Sharman, A (2012) The Roving Librarian. ALISS Quarterly, 8 (1). ISSN 1747-9258 This is available through the University repository at http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/14523/
Sharman, Alison and Walsh, Andrew (2013) Roving librarian at a mid-sized, UK based University. Library Technology Reports 48 (8)/Nov 2012. This article is now available at http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/14524.
Two weeks ago, myself and a colleague went roving in Canalside West. Julia Stockdale from Contentonline had been doing some awareness stand sessions at other universities and we invited her to do one at Huddersfield as well as delivering a workshop on using the product. Julia brought with her loads of sweets as well as other freebies and we were able to use these with great affect, handing them out to students coming out of lectures to draw them to our stall. Some took the sweets and walked off, others stopped to talk. We were then able to open up a conversation with them about their use of the library and if appropriate replicate a search they were struggling with and show them how to retrieve relevant information. We also promoted the workshop scheduled for the afternoon to which we got 17 students. Julia handed out bookmarks and a leaflet about the IEEE Xplore product and generated quite a lot of interest in the database for which we’ve only held a subscription for around one year.
Literature consulted for the Roving librarian project: http://www.mendeley.com/groups/2075353/roving-librarians/ Join the group. Particularly interested in roving outside of the physical library space. Looking at mobile technology, especially tablets for this purpose.
View the talk I gave at LILAC 2012 on the Roving Library project at http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/13312/
Good time roving in Canalsidewest this afternoon. Found my colleagues based down the main groundfloor corridor, stopping students as they walked past the stall. They’d used the Summon banner to make the stand more prominent. Although it was less busy than the Business School they had had a few good chats with students, some lasting 5 to 10 minutes. Students usually started off saying that everything was fine but then when questioned would say, “well there is one thing…”
Two interactions I observed really stood out. The Computing Subject librarian approached a passing student who admitted that he used Google Scholar in preference to Summon. Martin then told him how much the library spent on on-line resouces that couldn’t be accessed through Google. He pointed to his tablet which was ajoined to the keyboard and sat on the desk, and showed him the single search box. This led to a question about tutorials which he’d just been upstairs to ask about. He asked if he needed a password. Martin asked him if he knew about Digital Tutors. He then found out that he is studying Digital Media and found one of his reading lists on the MyReading software. Now he really has his attention. I asked him to complete the questionnaire and he says that he will use the electronic library more and wanders off clutching a Summon leaflet.
The second encouner also featured the Computing Librarian. The student he spoke to t first seemed very confident. Yes he did use Summon, but then came the admission that he sometimes had problems with Athens. Turned out he was search Google Scholar! He then mentioned what he was looking for. Martin said “we’ve got lots on that, have you got two minutes?” The student is now leant over the table. Martin keeps referring to his search technique. Uses question such as “Do you do things like that…” He shows him the search strategy he has used and points out a key book. He advised him out to limit results to eBooks, Scholarly journal articles etc. The student seemed to get it “so the more you refine it the better results you get?” He particularly liked the fact that you could limit results by date.
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.