Monday, August 21, 2006

Season for Orientation

The ACL discussion list has had several posts on whether or not to participate in Freshman Oientation. I decided not to send an e-mail but write about this heady period--bubbling with possibilities and promises. I promise not to take too long. The outcome of the discussion was about 50-50 doing or avoiding activities for those days Freshman rule--or maybe it's more about treating separation anxiety! What I didn't see in any of the posts--and I'm sure someone will correct me if I missed anything-- was a comment like this or a statement like this
"We have tried library participation in freshman orientation as part of our marketing program and after [x number of years] have concluded from our assessments that this activity provided no significant [or a significant] difference in the use of the library." Or an article like this.
Most activities boil down to is how convenient are they for the library--not for the student or parent. Orientations are notoriously inconvenient for library staff and faculty especially in a small campus. But we need to make the decision to add or delete activities based on research as well as budget and time. If accessing the library meant that one more student each year stayed for 4 years, rather than left after one, how many would be willing to spend a few extra hours on campus on Saturday? Would that be enough of a difference? I don't know how the 99 principle might work here, but I suspect it works in reverse: we have 100; how can we keep them?

I just noticed four fingers pointing back at me. We don't have a freshman orientation but we do offer a welcome back program for all undergraduates and have for 3 years. It's about time we did a survey to determine its impact on our target audience. The librarians--usually me-- meet with the graduate and nontraditional orientation students for 1/2 hour during their campus orientation. This year, I have added an "assignment" to some of the sessions to encourage these distance learners to check their connections before they have a class assignment. I will have to set up a survey with both students and faculty regarding this assignment to determine if it will relieve some of the connection complaints we have been experiencing with them.

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