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TL v65n2: Reaching Out, Drawing In
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Reaching Out, Drawing In


Benjamin Head and Elizabeth Heffington

This article is based on a presentation at the Tennessee Library Association Annual Conference (Memphis, TN) in April 2015.


This article illustrates methods used by librarians at Lipscomb University and Christian Brothers University to reach out to their campuses, thereby drawing users in to their libraries. Elizabeth Heffington discusses leveraging a leadership change to make inroads in the broader campus community at Lipscomb. Benjamin Head highlights several of the ongoing and evolving outreach programs at Christian Brothers.

Presentation slides are available here.


Change = Opportunity at Lipscomb University (Elizabeth Heffington)

Figure 1. Retired Beaman Library Director Carolyn WilsonFigure 1. Retired Beaman Library Director Carolyn Wilson

The year 2014 brought a particular challenge to the staff of Beaman Library at Lipscomb University when long-time director Carolyn Wilson retired. For most, Carolyn was the only library leader they had ever served under. While all were excited for Carolyn, there was apprehension about what--and who!--the future would bring to the position of Director.

A Strong Foundation

Fortunately, Carolyn had established a tradition of outreach to the campus that meant events such as Spooks in the Stacks were typical of Beaman Library. This annual Halloween celebration combines everything people love about the holiday (candy!) with everything librarians love to talk about (resources!). In her Mary Poppins garb, Carolyn was a perfect proponent of ProQuest databases and other resources, making their use as appealing as a spoonful of sugar.

Change = Growth

Enter Sandra Parham, Beaman Library’s new director!

Figure 2. Current Beaman Library Director Sandra ParhamFigure 2. Current Beaman Library Director Sandra Parham

Although born and raised in Nashville, Sandra came to Lipscomb after 15 years at California State University at Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles. Fortunately for Beaman Library, Sandra arrived ready to continue great traditions as well as implement new ones.

Characteristics and Culture

No matter where an academic library is physically located, one of the values key to the profession is that of service to the community and its constituents. A method of providing that service is participation in campus events, enabling librarians to break out of the dreaded library silo. Collaboration with unlikely partners across campus allows the library to increase its number of stakeholders in the community at large. Beaman Library’s response to a shift in leadership would be a critical point for either succumbing to tensions inherent at all academic libraries or embracing the potential to build an even greater institution on our strong foundation.

Ask and Receive

Figure 3. Charging stationFigure 3. Charging station at Beaman Library

Ready to move forward on key initiatives, Beaman Library’s new director and staff engaged in brainstorming ways to cement the library’s position as a collegial partner. The phrase “she said yes!” is the one that exemplifies this period of generating ways to secure campus wide buy-in. Four thousand t-shirts to give to incoming students? Yes! A new collection of Playaways to provide alternate methods of reading? Yes! Another charging station for electronic devices (see Figure 3)? Yes! EndNote bibliographic management resource? Yes!

Beaman Library embraced the change afforded by new leadership. We’ve made important inroads into admissions and are gaining traction in our desire to be seen as critical to retention. Change happens: Make it good!



Helping Patrons Help Themselves at Christian Brothers University (Benjamin Head)

Figure 4. Fall festival advertisementFigure 4. Fall festival advertisement

At Christian Brothers University (CBU), we are constantly looking for new ways to reach and inform our entire faculty, staff, and students of the resources available to them as members of our community. In the spring of 2013, two things occurred to us. One was that our library is in the center of the campus, and two, it is where all sorts of campus gatherings take place throughout the academic year. Student organizations, fraternities, faculty, staff, and other campus organizations all hold many events in the CBU quad as it known. So, in the spring of 2013 we decided we would hold a festival in the fall of to celebrate and showcase the resources available at Plough library right in front of the celebrants, many of whom never come to the library of take full advantage our resources.

Figure 5. CBU students learn about library catalogingFigure 5. CBU students learn about library cataloging

Having never held a library festival before, we weren’t sure what to do and what would be involved. As they say, ignorance is bliss! We decided the festival would be a showcase and demonstration of what we do as librarians and the resources available for the patrons we serve. When you think of a festival, there are several required elements: popcorn, balloons, music, and food. To meet our objectives of bringing inside library activities outside, we created a list of library activities, decided which ones were transferable, and designed interactive learning activities for our patrons, planning for incentives to encourage participation. The most challenging inside activity to bring outside was cataloging, but it turned out to be one of the most popular ones (see Figure 5).


Figure 6. Demonstration Station at the fall festivalFigure 6. Demonstration Station at the fall festival

One of the library services we wanted to promote was the comfortable seating areas we created to accommodate our commuter students. So we brought some of the furniture outside for hands-on trial by students who never visit the library. We also brought out our reference desk and called it Demonstration Station (see Figure 6). It was a 32” television attached by Google Chrome to a laptop so that we could answer questions, run tutorials, show how to’s, and showcase other resources.

The weather was beautiful for the event, except for the wind; it was very high and gusty. Each activity except for individual librarians’ activities required two people to manage. Therefore, we enlisted our work-study students and student organization volunteers, of which there were not enough. Power was important to operate the music, demonstrations, and other festival necessities. The budget was minimal because there was such broad participation across campus, including food services, campus media, printing, and vendor donation. We collected vendor donations for six months prior to the event.

The Roving Librarian at CBU

Figure 7. CBU's Roving LibrarianFigure 7. CBU's Roving Librarian

The Roving Librarian arose as a result of need for more visibility and interaction with patrons who do not see a need to come to the library or remember to take advantage of the resources we acquire and provide for them. The thinking was that often, students and faculty are so focused on their activities and areas that they forget or are unaware that we have resources that can actually make life a lot easier. We generally visit each school at CBU twice a semester. Figure 7 shows the Roving Librarian set up in the School of Sciences student lounge. We have a laptop to provide information and demonstrations and distribute various information handouts.

Assignment Collaboration

Another successful outreach method at Christian Brothers was developing an assignment for an engineering class. The collaboration evolved into providing assistance for two engineering classes and to revising the assignments as needed. The assignments involve a written and performance component. As the subject librarian on the project, I provide instruction on research resources and review students’ bibliographies on the written assignment and their integration of the resources within their written assignments. I listen to their verbal presentations and discuss the selection of resources that they used for the assignment.

These are a few of the outreach efforts we have today at Christian Brothers and they will evolve into new forms as our imaginations continue to serve our desire to inform and assist our patrons. Our purpose is to continually find new ways to remind our patrons of how much more effective they can be if they know more of what we know and what we provide for them.


Benjamin Head, Instruction Librarian at Christian Brothers University, can be reached at

Elizabeth Heffington, Catalog & Acquisitions Librarian at Lipscomb University, can be reached at


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