In short, no. While the librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library at Arizona State University host many well-prepared and educational events throughout the year for the benefit of our law students, we have found that we must do more than just reserve a room and prepare a PowerPoint to get our students to attend those events. We go to great lengths to continually assess the needs of our students and implement programs and services that are of interest and will be beneficial to them. Many of the programs we host are in direct response to specific student feedback, obtained via past student surveys or from focus groups. Yet we still struggle to have significant numbers of students attend our programs. Why is this? We have thought long and hard about that question, and we suspect that two significant factors are at play.
First, we find that our students are not widely aware of the many programs the library hosts. Due to college-wide restrictions on e-mailing students, we are reliant on our social media accounts, print fliers, and a blurb in a aggregated daily student e-mail to market our programs. Unfortunately, these methods are not ones that seem to make a significant impact on our students.
Second, we have come to recognize that our students have many demands on their time and are forced to continually prioritize their activities. Although they may not have a direct scheduling conflict with a library program, they often feel that spending their free time studying/preparing for class is a higher priority than spending that time in a library program. This is true even if a week ago they had planned on attending; their immediate need often wins out over any long-term benefit they may obtain from attending our program.
Addressing these two realities has forced us to think creatively about how to get our students to come to the programs we host. Below are a number of strategies we have employed this past year and which may be useful as you plan educational programming for your students/attorneys/patrons:
Collaborate with another office/department
Collaborating on events with another office or department let’s us pool resources and reach a broader audience. This may mean more money food and drinks, more marketing avenues, and more staff available for event planning, setup, and cleanup. Example: hosting a panel of recent alumni who speak about legal research in the “real world” in conjunction with the career services office.
Collaborate with a student organization
Working with a student organization to host an event ensures that at least the organization’s members are likely to attend, and it allows the library to use the student group’s internal communication resources to promote the event. In addition, working with the leaders of the student group has the potential to create strong ties with influential students. Example: provide resources for further inquiry in conjunction with a speaker at a student organization’s event.
Participate in community events
Participate in events held by other offices in the law school. This creates familiarity and fosters goodwill with other law school staff members, provides a different venue for students to get to know library staff, and can draw students into future library-specific events. Example: offering root-beer floats to new students during the admissions-office sponsored orientation week.
Identify students’ immediate needs and offer timely programs
Offer programming designed to meet student needs at the time that those needs are immediate. Students are more likely to attend programs that will benefit them now rather than at some nebulous future point. Example: hosting an event early in the fall semester targeted at 1L students that addresses research strategies for success on their first memo.
Provide enticements beyond pizza
Students have told us that pizza is no longer a draw. Coming up with other creative offerings can entice people to walk in the door. Example: a casual afternoon coffee and cookie break with the law librarians in the law school café.