Because you’ve chosen academic librarianship as your career, there’s a pretty good chance that you believe everybody should have access to the collective knowledge we as humans have built up in our time as a sentient species. Ensuring equal access to this information is what you do every day for the students, faculty and staff at your institution—but why stop there?
While your primary audience may be your student body, there’s no reason to not work to attract outside guests to your library. Here are a few segments of the larger population to target:
Sure, nobody wants the local preschool class tearing through the Anthropology wing and endangering your complete collection of works by Claude Levi-Strauss, but a storytime session led by students studying early education can be a valuable opportunity for them to see firsthand how children gather information and interact in the early stages of life. If you’ve got an education department, reach out to local schools to set up times for your students to talk to theirs. Whether it’s a Q&A session with local teachers to talk about how they feel about recent changes to standardized testing or a chance for your foreign language majors to teach a French lesson to the high schoolers, getting involved with nearby schools can help your students immensely.
But don’t just stop there: open up your library to help the high school-age crowd nearby get ready for college. Connect with teachers to offer research lessons and help their students learn to navigate a college library, or open up your library writing center to high school seniors looking for some help writing their personal statement. You never know: this kind of action may just spur local high schoolers to apply to your institution.
Even if you don’t offer a PhD program, you don’t need to bar candidates from your library. Market your library—especially your special collections—as a way to get involved with those looking to do serious research. You never know who’s just dying to get a peek at your famous collection of Tibetan and Mongolian block prints (Сайн уу, University of Wisconsin-Madison) or otherwise make use of resources that can only be found in your building.
To attract these great minds, make sure your library resources are marketed appropriately. Ensure they’re featured prominently on your website and social media profiles. Create special pages for any main attractions, and link back to those pages from your homepage. What’s more, encourage your own students to contribute blogs or video interviews describing their research process. It’s not only a great way to let people know the possibilities of research at your library, but it helps optimize your site’s SEO for these terms… meaning outside researchers have a better chance of finding you.
Your library shouldn’t just be a community center in your campus: it should attract people from all over. Let us know: how are you making your library attractive to outside visitors?
If you’re looking for more on how an academic library can get students involved and reach new patrons, check out the case study we did with the University of Arkansas.