Not just bars and gigs – working in partnership with the students’ union

This session began with all attendees being given a chocolate bar – good start!  Linda Smith (Nottingham Trent University) explained that Kit Kats and coffee are the hallmarks of her meetings involving the Libraries and Learning Resources (LLR) team and the students’ union (SU).

Linda’s strategy for engaging the student body in the library and its services involves enlisting the support of the SU officers to ensure they are advocates of the library.  At the end of the academic year, she meets informally with the outgoing and incoming student officers, and this is followed up with more formal monthly meetings from the beginning of the new academic year.

This allows the SU officers to outline their agenda, and gives Linda a chance to find out about minor irritations which can be remedied easily.  Such quick wins include buying some beanbags to create a more recreational reading area, lockers, water coolers, group study areas.

The SU officers change every year, so it is important for goodwill and positive relationships to be transferred from one set of representatives to the next as far as possible.  Linda also found that their interest and enthusiasm can vary from year to year, as do their skills and competencies; so occasionally an initiative is set up but then is discontinued as there is no-one with the necessary skill to maintain the service (e.g. composing a jingle for the library to use on the student radio station).

The LLR uses the following channels for promoting the library:

  • SU website
  • student magazine (students write this article and Linda reviews it before publication)
  • re-freshers fair in Jan
  • radio ads promoting information skills

She has also run some successful campaigned in partnership with the SU:

  • ‘Virtually stolen’ campaign – items left unattended in the library would have a card left on them saying “this item has been virtually stolen – please do not leave your possessions unattended in the library”
  • Student behaviour in the library – ‘Shhhhhhh!’ t-shirts and posters helped spread the word about making the library a better place to study
  • The SU debating society had a debate entitled “Has Google killed the library?”  This was a good opportunity to show students how much e-content is provided by the library – not everything they access on the web is as ‘free’ as they think
  • ‘Can we have a chocolate?’ – Linda keeps chocolates on desk and offers them to students, hopefully also winning a few minutes in which to get talking to them and find out about the issues they think are important for the library.  In this way, she met a student who runs Stride – a free training and development workshop programme offered by Nottingham Trent Students’ Union – the Stride programme now has an fully-accredited LLR component which involves information literacy.

Linda concluded that working in partnership in this way has helped her focus on her target group, and it has raised the profile and credibility of the LLR and given her access to a wider range of resources and media for promoting the library and its services.