Our next installment of Share Your Success, in celebration of National Medical Librarians Month, focuses on the successful strategies implemented by the Drs. Sid E. & Nell K. Williams Library at Life University in Marietta, GA. The librarians have been working to align their service and mission with the larger mission of the institution. Their entry outlines their changes and successes in the areas of administration, service, and outreach.
by Geetha Sridaran, M.S.L.S., Reference Librarian/Assistant Director of Library
I have been a Health Science Librarian/Assistant Director at Life University Library since 2006 and I love my job. Since I have been here, we have taken slow and steady steps to get to where we are today. And, looking back I can definitely say that several of our goals have been accomplished. It begins with our effective library director who is persistent in presenting our needs to the administration. As part of the library team, I have worked to make administrative, service, and outreach improvements, which have all gained recognition and encouragement from the university administration.
When I first got to the Life University library, I started keeping a record of all transactions, from how many reference questions are answered in a month to how many pages are printed in the library printers on a monthly basis. I maintain a monthly colorful dashboard spreadsheet to identify where we did well and where we need improvement. Dashboard keeps us on track to meet our benchmarks and quickly address our drawbacks.
Our Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning and Research requires every department to submit an annual Continuous Improvement Cycle report. We at the library take this as an opportunity to highlight all of our accomplishments in the year as well as point out all the items that did not get funded and the implications. When completing our current report, we always refer to our previous report, and we do not remove items until they are funded or resolved. We use several assessment tools to justify our requests and remain persistent.
Although all professional librarian staff are considered faculty, there was no process in place for moving up the faculty rank for librarians. Just this year, I created a rubric for enabling librarians to move through the promotion process. Through consultation with other academic libraries I developed a rubric similar to those found in other departments, which the Life University administration adopted.
The library staff has taken our recent campus-wide mantra of “Serving Lasting Purpose: To give, To do, To love and To serve” to heart. During the university-wide training to implement this initiative, the library staff came up with strong customer service ideas. We started a Blackboard discussion thread to communicate among ourselves, which helped us provide seamless service among our different shifts. We also decided to have a quarterly all-staff meeting and in-house staff training sessions during our breaks. From these discussions, we implemented several changes including: an increased number of online databases, increased library hours, increased staff, improved printing/copying service, improved wireless access, and improved off campus access to resources. Our annual paper and online surveys indicate that our customer service has improved and our staff received very positive comments.
Although the library is long overdue for a physical renovation, we realize it depends on the available funding. However, we have implemented changes that are within our limits such as rearranging the furniture, removing empty shelves, and providing a welcoming atmosphere. We have installed bulletin boards above the printers and copiers and posted relevant information for students such as textbook rental options. We create a monthly display highlighting the available resources on a particular topic. We have seen an increase in the check out numbers every month as a result.
We are always willing to embrace changes and adopt new technologies and trends in providing our services. Most recently, we enhanced the pace of our service with eight staff iPads enabling us to provide reference service to students immediately, which also increased staff and student interaction. We are using our seven laptop computers acquired through the NNLM/SE/A grant to teach the online resource workshop. We established the need for additional laptops to our administration and received ten more laptops. We also have a facebook fan page for the library that we keep updated daily with interesting and relevant facts to maintain an online presence.
We are also eager to participate in campus-wide events. Our institution introduced the ‘Experiential Learning’ component to bring new students closer to the university faculty, staff, and current students, of which library staff are participants. Just recently we participated in a diaper drive for the community and the library raised 650 diapers.
In 2009 and 2010, I sought out two NNLM/SE/A Outreach grants to initiate an outreach program for the community’s senior citizens. I created a series of online health literacy classes consisting of 15 sessions in a span of one-year in addition to my regular responsibilities for the community’s senior citizens. Through the grant, I also secured seven laptops and three desktops for course instruction. At the conclusion of the project, the library hosted a “Healthy Aging” reception at which the university provost attended and interacted with the seniors. Many of these seniors now regularly utilize the library’s health resources.
Through effective teamwork and personal motivation, I have helped the Life University Library strive toward reaching our university-wide mission. We have built a positive relationship with the university administration and mutually recognize our worth in making each other stronger to provide the best service.