that the library is not all about dry research and students do not need to be afraid of it. …

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