Innovation in Student Services: How To Get Started

Development of new student services is often at the top of the topic list as librarians continue to discuss and sometimes debate how to remain relevant in the eyes of our users and institutions as the 21st century marches on. Print collections certainly will continue to dwindle while electronic resources increase.  The secret librarians know is that our students need us even more in the electronic age because locating the best resources in the sea of information at our fingertips is not as easy as many think.  Thus, the task before us is to get the message out to students that we can help them – Google really doesn’t have ALL of the answers. Budget constraints often make the idea of developing new student services seem as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest as a novice climber. However, a little creative thinking can go a long way.

Call it innovation. Call it forward-thinking. Call it what you will. Just keep the following four pillars of innovation in mind when considering how to get the message out about the expertise your law librarians can provide.

Think Different – This is sometimes the most difficult part. We go along from day to day and get so focused on our routines that it becomes hard to think about what might work better. You may have wonderful services in place already, and that’s a starting point. Some of us might be able to build on what we have, while others may be able to make improvements on things that just aren’t working well. Don’t be afraid of different. Embracing change is the only way to move forward.

Think Big – Consider what services you’d like to implement if staff time or budgets were not an issue. Try brainstorming without any limitations in mind. Your best ideas may be ones only possible in an ideal world… not one in which you’re living and working. Once you develop those Ideal World Ideas, you can then scale them back to something more realistic. Don’t let reality deter you when coming up with ideas. The sky is the limit at this stage of the process.

Think Useful – It’s important to maintain awareness of what the law students are working on. This knowledge will make it easier to put yourself in their shoes and think, “What do I need?” This is the most critical of the four pillars and arguably the most critical in the librarian relevance discussion. If the services we provide aren’t adequately useful for our students, they simply will not come to us for help. We have to show them and tell them how we have knowledge and tools that can make their researching lives just a little bit easier.

Think New – Though similar, it is not the same as thinking differently. The difference lies in whether you’re improving upon current practices or dreaming up a completely new service or method to reach your library users. Revisit thinking big, and just let yourself go. Don’t think about what services you have in place or about what other libraries are doing. This is your chance to think totally outside the box.

Now that you’re armed with the four pillars of innovation, go forth and develop new services.

A few resources for further reading:

The Library Marketing Toolkit

White Paper on Library Marketing and Outreach by the ALL-SIS Task Force on Library Marketing and Outreach

Great Innovators Think Laterally from Harvard Business Review Blog Network


This entry was posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Marketing, Patron Services and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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