The final exam period is the busiest time of the year for academic libraries. Most schools provide some sort of outreach to our students during this time. Each semester, our law library limits access to the library to students, faculty, and staff (we’re a public institution, but during finals we want to ensure our primary audience has access to the space). Additionally, we provide refreshments to students during finals as an outreach effort.
I wanted to be more strategic about these types of outreach efforts to help the library make data-driven decisions. These type of outreach efforts may seem superfluous, but it’s how I’ve found out how the library can better meet the needs of students. Any service provided by the library is an opportunity for assessment. Why should snack provisions be different?
Methods of data collection included observations and randomized quick polls. I wanted to know snack preferences, how their study experience was going (as it relates to library services), and how the library can adjust to ensure the needs of students were met. Through this process, I have identified several opportunities for improvement.
This semester, we transitioned from the use of a percolator to k-cups. This was due, in part, to the “sweat equity” associated with the use of the percolator (percolator had to be started 30 minutes prior to use, must refresh coffee every few hours even if mostly full, danger of removing a hot percolator to replace it with a “fresh one”). While we saw an increase in coffee consumption, based on the sheer volume of disposable cups and tops used, I have identified a possible green initiative for our next finals outreach effort. Possible solutions include:
- Provide mugs or have students bring they’re own mug (B.Y.O.M.)
- Having a vendor or vendors donate mugs for student use.
- Marketing slogan could be “B.Y.O.M or take one of ours”.
- Multi-use coffee syrups and creamers instead of single-serve options (pumps are a plus!)
Our finals outreach effort goal was to replenish as often as possible. With the length of the finals schedule, hungry, uncaffeinated law students, and other constraints in mind, we can be strategic about distribution. Possible solutions include:
- Setting a schedule
- Set specific hours for distribution.
- Create signage and social media posts during “study week” that provide the hours to students.
- Coordinating to exam schedule
- If courses with large enrollments are scheduled, more resources are needed
- If the schedule shows the are no evening (afternoon or morning) exams for the day, the hours of distribution can be limited based on that factor.
Assessment of Services
While speaking with students, we learned that the study rooms did not have adequate study supplies. The study rooms house the only dry erase boards in the library and the study rooms are first-come, first-serve. There are no time limitations on the use of these rooms. Possible solutions to these issues include:
- Use an electronic room reservation system set hours for the study rooms
- Ensure study rooms have enough dry erase markers at the start of finals and replenish as necessary
- Purchase rolling dry erase boards for students who do not have access to study rooms
- these could be left on the floor in high-traffic areas or flex study spaces
- could be something that can be checked out at the circulation desk
I am creating assessment reports for each of the library’s outreach efforts. These reports provide substance to the data collected during our assessments and provide solutions for necessary changes and improvements in our services. The library is initiating some of these things for future outreach efforts. I’ve been researching library social media accounts for further inspiration. More importantly, The students are really excited about whats to come and have acknowledged our continued efforts to improve our services. I’m excited too.