How STEM Faculty/Student Outreach Is Key To Library Ops

Jen Park, | 9 min read
Jen Park, | 9 min read

Assistant Librarian for Access and Outreach Services Mount Saint Mary College Jen Park is a winner of the JoVE Librarian Travel Award, and attended the 2018 Charleston Conference.

Perhaps we can start by discussing the importance of outreach?

An academic library’s outreach practice serves as the basis for the library’s daily operations. Outreach allows the library to advocate for further funding of services, programs, and special projects to better serve the academic population. It also allows the library to create, build, and maintain strong relationships with faculty, staff, and students across the campus, through conversation as well as collaborative efforts.

Where there is no outreach, what happens?

Without engagement with the academic community through outreach initiatives, the library is prone to financial hardships, lack of institutional support, and underfunded services and programs. This leads to great damage in the library’s staffing abilities, collection development, and support for the academic curriculum and scholarship.

How did you decide to begin your program?

The Kaplan Family Library at Mount Saint Mary College determined outreach responsibilities lie within a librarian’s position. As the assistant librarian for access and outreach services for the past three years, I had the opportunity to grow the library’s outreach efforts to the campus community. During my tenure, I inherited a co-coordinated presentation series on campus that allows faculty and/or students the opportunity to present their current research. With seven individual presentations and one student poster symposium held during the traditional semester, the iROC has proven to be successful in providing opportunities for strengthening relationships across the campus.

What goes into these programs?

Each individual presentation consists of 35-45 minutes of research content with up to 15 minutes designated for questions from the audience. Faculty, staff, and students can present individually or collaboratively on research in the process of being conducted or already completed. The poster presentation (at the end of each semester) showcases student research conducted in the classroom or alongside a faculty member. Presenting a poster allows students the opportunity to explain their research, as well as gain experience in the creation and presentation of an academic poster. In both presentation settings, the campus community gains insight into the wide range of research conducted throughout the college.

Can you discuss the collaborative aspects of this?

There’s co-coordination from the Division of Natural Sciences. I work closely with Dr. Evan Merkhofer, assistant professor of biology, to oversee and run the marketing, communication, logistics, and overall success of the Investigating Research on Campus Series. The process we use annually to carry out the program is nothing short of a strong team effort. Working together, Dr. Merkhofer and I meet several times per year to keep our lines of communication open. We have developed a comfortable routine of designated responsibilities. While Dr. Merkhofer and I both work to solicit presenters, he focuses on this more closely. Individually, I oversee the creation and execution of marketing materials.

How do you select the participants?

In May, we start by determining the schedule of the upcoming year’s presentation and discuss any known ongoing research projects that faculty members are working on. From there, we reach out to those faculty members individually and ask if they are interested in presenting at an iROC. If they answer yes, we place them in a time-slot. If there are open time-slots, a request for presentations is sent out via e-mail. To keep the series informal, there is no peer-reviewed method of proposal selection. In fact, proposals are not required of the presenters. Rather, presenters are provided a time-slot that works with their schedule. Once the date and time have been confirmed, I send an e-mail to the presenter with the logistical information they should be aware of. I then solicit the presentation information using a form created through the campus’ marketing department.

This outreach has been successful, in part, through your marketing. Can you detail that?

Once we have all our information, I do the following to raise awareness:

  • The library’s website is updated with an event page, complete with the presentation abstract, presenter photo, logistical information, and contact information of the iROC co-coordinators. This event listing links to the college’s calendar.
  • A digital signage slide is created for the campus-wide digital signage system.
  • A slide promoting the event is created and placed on the front of the library’s website. The slide will link directly to the event webpage.
  • Posters and flyers are created and hung throughout the campus.
  • E-mails are sent to students, staff, faculty, and community members who have identified themselves at other library-sponsored events as wanting more information.
  • Information is sent to Marketing so that local newspapers can publicize the upcoming presentation.

Overall, it’s been a success? And where does it go?

Having the ability to speak with faculty about current or completed research projects has allowed communication between the library and the broader college community to remain open. Not only does the library gain an understanding of current on-campus research projects, but when creating other programs and services it allows us the ability to solicit co-sponsorships based on faculty interests. Further, divisions will generally support their own faculty members and will attend an iROC when one of their own is presenting, as well as offer any credit to students in their courses who attend. This further allows for the librarians to speak with their liaison departments in an informal, yet academic, setting. With attendance at the iROC series at an all-time high, this growing program will continue to be a strong conduit for collaboration, communication, and research-sharing between the library and the campus community.

What happens when the attempts at interaction are less than fully productive?

Even when outreach is unsuccessful, the information gained from the failure provides the library with knowledge to make improvements.


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