Community Building in Libraries: Success for Every user


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Keynote given at ACRL New England Chapter, May 10, 2013 in Worcester, MA

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  • Thank the Committee for this opportunity to address you today.
  • Libraries transforming communities has been atheme for President Maureen Sullivan and ALA this past year, which applies to any type of library, especially academic libraries.Caroline Kennedy spoke of libraries at the center of their communities in her address at Midwinter in Seattle.Some of you may have heard Rich Harwood, speaker at Lyrasis Virtual Meeting last fall, who advised when dealing with our community to talk about their aspirations, not what you do in your library – to meet them where they are, not where you are.
  • We are fortunate to work in an industry, academic libraries, where our piece of the community has been recognized for its centrality.The HEART of the university, is what they say. How many times have we heard that?For centuries that went unchallenged until recently when the information world began changing so fast.Then, people reading news reports began to hear of e-books and somehow thought they weren’t “real” books and thought that libraries were therefore in danger of becoming obsolete.Libraries now feel compelled to demonstrate their “value” and ROI, return on investment.What I’m going to tell you is not something you don’t already know at some gut level. But it might be a different and useful way to think about things.
  • First, let me give you a little bit of content about my library and my community, because most of the examples I give come from there.
  • The single most important piece of advice I can give is to FLIP YOUR MISSION. [READ MISSION]This made such a difference to our library when we did it as part of a typical strategic planning process in 2006. Our library’s mission used to be what everyone else’s library mission used to be: collect, preserve, provide access to…yada..yada..yada… These are at best strategies on how to achieve the mission. These functions are tools, they are not your PURPOSE, which is why you do what you do.All 54 employees in our library can recite this mission by heart if you stopped them on the street. That is the mark of a good mission statement. You have to know WHAT you are doing and WHY.
  • The hardest thing about flipping your mission is to remember that it’s not about us.Not about making our work easier, but the patron’s experience harder.Not about making it more efficient for myself, but less efficient overall for everyone.You will recognize the faulty reverse principle in many instances: budget office creating convoluted procedures to make it easier for them to load into their system, Dean’s Office wanting monthly agenda items three weeks in advance so they have time to format and distribute, faculty member who wants final paper a month before end of class so he can take his time grading.
  • It’s about them. The members of our community. Our students. Our faculty.In organizing the rest of the points in this talk, which illustrate the main point, I was tempted to use the METHODS we use to engage our community: collections, services, technology, but that would make it more about US.So I will talk about THEM, the various constituencies we have in academic libraries and how we can and should engage them.
  • The groups I will talk about are:StudentsFacultyCommunity at largeAlumni, parents and beyondI will give examples from my experience and my library. But I know that you are sitting in the audience with even more awesome examples of how to reach out and engage the constituents in your communities.So after each section, I will ask you to think about other ideas that you have and share with the group at the end.
  • This is the end result you are looking for.This is how you want students to think of your library. Helpful and Friendly. With a Starbucks.Story of 2010 Word Cloud.
  • Start by luring them in.Maybe you don’t have to. Maybe every single student in your institution comes to the library at the beginning of each semester and asks for help. But ours don’t.We get some of those, but we don’t get everyone. We don’t get the guys on the left (guys in particular are tough) or the crowd on the right. So we started programming that appeals to them. Capture the Flag started with a Fellow in Student Life saying they needed an activity for everyone who wasn’t a Greek and had nothing else to do on campus. She asked if they could host a Capture the Flag game in the library, sure that we would say no. But we said yes. So we held the first event a couple years ago and it has grown ever since. (Going to do it next fall for International students before everyone else gets to campus.Humans v Zombies: was the brainchild of a student assistant who works for us and played this game with his friends. He asked if we could sponsor the event and it is now a phenomenon. Last fall it was held Halloween weekend and I dressed up in zombie make-up to play along. In winter, students at UNC-CH hreard about it and asked if they could come and play. So we said sure.
  • After they are in the library, then they get comfortable. They come for the Starbucks and for the games. They know that we usually say Yes when they have a good idea, and let them put up their hammocks in the stacks.They see that we are friendly and approachable and know what we are doing.
  • Here is an example of meeting them where they are.If they don’t come to you, go to where they are.Biederman Group: following example of Bryant Park.
  • And of course we want ALL students to be comfortable, not just majority students.Libraries are really good at being safe places for people to come. We are seen as neutral and non-judgmental.It helps to be really visible and overt about that welcome. So when the new director of the brand-new LGBTQ Center asked if her class could put a sign saying “Queer and Here” over the front door, as part of a surrounding exhibit. I said “Sure.”
  • Then we spoil them absolutely rotten by feeding them every night at midnight during finals in a tradition that has become known as Wake the Library, complete with raves, graffiti board, free coffee 24x7 and food.
  • After we have won them over, finally, we can address our real goal: Academic Successfor every student.We do this in all the traditional ways that you do too:Information literacy classes: Accessing Information in the 21st Century, 20 sections a semester, 1.5 credit, elective course, 100 and 200 levels, Science, Social Science, Business, Humanities, History of the Book, Pre-LawPersonal Research Sessions: seems better than walk-up reference, though we do that tooAcademic advising: really get to know the students beyond library interaction, Roz and Hu award
  • Then we celebrate their academic success.The Senior Showcase was the idea of a graduating senior who was so impressed by the work of his classmates in their honors theses that he asked if we could put on a program highlighting it.[Video clip]Now it is an annual event with a $1,000 prize going to each of 5 winning seniors.We are currently seeking an endowment for permanent funding.
  • And then they start giving back to us. This is the part I love the best.Here are two student-led initiatives that have become traditions and demonstrate the rapport we have with them:Library Decorating Committee:[give history[ like Skull and Bones society. I still don’t know who they are.ZSR Ryan Gosling: finally learned who they are.Appeared a couple years ago during the national meme phenomenonNew posters went up every day during finals – many or most library relatedLast spring on FB post, I said “Margaritas to anyone who can tell me who is behind this.” Within minutes, answer came back, “You’re on, Dean Sutton.”Hoping it wasn’t underage freshmen, agreed to meet at Mexican restaurant, it was young women alums who had graduated a couple of years ago and now had jobs on campus.Doing an anniversary event this year.
  • Now we will change demographics, from students to faculty, because they are both sub-groups in our community but they have very different needs.
  • Turning to faculty, the biggest change we have made is to stop thinking in terms of Serving faculty and started framing it as Partnering with faculty. I learned this from the best Provost I ever worked with.It made a huge difference when we were officially re-classified in 2009 from staff to library faculty. This put us on the same committees and same convocations and let us assume a partnership role. It has made a world of difference in terms of credibility, visibility, and respect.So now we say we co-teach, when we come into their classes.And we have co-published articles with teaching faculty.
  • Our approach now is to walk into a faculty member’s office and say, “how can I help you succeed at your work? What classes are you teaching next semester? What area of research are you working on next? How can I help save you time?” No faculty member can resist that.In my experience, what they usually care most about are the resources the library provides, both print and digital. From examining years of LibQUAL results nationwide, and working at a variety of institutions, that is a national norm.But depending what kind of institution you are in, either teaching or research is more important. Or in my institution, they claim to be equal and faculty are anxious about both. We can help them with both.Whatever they are interested in, we are interested in, and can work with them on just about anything.
  • This embedded experience could apply to either faculty or students, since we were embedded with both of them, but we were asked by two faculty members to join this 2 week experiential course in the deep south.Profile of course.ALA Katrina story: did technology for course, research assignments in hotel lobbies and on the bus.Wrote it up in C&RL News, gets cited a lot, won the Innovation in Instruction award for Susan Smith.Definitely a deeper level of engagement.Other embedded courses: medieval literature, biology, Frank Lloyd Wright
  • I’m noticing that I have fewer examples for faculty.So help me out and think about what you are doing that you can share later.
  • By this I mean the “other” community, the one we live in outside the college or university. Environment can vary a lot.Wayne State and UGL: despite being across the street from main branch of Detroit Public Library, we became main source of public computing downtown because we had 700 computers in the building. Kids took the bus across town to use the free computers in the UGL. (Might be different now)Wake Forest is gated community with a bit of Town and Gown complex. We are open to public and sell, not give away, library cards. But we try to engage the community when we can.Wake the Library 5KZSR float in Pride Parade
  • And then sometimes we get unexpected opportunities.Louis Goldstein and his Musicircus idea for John Cage festival.We ended up with the absolute coolest community event ever.
  • Here is a video that was done, with the narrator being the faculty member who approached us with the idea.[video clip]
  • In terms of alumni, we have done a few traditional outreach activities.Story of online book club, at request of Alumni Office, didn’t really catch on.Next year will introduce e-journal content for alumni, EBSCO, JSTOR.But we weren’t really reaching alumni, and I could tell as I went around the country talking to local alumni groups that they couldn’t really relate to the new library I was describing. They remembered the library fondly, but it was nothing like the hub of the campus that it currently is.I also wanted to reach parents, because at Wake Forest, that is where the deep pockets are, quite frankly. I wanted to get out in front of them, but they were being pretty closely guarded by the Parents Office.
  • Back story:WFU last to do a MOOC (show of hands, explain MOOCs?)Online Lib 100 sections; BOV story from Feb 2012; MOOC mania, Spring 2012, UVA Prez fired and re-hiredWanted to get in front of parents and alumniSo we decided to do our own mini-Mooc on how to do a better job of searching the web.
  • We were not part of Coursera or Udacity or Edx, so we used Google Sites as the platform.And Google Groups and Google Plus community as discussion spaceRan the course from March 18-April 12, 2013
  • We used four modules, Search strategies – mostly GoogleAdvanced searchingPrivacy and filters* by far the most popular and engagingInformation management tools Content for each module was several videos, either originally made or from Ted Talks and other free web videoReadings, additional content for those who wanted to delve deeperThere were no quizzes, no certificates, people were invited to engage with as much or little as they desired.Candy dish analogy
  • Hoped for 100, got 713About 150 people gave introductions of themselves and why they wanted to take the course:From class of 1954 to 2012Homemakers to grandparents to wealth managers to teachersAll wanted to learn how to search better, all liked the connection to Wake ForestStarted connecting with each other right away, matching up home towns, friends and relatives in common
  • For those of you who have been reading about how MOOCs work, the typical “melt” from those who start the course is 9Those who actually finish is about 90%.We are only beginning to mine the data but the graph on the right shows our participation curve, which is similar to the MOOC melt, but we keep a higher participation rate (about 20% instead of 10%) to the end.
  • The testimonials that came in at the end were moving.Future plans:Course for parents of incoming freshmenPartner with public library on genealogy courseDigital publishingThis gives us a connection with a very important community by meeting their needs.
  • One of my reasons for conducting the MOOC was to get out in front of parents and alumni who could contribute to the Library in a way they had not done before. By fundraising.The theme of our capital campaign is “Leading Change” to show that the Library is out there at the leading edge of the University. That higher education is entering a state of disruptive change, just as libraries have been in such a state of change for decades. We have experience and ideas and innovation to contribute and that is the message we want to leave with these external communities.
  • So let’s go back to the beginning when we said the key to success is to rememberIt’s not about us
  • But when you believe that and act on it,A miracle happensPeople get happy, they lose themselves in the joy of their jobs
  • They develop shared values and take the time to articulate them and act upon them.
  • Here is an example of acting on shared values: ZSR’s annual Habitat for Humanity team.
  • And good things happenYour students are happyYour faculty are happyThat makes your administration happyYour community, alumni, and parents are happyThey all give money to your libraryYour library is recognized for Excellence in Academic LibrariesLife is good.
  • Community Building in Libraries: Success for Every user

    1. 1. Community Buildingin Libraries: Successfor Every UserLynn Sutton, Ph.D.Wake Forest University
    2. 2. The Promise of LibrariesTransforming Communitiesto lead their communities infinding innovative solutions tothe challenges they face.
    3. 3. The Library in itscommunity
    4. 4. Z Smith Reynolds LibraryWake Forest University• Winston-Salem, NC• 6500 students:4800 Undergrad,Medicine, Law,Business, Divinity• 2 million volumes• 54 library faculty/staff• $ 8 million budget• 2011 ACRL Excellencein Academic Librariesaward
    5. 5. Flip the mission
    6. 6. It’s not about us. Really.
    7. 7. It’s about them
    8. 8. Our people• Students• Faculty• Community at large• Alumni, parents and beyond
    9. 9. Students
    10. 10. Start by luring them in
    11. 11. Students at home in ZSR
    12. 12. Meet them where they are
    13. 13. ZSR Supports an Inclusive Wake Forest
    14. 14. Goal of academic success• Library Instruction• Personal Research Sessions• Academic Advising
    15. 15. Senior Showcase
    16. 16. A library with apersonality
    17. 17. What do YOU doto engage students?
    18. 18. Changing demographics
    19. 19. Partnering with faculty
    20. 20. What they care about
    21. 21. Embedded with them
    22. 22. What do YOU doto engage faculty?
    23. 23. Community engagement
    24. 24. Unexpected opportunities
    25. 25. Musicircus at ZSR
    26. 26. How do YOU engagethe community atlarge?
    27. 27. AlumniOnline book clubE-journal content
    28. 28. Mini-MOOC
    29. 29. Week One: Search strategiesWeek Two: Advanced searchingWeek Three: Privacy and filtersWeek Four: Information management
    30. 30. Hoped for registrants: 100Actual registrants: 713!
    31. 31. (we thought this waspretty cool)
    32. 32. Compare completion rates
    33. 33. Testimonials• “Just wanted you to know that Ive learned a lotfrom the course--and since at 81, Im what youcould call a computer dinosaur, no one is moresurprised than I am about that!”• “Kudos to you and Wake for doing this, and Ihope you will offer other courses in the future--howabout a short course on desktop publishing? Myconnection to Wake, by the way, is that myhusband was in the first law school class tograduate from the "new" campus. Thanks again.”
    34. 34. Leading ChangeAnnual GivingCapital Campaign
    35. 35. NOT about us
    36. 36. Happy People
    37. 37. Shared values
    38. 38. Acting on shared values
    39. 39. Good things happen
    40. 40. Contact infoLynn SuttonDean, Z Smith Reynolds LibraryWake Forest Universitysuttonls@wfu.edu336.758.5090