I noticed a group on Facebook titled: Georgia Tech Class of 2011. With over 1,000 members, this essentially represents about half of our incoming freshmen class. It’s still a bit early, but I estimate that the number will reach 1,700 by the end of August.
The students are using this forum to share in their anticipation as well as to ask each other questions and find social similarities.
There are nearly 2,500 comments posted on the group “wall” which is like a bulletin board. There are also over 70 photos posted of places around campus-- none of the Library of course, so I uploaded a few interesting ones.
Perhaps the most useful tool is the message board, which is fully searchable, providing insight into their mindset:
- Dorm rooms
- “Good” professors
- Time Travel Theories
- PC vs. Mac / XP vs. Vista
This type of group provides academic librarians with an opportunity to “know thy user” but is also a chance to make a good first impression. I’ve started posting answers or responding directly to individuals on topics such as safety on campus and around Atlanta, laptop computer requirements, places to eat, the music scene, trolley and subway transportation, weather, and freshmen orientation sessions.
The students have responded favorably. At this phase their optimism is very high and they seem to like having a direct connection to the school. This illustrates the ubiquitous philosophy – that it doesn’t always have to be about the books, journals, and library services. There is a time for that and this is not that time. For me it is more about fitting into the community, finding genuine needs, and helping out when possible. Student success involves more than peer-reviewed journal articles and proper citation style.
This type of outreach enables us to position ourselves as an open, friendly, welcoming service environment. We’re Disneyland compared with the stress of financial aid, registration, and housing. (Free printing, café, fantastic air conditioning, comfortable couches, lots of computers, cool software, cool equipment.)
Before they even arrive on campus, we have a chance to make a positive impression—to stake out our claim that this isn’t a typical library. I’ve already had a few questions directed my way from seemingly random students, as well as a few friend requests. So for those of you who feel students don’t want to interact with us on FaceBook, maybe it’s your approach. There is something to be said for the subtle art of conversation. Listen first, then talk. (Not the other way around)
See Also: What do freshmen want? (My experiment last year with incoming freshmen.)