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Puppies In The Library And Social Media


Photo by Stephen Mease

It all started with a tweet. At the start of the month a student made an off-hand comment on Twitter about renting puppies to deal with stress. Last week several of us were chatting at an event about finals coming up and I mentioned the idea of pet therapy for helping with stress. Gloria, one of our awesome circulation assistants is also a dog-sitter/walker,  and she was thrilled with the idea. She knew the perfect fun and relaxed dogs to bring (Thea and Pippin).

We floated the idea by our director Janet and she asked a lot of good questions about things like noise, safety and logistics. She also believes in the value of experimentation and trying new things, so together we devised a plan to have a puppy VIP room that kept people, dogs, and noise contained. We decided we would offer dog-therapy on Monday and Tuesday from 5-8:30 (we had to work around the dogs schedules).

Since it was a fairly last minute idea, I began promoting it with signs Friday and more importantly via social media. The posts on Twitter and Facebook began to get some buzz.

It was mentioned and retweeted a pretty good amount over the weekend. When it came time to host the puppies on Monday we got a few more people than we expected. In fact, we were swamped!

Our original idea of having the puppy VIP room in a good-sized office had to be replaced with a plan B of a large meeting room in the library. Once my office-mate Lindsey skillfully shuffled everyone upstairs, the event went swimmingly. Everyone had a smile on their face, and it was a completely calm and relaxed environment. A news crew even ended up covering the story!

There were plenty more tweets from students either asking about the dogs, posting pictures, talking about how Champlain is the best school ever, or posting our news video. I heard from multiple students either on social media or in person how awesome an event this was and how it actually helped during this stressful week.

This event is a great example of how social media can be leveraged by libraries and organizations. It’s a tool for listening to your community, responding to your users, promoting relevant services that meet their needs, telling stories, and demonstrating value.

How better to demonstrate value than having students tweet things like #bestschoolevermy college > than your college, or proud to be a Champlain alum.

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Award Reception And “Allies In Education”

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”Aristotle

Staff with ACRL award

We had our celebration for the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award on Monday. You can check out some of the pictures from the reception on Champlain College’s Facebook page. We got to celebrate with students, our student workers, the library staff, the faculty, the administration and even trustees. It was truly a community event which is exactly what library events should be.

Another really fun aspect of the party was a video that an alumni of our digital film-making program produced for us. It highlighted the importance of the award and some of the things that make our library great. But my favorite part of the video is at the end when my good friend Steve Wehmeyer, a professor in our Core Division, is talking about the work that librarians do. He says, “Whether they’re coming into the classroom doing creative info literacy sessions, or whether they’re helping us develop engaging activities for first-year students, I’ve really come to see librarians as our allies in education.”

I loved that phrase “allies in education.” That’s how we have to think of our work. We’re not just running a library and curating collections. We’re educators who are partnering with other educators to provide the types of environments, resources, curriculum and events that facilitate and empower learning.

Our library team is really dedicated to the work we do. We were all excited to win this award, but we also know that our work isn’t done. There is still a lot of room for growth and improvement. There is a lot that we can learn from other libraries who are also doing amazing things. If as Aristotle said, excellence is not an act but a habit, we have to continue our work and keep building on our successes. The work of an educator is never done.

 

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Expect Amazing Things

In a recent OCLC podcast with Roy Tennant and R. David Lankes, Lankes says that lower expectations are going to doom libraries as we know them. He goes on to say that librarians have trained our communities to expect too little of us, and this leads to complacency in librarians. This also leads to a slow fade where people say they love libraries but fewer and fewer people use our services.

I have come across this idea of low expectations in other places as well. Steven Bell, at the ACRL in Philadelphia, presented a paper entitled “Delivering a WOW User Experience: Do Academic Librarians Measure Up.” One of his findings was that students’ expectations for libraries are fairly low. In fact, students sometimes even think it will be a painful experience (library anxiety comes to mind).

This status quo and these low expectations are certainly a challenge, but they’re also a tremendous opportunity. Low expectations mean that when you deliver something above and beyond, people are astonished. We have the potential to surprise, amaze, excite, and delight people on a regular basis.

I know that all librarians have experienced this before. For example, at the reference desk when you’re able to help a student really focus their topic and find some great resources for their project, the student is surprised and continually comes back for help. Another example are the resources that we have. Students here are regularly amazed that we have a language learning software like Mango Languages, or can access thousands of tech/programming books through Safari.

Lankes suggests that in order to overcome these expectations we need to both create a culture where failure is OK and actively engage in conversations with our community. We need to be willing to take risks and we need to be talking to our community, trying to understand them better, and asking them about their problems and projects. This will give us more opportunities to change their expectations of us and our expectations of ourselves.

I would also suggest that we recognize these low expectations and take them into account when creating services, marketing resources, or helping users. At Champlain, we purposely built student expectations into our first year, first semester information literacy session. We recognized that a lot of students would expect a session with a librarian to be boring and not relevant to their life, and we wanted to change that.

Taking that expectation into account, we designed a session in which we told students to take their mobile phones OUT (rather than turn them off) and used them in our lesson for mobile polling. We designed a session in which we focused on things like Google and Facebook as opposed to the library through a TED Talk and exercise on filter bubbles. We designed a session that valued their opinions and was inquiry based rather than us telling them the answers. And in a lot of cases, it changed their expectations of what a library session can be.

 

Amazing our users should be the new normal, but this involves not accepting the status quo, being willing to fail, regularly questioning and talking to your community, and building in expectations into your designs. We need to start changing our users expectations of us and this begins by expecting a lot of ourselves and the work that we do.