Eagle commons library is a branch library on campus, one of six libraries that serve the over 36,000 students at the University of North Texas which is in Denton just north of Dallas and Forth Worth. Before we talk about becoming a community partner, let’s travel back in time for some background when the Eagle Commons Library used to be the library on campus and was built in 1936.
In the 1970’s when Willis Library, which is now our main library, was built, the old library was divided up and renamed the Information Science Building and the renaming of the old library to the Science and Technology Library followed. The library housed books and periodicals in Biology, Chemistry, Math, Psychology, Technology, and Medicine as well as our Library Science collection. When the university moved the Engineering and Library Science departments off of the main campus to a smaller satellite campus those collections moved with them. Leaving a lot of empty shelf space behind.
Now fast forward to 2010, we closed and renovated the Science and Technology Library to add the Collaboration and Learning Commons, which includes two meeting rooms with recording software, and group study areas with movable furniture and whiteboards. To deal with some of the space demands at the main branch, and the fact that Eagle Commons Library was constructed in such a way that the stacks actually hold up the building and therefore cannot be used as anything but stacks, our library became sort of a swing space for shifting projects so in addition to our science collection we also had a our art collections housed in the building for two years. Due to this, shortly after the remodel, we renamed the library to Eagle Commons Library since we were looking at other collections to house in the library besides science and technology, following that the university changed the name of the building from the information science building to Sycamore Hall. It was sort of a marketing nightmare. We frequently got comments like, “I’m a senior, I never even knew you were here!”
The libraries overall we had an initiative to accommodate the need for more student space within the libraries so we needed to shift bound periodicals that were older than 5 years to our remote storage facility as well as books that hadn’t circulated in 10 years, altogether Eagle Commons Library Staff shifted over 150,000 items to our remote storage facility in about 16 months. At the beginning of the project, our stacks manager at the time joked that there better be cake at the end of this shifting project.
So of course, I bought them cake! Well two cakes!
In addition to shifting for space needs we had a directive from our dean of libraries to make Eagle Commons Library into more of a cohesive collection that really focused on services to both researchers and the community. The Public Services Division Management Team, most notably our government documents librarian at the time and our Assistant Dean, crafted a plan that would provide the desired theme and services that would transform our branch library from a traditional research library with our chemistry, biology, math, psychology and art collections into a resource hub for students, faculty, and extended community, with a focus on unique services and community engagement.
So welcome to the new eagle commons library
Our new collections include government documents, Foundation Center resources, political science, geography, business and law with course reserves in these subjects as well as our map collection, and of course we still have the same features and technology available in the collaboration and learning commons. Our vision for our new services will be discussed in this presentation as it is a shift from the general academic library services which we do still provide to our students, faculty and staff including basic reference (in person, over the phone or via email), reference by appointment, library resource instruction, and circulation (including reserves and laptops). With the merging of the staff from Eagle Commons Library and the Government Documents Department we had the opportunity to reallocate or discontinue some staff tasks to add an additional layer of service that is directed specifically at researchers not only on campus but also within the community. The entrepreneurial aspect comes to play here with our new services as well as our tireless efforts in promotion and outreach.
As previously mentioned we still have the technology and study spaces available in the Collaboration and Learning Commons but we have added the staff and reference service of the Government Information Connection, the Foundation Center which provides resources from the Funding Information Network which will be discussed in more detail later in the presentation, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) services, right now we have minimal support for this service and it is still being defined, however, we have some staff members trained to provide basic GIS assistance and we are currently in the middle of interviews to hire a GIS librarian. Our Business and Entrepreneur Resources tie in with the government data, the GIS and foundation center resources and services assisting non and for profit groups with information and resources for business plans for grants or other funding.
All these new services do have to be staffed and change can be very stressful, especially when you add moving on top of that and without staff buy in a new service cannot be successful, if staff have walls built up about not wanting to learn new things or new technologies it is going to show in their service. Most of the staff have taken on new duties and feel that some of these have marginalized their areas of specialization, for example some of the government documents staff have had to learn all the circulation functions and feel they spend more time doing circulation transactions now than reference. To prepare the staff, we discussed the move and the services frequently with them and tried to emphasize how important our new role would be in the community and on campus and tried to prepare them for the questions that would come this semester. To that, staff education is extremely important so they feel confident. If the staff person isn’t the expert in an area they do need to know what we have and when they need to refer to an expert. During our bi monthly meetings we have started a resource show and tell to get staff familiar with what is in our collection or resources they used helping a patron at the desk. The staff alternate for each meeting to share about the resource they selected. This has been a fun way to get the staff excited about and engaged with the collection. Customer service has to be everyone’s top priority, the patron experience needs to be good or they won’t come back and they will tell 100 of their closest friends on Facebook not to come back, we have had to focus many meeting topics on providing service that is modeled after the public library by going above and beyond with the motto of “get to yes,” to quote the title of a famous business book. Staff have to feel empowered to make quick decisions about policy and procedure to provide that service. Not that we weren’t providing customer service before but we are now actively inviting a different type of customer through our doors, not just academic researchers who are looking to learn how to use a resource for themselves but also individuals who will want you to locate data for them and help them put it together.
The next thing I would like to talk about are some of our outreach efforts on campus and in the community. We have some specific promotional materials we take to any outreach activity or to meetings. The students are crazy about the buttons pictured here, we frequently hear them negotiating trades if we run out of one, for example, “I’ve got two Do- gooder buttons, I’ll trade you for a Fundraiser one!” The buttons cost the library less than 25 cents a piece, U.S. Constitutions and library pencils are around $1 a piece, and the notebook is a little higher end, around $2. The buttons, Constitutions and pencils are always out at the service desk.
Our first outreach effort to introduce the “new” library to the campus was our back to school table which we staffed the first two days of class from 8am to 1pm to provide directions to new or lost students. We passed out maps, candy, buttons, pencils, and notebooks. We answered over 250 questions, mostly directional or about the libraries in general and the occasional reference question. Of course some people just come by for the candy and to say hello.
As the Political Science Librarian I have been able to create a partnership with the Constitution Day Committee on campus which includes a representative from the Political Science Department, the Student Government Association, and I represent the library. It is a mutually beneficial partnership in that we share the work load and the activities are promoted not only through the library but through the Political Science Department and the Student Government Association. For Constitution Day this year we shared a table with the Campus Outreach Services to pass out Constitutions in the middle of campus, we passed out Constitutions in the building where the Political Science and History departments are located at 2 major class change times, we went to three freshman American Government classes and we also had activities at the library. We passed out about 1000 Constitutions this year (up from 600 last year). So we do use traditional methods of promotion, such as during library instruction, information at the service desk during circulation or reference transactions, posters hung in the library, and the electronic ad boards in all of our libraries, but being out on campus where the students are and partnerships with service providers on campus make the greatest impact and reach those who are not regular users of the library.
This is screen shot is from last year, but it shows our voter registration efforts on campus. This year since we have an upcoming midterm election in Texas we staffed a table in the middle of campus to register students and staff which was in collaboration with the Multicultural Center and we visited several classrooms to answer questions about voter registration and register students. I am a deputized voter register and I can usually manage the workload, however this year the demand was such that our Government Documents Librarian also went to get deputized so I wasn’t completely overwhelmed. In the past I have promoted National Voter Registration through the Political Science Department as well as the library but this year since I had forged a good relationship with the Division of Community Engagement on campus due to service on a committee with two of their staff members we were able to reach so many more students with the dual promotional efforts.
This outreach effort is being promoted through our library liaisons specifically targeting some groups on campus including emergency management, the sciences as well as other interested groups so we also collaborate with our library subject specialists to get the word out to the academic departments on campus. While this one is a little creepy, our documents librarian Robbie Sittel and I have a sense of humor and want to take advantage of the season as we are even calling ourselves the Evil Commons Library for the occasion. While this is a legitimate upcoming training session we are hoping the quirkiness will attract some additional traffic.
Our final outreach effort on campus for the semester is something that is near and dear to my heart, which is getting more students engaged in what is going on around them in their community and more specifically providing easier access to the polls for our students since many of them do not drive and therefore do not vote. Robbie and I were pretty much willing to turn our lives upside down to make this happen for the library, the students, and the campus, it didn’t matter if we had to be at work from 6 in the morning to 8 every night for a week! This service would not be possible without collaboration from our county election commission, the library administration, and the university Division of Community Engagement. So it is not only the library promoting access to early voting but the county election commission UNT Campus Housing and the departments reporting to the Division of Community Engagement.
The Innovation Greenhouse is a service for students on campus that luckily for us, is in the same building in which the library is housed. They provide students with assistance making their ideas become a reality much of which is student entrepreneurs fleshing out their ideas and creating business plans. They also have several events that include big name businesses and business professionals for the students to interact with. Currently we are a referral point for data and information for these students business proposals for funding but we will be collaborating with the greenhouse on a big data hackathon with Microsoft in November in which we can share the services we provide with attendees but also provide research assistance on site. This will be the first of two outreach events we will be collaborating with the Innovation Greenhouse on this year. Since the director of the greenhouse has so many contacts within the community I feel justified in marking this is both the campus and community outreach effort columns!
The Government Information Connection staff have already had a long standing close relationship with the Denton Public Library since 2007 by providing training sessions for them, we currently have a demographics training session that our government documents librarian is offering during January at one of their branches, they refer patrons to us and we refer to them, we provide proactive reference information by alerting them to hot topics in government information. We collaborate on community outreach efforts, in the past we participated in their Ben Franklin exhibit by staffing an information table at their library and provided U.S. Pocket Constitutions for the event. So we feel like we are just building on an already established strong relationship with them as we have recently been doing a lot of collaboration with their business librarian for outreach and reference services.
We started as a Foundation Center partner in February of this year which gave us access to several grant funding resources used by the non-profit community. The Foundation Center resources already have a large following in the non-profit community so mostly it is a matter of our getting the word out that people in Denton County do not have to drive to Dallas or Fort Worth to get access to these resources anymore which are both in print and electronic. We have worked with our local United Way, Serve Denton, the Denton County Homeless Commission, the Lewisville Agency Roundtable, and the Denton Information Network (all of which are groups of local non profits). Our Foundation Center Librarian, Jennifer Rowe works closely with the Public Administration Department on campus in promoting these resources to their students we are planning future trainings at the Denton Public Library. Not only do we provide training on the resources to these groups we also coordinate with others who are experts in the non-profit community to provide training in relevant areas such as coordinating volunteers or choosing board members.
While I do feel like we had a tall order from our dean, it has also been very exciting to put together and bring that vision to fruition for the campus and community. Right now we feel that all of our services are sort of at different levels while we are trying to establish ourselves as a trusted community partner and resources hub. Currently, our goal is to get all these services that are seen as independent to be seen as one cohesive service for our customers. For example our Government Information Connection service already has name recognition and a positive reputation but we are still trying to get the word out to the Denton non-profit community that we are the place to come for Foundation Center resources. Our GIS service needs to be built from the ground up as right now we are just providing it on an as needed basis and not promoting it because we do not yet have the full time staff member to devote to the business the service will bring to the library. Some things we are looking toward in the future are continuing and growing our collaborative partnerships with service providers on campus and in the community, we hope to continue to provide on campus early voting, we will be adding a notary service, expand the relationship with local entrepreneurs through partnerships with the Innovation Greenhouse and the Business Librarian at the Denton Public Library as we want to be able to provide those customers with GIS maps to show investors and banks or in the case of non profits maps that show poverty levels for their grant paperwork and provide knowledge visualization resources in general.
UNT has a set of 8 Core Values: Access, Accountability, Collaboration, Diversity, Engagement, Excellence, Sustainability, and Service. The Eagle Commons Library fulfills these by providing access to collections to the university and the extended community, we are seen as a trusted resource in government information, and we have strong collaborations with our faculty, other departments and services on campus as well as the community at large. As librarians we are naturally promoters of diversity and respect others differences. We are already engaged with our community through the many partnerships with the Foundation Center, providing access to government information, and active through community service in general. We support the value of excellence through our service to the researchers on campus and off campus by supporting our local nonprofits and entrepreneurs.
All of these values feedback into the mission of the UNT Libraries by providing leadership in innovation and learning.
Transforming an Academic Library from a Traditional Service Model
Transforming an Academic Library from a Traditional Service
Model to a Community Partner
Eagle Commons Library
Entrepreneurial Librarians Conference Friday, October 17, 2014
Eagle Commons Library
Eagle Commons Library, Department Head
Foundation Center Librarian Government Documents Librarian