From our Library Advisory Board – Autumn 2015

by Paul Overend, Customer Service Manager
Library Bulletin, Autumn 2015

IC-board4A new season, a new academic year begins, and thousands of freshers begin their academic careers. We conducted a short survey among the members of our Library Advisory Group to ask what kind of support was provided to new students and staff. Did they provide formalised orientation sessions? Were guides and videos useful? And could publishers and service providers do more to help?

Our core sample was of course small, but geographically broad. Based on the results, it would be interesting to conduct a wider survey to see how generally applicable our Board’s observations are.

Among our respondents, 33% do not conduct any orientation sessions on available services and resources for new academic staff or students. Of those that do, the majority offer such support ad hoc and on demand, but approximately one-third offer formalised, scheduled sessions several times per year. None of our respondents supply printed information packs, user-guides or other support literature. The orientation sessions themselves range widely in the level of what is provided, and in many cases it depends on the audience; they can be tailored to specific faculty or discipline requirements. Sessions range from introductions to all library resources and services to in-depth sessions on individual resources. Additionally brief overviews may be offered, highlighting new resources that in which patrons might be interested. In almost every case, content for such sessions is produced in-house and is digital. As one librarian put it, “I’m trying to move away from handing out printed guides as I don’t believe these are well used and they can go out of date very quickly. I prefer to point students to key areas of our website where maps, login guides, etc. can be found.”

Most respondents felt that publishers and other service suppliers, such as aggregators and providers discovery tools, could do more to assist in the orientation process for new staff and students. Most useful would be generic support material and online how-to guides, including possibly video and PowerPoint, which could be easily customised in-house to an individual institution’s requirements. More traditional promotional tools, such as individual publisher posters with URLs, were felt to be unhelpful and in some cases (such as historic buildings) could not be freely erected. One respondent commented that name recognition and brand familiarity is definitely important, especially when introducing databases or referencing software, which would suggest that a greater degree of patron-directed marketing to raise brand awareness might be appropriate. In this respect give-aways such as USB sticks and notepads can reinforce a message – but are of course costly to produce in volume.

Clearly there is quite a range in the levels of patron induction provision offered, and the support provided by publishers. It will be interesting to pursue this at a forthcoming Advisory Board meeting, and we would welcome comments by our readers in a broader, more extensive future survey.

© 2024 Ingenta. All Rights Reserved.