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ACRL Libraries Transform Toolkit: Audiences

Know Your Audience

Know your audience. Who are they?  Which needs can the library meet?

Consider the differences and the differing needs of:

  • Faculty (post-docs, adjuncts)
  • Undergraduate students (first generation, first year)
  • Graduate students (masters, Ph.D.)
  • Staff
  • Specialized communities such as veterans, adult learners, commuter students

This image is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) by Cinthya Ippoliti

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Outreach for Students

Incoming freshmen: 

Before freshmen even set foot on campus, they’ve been receiving communications from your organization.  From general recruitment information (mail, campus visits, web site) to letters of acceptance and orientation events – they’ve been “courted” in numerous ways. Is the library among the featured campus amenities being promoted in these materials/activities? And beyond the first flush of freshmen activities, how can you ensure you’re consistently giving “newbies” reasons to use the library? Consider …

  • Is there someone on staff that can take ownership of campus outreach opportunities with the marketing/communications department? Having a central point of contact lets them “connect the dots” for a more comprehensive and unified approach. Basic consideration – inclusion in marketing materials and on campus tours and orientation programs. For orientation programs, develop a concise hand-out that gives high-level overview – hours, URL/login information, overview of key databases, etc. Consider including a “call to action” that prompts the student to return to the library within a specified time period, i.e. “Visit us by (DATE) and receive a complimentary (ITEM).” Is there budget for a giveaway such as coupon for free coffee, water bottle, tote bag?
  • Students often gravitate to campus clubs and organizations during their first few weeks on campus, eager to find opportunities to make connections. Reach out to club leaders and invite them to hold meetings in your space. This positions the library as place to enjoy a sense of community in addition to being an academic resource.
  • With just a table or two and some basic hand-outs, your library can have a “pop-up” presence at prominent campus locations during key activities. For example, student unions are often busy during exam week with folks congregating for support and comradery. A pop-up stocked with some coffee and energy bars is an engagement opportunity that positions your library as a supportive resource.  
  • Reach out to faculty and staff in advance of a new semester to see if there are opportunities to do a short classroom presentation on your library’s resources and how they support academic success.
  • Review your library’s web site and look at it with a “freshmen perspective.” Is it intuitive and supportive of “self-service?” Many students are reluctant to ask for assistance, instead abandoning searches if too problematic. Are your e-resources/databases prominently displayed? How about students that might try to navigate to your site via the college or university home page – is the library site prominently positioned for quick access?  

2nd, 3rd and final year students:

It’s important to keep students along their entire academic path engaged as they work toward graduation and advanced degrees.

  • Are there “power users” in this group that might welcome an opportunity to conduct in-library presentations or drop-in sessions for underclassmen? Communications, marketing and library science majors might be especially interested as they could fulfill course requirements or at the least, provide valuable experience.
  • What organizations/departments are of special interest to these students? Consider reaching out to graduate studies, the alumni association, and job placement/career counseling departments and suggest a “co-sponsored” event in the library. Being the right resource at the right time again reinforces your commitment “beyond the books.”
  • The cost of a college education was cited as one of the most significant purchases or investments a student will incur in their lifetime. With graduation looming, here’s another opportunity to engage users. Hold a casual reception to congratulate graduates with a brief presentation by campus resources (financial aid, economics department faculty) to address key financial considerations as they transition to graduate studies or careers.