Magazine article Computers in Libraries

How to Host a Library Technology Fair

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

How to Host a Library Technology Fair

Article excerpt


On September 29, 1999, the librarians and staff of the Northwestern State University (NSU) in Louisiana hosted a 1-day Library Technology Fair. We drew more than 1,700 people (nearly a quarter of the school's 7,000 students!), making it the most heavily trafficked single day in the history of libraries at NSU. This level of participation is even more remarkable in light of the fact that, as with most other regional state universities, many commuting students take classes that meet only once or twice a week. The high turnout and enthusiasm for our fair may indicate a latent desire for special "open house" types of events that can be held at any academic library, or conceivably at any library.

Our fair focused on the library and our campus technology. The feedback and impressions that we have subsequently received from students, faculty, and staff indicate that an event focused only on technology or only on the library would not have generated comparable results. In the past, the university has held special events for students that were technologically oriented; none have "faired" as well as ours. In our case, it also seems that the marketing creativity and execution employed by NSU librarians weren't the most critical variables. The dual concepts of library and technology applied to a well-publicized, instructional event made the difference. Read on to find out how we did it and made it so successful.

Why and How We Did It

Our immediate reason for organizing the event was our librarywide transition just after the start of the fall semester to new unified workstations, which allow easier access and greater flexibility for patrons searching electronic databases. In addition to the fact that high numbers of students commute to our school from around the region, the overwhelming majority of students that live in town live off-campus. So we desired a faster method for spreading awareness of the unified workstations than conventional promotion venues or simple word of mouth could provide. But we realized that for a special event to be successful, we would need more than the debut of the workstations to attract student attention. With this in mind, our "collective marketing imagination" went to work.

After some debate, we decided that our conceptual centerpiece for marketing the event would be the "one-stop shopping" strategy. Students today are bombarded with a bewildering array of library services, computing services, and distance-education support options. How can they make sense of them all? We reasoned that a "one-stop shopping" opportunity for students might be very helpful and would fit in schematically with the event. Toward this end, we got two big commitments early--the university's divisions of Computer Services and Auxiliary Services. At the fair, they allowed students to obtain university e-mail accounts and student identification cards, respectively. We weren't ashamed to do it or to advertise it: "Kids, get your e-mail accounts and ID cards at the library, 1 day only!"

With these linchpins in place, we confidently pursued other commitments. From the beginning, we planned, promoted, and managed the fair as a campuswide event. Officially, no cosponsors were involved. As for internal participants, there were three academic departments, three support service departments, and the university's food services provider. In addition, five off-campus vendors that offer library- and computer-related services participated.

Two academic departments at NSU offer courses in application software for credit--the Department of Business Administration and the Department of Mathematics. Faculty members from both staffed information booths at the fair. Faculty and graduate assistants from the Department of Educational Technology also participated, distributing color brochures of programs and course offerings. …

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