This article* describes how a library worked with marketing classes at Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) to improve students’ interest in using reference services. This gave the opportunity for students to engage in a real-world problem, while meeting the academic needs of the course and providing the library with ideas as to how they could improve the visibility and usefulness of the service. Some key points from the article for me were:
- the Library only specified two questions, the students generated the bulk of the survey questions
- the survey results confirmed that the students love the library facility but fail to use its resources, specifically the reference desk to the fullest
- students tended to be technology savvy, time poor, and unwilling to ask for assistance
- students used Google as their main resource, and would ask peers and lecturers for help, but were unlikely to ask librarians
- the words “reference” and “information” were meaningless to students
Students provided recommendations for improving reference services, which were then considered by the librarians. As a result of this project:
- a secondary sign was added to the “Information desk” sign – a large yellow “help” button
- an instant messaging (IM) service was initiated (apparently marketing students “strongly advocated” this – Meebo was eventually chosen)
- promotional materials were developed for the IM service and for the email reference service
- walk-in workshops on specific topics were suggested by students, but were not pursued as they had failed to attract student interest in the past. As an alternative the library did decide to work on relationships with student groups – a “handful” of these scheduled time on sessions to improve research skills
- the seating arrangements of the student assistant/librarian at the reference desk was reversed, with the librarian taking the front and center seat and the student assistant moving to the back
The article notes that the number of reference transactions jumped as a result of the changes, but overall “aggregate numbers continued to trend downward, though less dramatically”.
A second round of marketing class/library collaboration was undertaken with students developing marketing plans for the library. Ultimately this was considered less useful than the original collaboration as “the suggestions did not fit for the image that we wanted to portray and were not as appropriate for the real world as they seemed on paper”. Of the suggestions that did fit, one was the adoption of a standardised visual identifier (which eventually replaced the help button), that was used in a consistent manner across the website, on handouts etc. This identifier – the “AskeAmes” logo was created by a graphic design student.
I’m wondering now if there would be scope for something like this at the university I work at. I’d be very interested to hear if anyone else has undertaken similar collaborations.
Spotted on the M Word – Marketing Libraries blog
* Duke, L. M., & MacDonald, J. B. (2009). Working with campus marketing classes to improve reference service visibility. Marketing Library Services, 23(6). Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/mls/nov09/Duke_MacDonald.shtml