Freshman Class Librarians

10 Sep

I recently stumbled across a program on the Emory University Library’s website that I thought was an excellent idea for academic libraries: the Freshman Class Librarian. The idea behind it is that since many freshmen have yet to declare a major, they don’t have a subject librarian to turn to when they need help. With one librarian for the entire freshman class, they have a familiar face to help them navigate the complex world of the university library. In addition to outreach at orientation, classes, clubs, and dorm meetings, the freshman class librarian at Emory, Liz Cooper, also has a LibGuide specifically to help freshmen learn what the library can offer during their time at Emory.

The program is modeled after a similar one at the University of Chicago. At Chicago, each incoming class is assigned a librarian that stays their class librarian for all four years at the university. Instead of  freshman class librarian, there is a Class of 2014 librarian (and a Class of 2013 librarian, and so on). In their article for C&RL News for July/Aug 2007, University of Chicago Librarians Rebecca Starkey and Barbara Kern explain that at a large research institution like the University of Chicago, library collections and services can be focused primarily to serve the research needs of faculty and graduate students. The size and complexity of such a library can be overwhelming to many undergraduates. At the University of Chicago, the class librarians connect to undergraduates through reminder emails every quarter, library programs such as study groups, outreach to college administrators to build awareness of the program, and they also have LibGuides.

I think these types of programs are a great way to introduce students to the library. For most freshman, the library at their new college or university is a very different place from their high school library media center (I know mine was!). I love the idea of having a specific person to turn to at the library to help with this transition. I know I would have benefitted from something like this when I was an undergrad! I was curious to see if other libraries have a freshman or class librarian, so I looked around and found a few more programs:

  • Loyola Marymount University has a class librarian program similar to the University of Chicago, in which each class has an assigned librarian.
  • Yale University has a personal librarian program, in which every freshman is assigned a personal librarian (similar to how freshmen are assigned academic advisors) for their freshman and sophomore years, until they pick a major.
  • Drexel University has just announced a personal librarian program similar to Yale’s. (via this week’s American Libraries Direct e-newsletter).

I’m sure there are other libraries doing something like this that I wasn’t able to find in my quick search. If you know of any more, or any other innovative outreach programs in university libraries, I would love to hear about them.

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