Why the library should affect students' choice of university

When we think of outreach and recruitment, we don't usually think of using the library as a tool to attract students to our institutions. Here at York I do occasionally take part in Faculty of Science & Engineering outreach activities -- mostly when the library is included in high school science class tours of the institution.

Rather than do something really boring like a "here's the reference desk" tour, I like to take smaller groups down into our teaching lab and do (hopefully) fun and amusing interactive sessions on the current state of the information universe. You can get an idea of what I cover from one of the blog pages I created.

But maybe, just maybe, when we design our spaces, when we design our web presences, when we think about outreach and marketing, we should think about leveraging what we do well and turning it into something that can benefit our whole institution.

What got me thinking about this was an article that was bouncing around Twitter, etc., a little while ago, 4 Reasons Why the Library Should Affect Your College Choice.

If we can affect whether or not students choose our institutions, shouldn't we be aware of what we can do and strive to maximize the effect we can have on recruitment?

Here's the four things that the article suggest people should look for in a library, with a bit of the text from the article:

  • What is the staff like? Chat with a reference desk staffer or two. How helpful are they? What kinds of information can they provide? Do they seem like they are prepared and willing to help students? These are important questions.
  • How much does the library system and its librarians interact and work with faculty? Find out what, if any, types of collaboration professors have with the libraries. Fisher says professors and librarians at many schools work together to create course content or inform each other's work and research. If you can get a sense of the relationship and bond between these two major parts of campus life, you can get a nice picture of how smoothly you can research class topics and projects.
  • What's the atmosphere like? Walk into the library and go about your normal business. Some campuses have multiple libraries--one of which is likely to be more of a social environment than the other quieter, more serious locales.
  • Check the library system website and digital resources. This is a big one. It's a new digital age in information services, and academic libraries are on the cutting edge.

Why is this a good idea for us? First of all, the four points basically cover what the library is all about for undergrads -- space, reference, information literacy, online collections. It's a great way to make the case that our core competencies as libraries and librarians are part of what makes our institutions great.

Also, ultimately in higher ed funding is about butts in seats and the more butts in seats, the more money is circulating in the system that can get allocated. And, if the library is recognized as an important part of recruitment that certainly helps us make a case for funding. And longer term, happily recruited students become happily donating alumni.

We need to make the case that part of our job is to make our institution look good -- to help attract the best students.

It's worth thinking about.

Do you have any stories about your library being part of recruitment efforts?

(A slightly different version of this post will be part of the My Job in 10 Years outreach chapter)


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