Just spent 30 minutes roving on The Street with my Asus Eeee Pad Transformer (minus keyboard), moving between the cafe and the main thoroughfare. The librarian before me had set up a mini stall on the actual street but I still prefer to speak to students in the cafe – find that a student on the move is more reluctant to enter into a conversation as they are usually just passing through and have less time to spare. Students eating/drinking at the tables are usually willing to engage with an enthusiastic friendly librarian – obviously I ask them first and apologise for interupting their break. My usual opening question is – Do you use Summon? I find that this general question usually prompts a positive or negative response. If the answer is “yes” I usually ask them if they are experiencing any difficulties – there is usually some issue that they are grappling with, ranging from too many results to the problem of identifying scholarly material. If they have time, I then repeat their search using my tablet.
Today I tried a different strategy in addition to the Summon one. This was to ask a group of Masters students if they use the databases that we have that can’t be used on Summon – databases like Fame, GMID etc. The students admitted that they didn’t know we had these resources and I was able to show them how to access them and explained the type of information they can access. At Huddersfield since acquiring Summon we have witnessed a steady decline in the usage of such databases – the emphasis by the library and by lecturers in on using Summon (or Summons as many call it!) and students are failing to scroll down the Summon home page and see the links to the other resources to which we subscribe.
This hunch was backed up by a member of staff who happened to pass the stall just as I was about to pack up. She works in the placement office and said she is often promoting Fame to students applying for placements but they have usually not heard of it. I have agreed to produce a one page helpsheet which can be included in the placement information sent to students.
Other successes: the Masters students mentioned above gave me details of a book (Brassington/Petit – Principles of Marketing) they are struggling to get hold of – we looked it up using the MyReading software and linking to the library catalogue to find that several copies are missing and the remaining copies are all on a two week loan impeding effective circulation. I will investigate this later.
I spoke to a student who had never used Summon and was able to explain the benefits and leave her with a handout. Normally I would have asked her what topic she was currently studying and done a search but the network connection seem to fail at this point! She did tell me she would like the library to purchase more audio books. Again, another point to follow up.
I feel that I have just spent a very profitable half hour, helping students but also learning more about their information searching habits and also helping to build relationships and having the kinds of conversations that arguably I would never have had if I had spent that half an hour in my office or even staffing thelibrary’s subject enquiry point.