Early Career Librarian Series: Advocate for Your Campus Library

April 19, 2019 Rachel Becker

College campuses are large and dynamic environments with many resources to support student success both in and outside of the classroom. Each department plays a unique role in shaping student retention and achievement, but the library is often the most visible and frequently interacted with.  

Advocating for library services on campus can take many different but equally important forms. From ensuring up-to-date technology and maintaining robust print and digital collections to, perhaps most importantly, a stellar staff, it starts with establishing a visible presence.  

While the focus of most library outreach is on students, investing in your campus stakeholders can reap the following benefits: 

  • Potential for increased departmental funding 
  • New cross-departmental partnerships 
  • Improved relationships between the library and other campus stakeholders 
  • Increased campus awareness of library services 

Advocating and outreach can take many different forms and varying time commitments. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling on your campus! 

Attend Campus Events 

Getting out of the library and attending other campus events can be a fantastic way to network with other departments. Look for professional development opportunities on campus by attending safety trainings or helping out at faculty or student events. 

When attending these events as a library representative, be sure to bring some helpful tools with you: 

  • Wear a shirt with the library’s name on it or your name tag to clearly show where you work 
  • Have a 30-second talking point ready about the library and one unique thing it offers the campus community  
  • Toss a couple business cards in your pocket and hand out to others who are interested in the library 

Host Library Events 

Besides attending events outside of the library, try hosting an event at the library and inviting participants from other departments. One natural idea is hosting a book club either in the library space itself or at a local coffee shop or bar.  

Besides book-related events, libraries with makerspaces, crafting supplies or relaxation activities such as coloring pages and puzzles can reach out to departments on campus who host staff development. A trip to the library paired with a group craft can be a fantastic way for a department to develop team skills (and be exposed to the library space!).  

Identify Strategic Partners  

While you are out meeting people across campus, look for departments that might be potential collaborative partners. These are often student groups or associations who might be interested in co-hosting a movie night or book club in the library, or a multicultural center that could facilitate a discussion on different campus cultural groups.  

Business departments might be interested in partnering on a student financial literacy series. Science departments might host a series on science in everyday life. The campus community provides nearly endless possibilities because there are so many subject experts. The library space provides a visible and centralized location for departments and student alike.  

Statistical Value 

Funding is always competitive, and demonstrating the library’s value to the campus community is key to ensuring the library’s success. Campus partners are generally unfamiliar with library- specific terminology, so it’s important to frame all discussions in terms that are easily understood by your audience.  

Keeping accurate and detailed statistics on events and daily interactions can help you tell the library’s story quickly and accurately. Academic libraries usually record and report statistics on traditional library services such as circulation, instruction and the number of patrons who come in and out of the library. This can be expanded to include visitors to special programs, number of students met with in one-on-one appointments and number of hours the library is staffed per week.  

If any of your staff provides a unique service such as copyright or technology assistance, have them record those interactions separately to demonstrate subject knowledge expertise. Making sure your statistics accurately reflect the true value of your services is crucial in telling the library’s story. 

These are just a few of the ways academic libraries can advocate for themselves. Be creative and always have a talking point ready! 

How do you advocate for your library at your institution? Let us know in the comments below. 

 

About the Author

Rachel Becker

Copyright & Emerging Technologies Librarian, Madison Area Technical College // Rachel Becker is the Copyright and Emerging Technologies Librarian at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin. Her library experience started in public libraries and has expanded to include government, law, and archives. Rachel’s specific area of interests include copyright and fair use as it applies to libraries and scholarly publications as well as how technology is shaping the student experience. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her horse and binge watching TV shows.

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