In the Life Flow

I’m thankful for this week’s set of readings.  I now see I have still been thinking way too narrowly about this embedded business.  I am inspired by daring deeds of yet more librarians with imagination!

Librarians can easily make a more than full-time job of just serving the patrons who, of their own volition, walk through the library portal or who are coaxed, or compelled, to utilize library services through course requirements.  We can likewise have our heads down, laboring in the shared pursuit of academic success for our students while ignoring the whole student.

Where in that service delivery focus is the segment of the population for whom, for whatever reason, the library is a foreign land?  Or for whom academic success is taking a backseat to more immediate matters of mental, physical or spiritual health……or simply the pursuit of self?

I’m a parent who knows that student affairs services are vitally important academic success…..and just to plain straight up living.   As a parent of recent college graduates, I can report my findings from a subjective ad hoc mixed methods study of a sample of two! One of my children successfully rambled his way through his undergraduate experience, casually accessing student services here and there.  The other child absolutely only survived…and thankfully thrived….because of the student services at her college.   She was supported and upheld by the counseling office, health center, dean of students, wellness programs and writing center, where she worked as a tutor.  The dedicated folks she met, as she took what really was an unplanned second major in her own health and wellbeing, are now her mentors, friends and models for her current counseling profession.

Whether they intensively used the student services at college or not, my two “sample” students actually packed something off to college that not all college students bring.  They brought the knowledge that somewhere on their college campus there were dedicated people, with mad skills and resources, who they could seek out when needed.  During their K-12th grade years, they had ample opportunity to become acquainted with the value of librarians, school counselors, nurses, extracurricular program leaders and learning support teachers.  Not all college students are packing that prior knowledge.

So I am a believer.  Student services are vital to a student’s college experience……the all of it….not just the academic success piece. Partnering with student affairs entities is a great way to extend library services to an underserved, or un-served, population that we are sometimes endanger of being too busy to embrace.

One of the transformational learnings from this class is that libraries should cultivate a presence in the work flow of students.  Maybe we should modify that to say we should be in the life flow of students.

Another transformational learning from this class is that libraries can, and should, seamlessly facilitate learning.  In fact, at times it may be wise to cease the ceaseless showcasing of our services and just serve!  Seamlessly.  Behind the veil of other vital campus efforts like career, writing, counseling and wellness centers, residence halls, multicultural organizations and activists groups.  We should be asking these entities: whatdyaneed?

I know that libraries need to be careful about over extending and creating partnerships that are lopsided, unsustainable or fruitless.  But the examples from this week’s readings of librarians in the life flow of students are proof that there is plenty of room for libraries, in partnership with student affairs programs, to be truly helpful to students during their formative college years.

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I'm a 12 Thinger.
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4 Responses to In the Life Flow

  1. Oscar says:

    The life flow. You brought up the life flow, the hidden but vital energy that connects us all with a unifying purpose: to love and be loved. Reading your blog momentarily made me feel like I was not alone.
    Something you brought up about the forgotten potential patron was really insightful. The idea was even embodied by your example of two siblings with different depths of involvement in student affairs: with resources sitting right in front of them, some users will take advantage of the assistance and some will only lightly sample it. Linked by blood and upbringing, there can still be polar reactions. It sort of tells us that the librarian’s quest for outreach is never ending and needs constant adaptability.

  2. Meredith Farkas says:

    “Where in that service delivery focus is the segment of the population for whom, for whatever reason, the library is a foreign land?”

    Well put! I’ve come to believe that we can also be more focused on the whole student, even in our information literacy sessions. I’ve been thinking more and more about the affective components of research and how important it is that we not only convey the needed information, but also create a sense of comfort with the library and put a friendly face on the library. In our Freshman Inquiry classes, we have tried to push the idea of having a 15-20 minute warmth session in their classroom that is separate from the information literacy session (as suggested by Constance Mellon in her work on library anxiety https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/40906/crl_47_02_160_opt.pdf?sequence=2). She found that students exhibited less anxiety in the information literacy session when they had already met with the librarian on their turf. We focus the warmth session on library awareness content and just putting a friendly face on the Library. In the classes in which we’ve done it, I’ve seen much better participation from students in the information literacy session, probably because I wasn’t a totally new person to them in that session.

  3. hannah says:

    Hi, Ruth. I’m really diggin’ your “life flow” concept! The work flow is part of the life flow and understanding how the library fits (or, in some cases, does not fit) into the overall life flow of our students will allow us to improve services. If we ignored Student Services, we might remain ignorant concerning the populations we are not reaching or could be reaching better. This is also connected to the idea of meeting students at their point of need. I feel like we usually talk about point of need in relation to building better library websites, but if some students are not using the library and benefiting from our services, we should figure out how to reach those students. Collaborating with Student Services seems like one of the best ways to identify at-risk student populations who are anxious about using the library.

  4. Nicole says:

    You are absolutely right about how important Student Life is. Many of the students are embarrassed to use some of the services because they think it isn’t cool (is that word still used?) but once they realize the value of the services they jump at the chance to utilize each one. I’m not sure how it is at other colleges but at Stockton College (where I work) Student Affairs, EOF, Veterans Affairs, Academic Advising, the Writing Center, etc. are spread out all over campus. It certainly doesn’t make things simple for the students. Having a librarian included in a few of their office hours for extra help for students makes perfect sense. The one office that certainly needs the library’s help is Veterans Affairs. It is often overlooked for services such as this. Since many of the Veterans are older they require additional services from the library especially basic research and technology. We have a veteran, who is also a student, offering one-on-one instruction for Power Point and Word documents. The other veterans have had similar experiences as him and trust him. A veteran librarian would be perfect to embed in a Veterans Affairs office.

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