What do you do?
Working on behalf of all of the library staff, Kate Peterson and I coordinate the Libraries’ presence at many events during Orientation and Welcome Week. We work closely with Orientation and Transition Experiences and other campus offices such as the University Bookstores and the Institute on the Environment to connect events with library spaces and relevant initiatives and services.
What tools/software/hardware/etc do you use to do your work?
Each fall the University of Minnesota welcomes 5,000-6,000 new undergraduate first year and transfer students. Students arrive on campus hopeful, excited, and scared. They are looking to make connections and forge their independence. They are excited to start their classes, but first they must learn to maneuver within the administrative and logistical behemoth of the University of Minnesota.
To familiarize new students with the institution that will be their home for the next four years, new students attend a one- to two-day orientation over the summer. Then, in the fall, new students arrive on campus early so they can experience Welcome Week, a whirlwind of activities, part social, part instructional, part marketing, all designed to help ease the transition to college life.
Amidst the information deluge of Orientation and Welcome Week, the University Libraries is present with the constant and consistent message: “We have spaces, people, and resources to help you succeed. You are welcome here.”
Planning for such varied fairs and events not only requires we stay organized, it means we need to be agile yet focused. If an opportunity for library involvement presents itself or if a previously attended event changes venue or shape, we need to adjust our plans to fit the changes.
We use Google Suite to coordinate and keep track of budgets, staffing, planning notes, meetings, etc. Situated in a Google sheet is a table listing objectives for events, primary messages, partners, staffing hours, supplies, etc. To work to make things memorable and fun for students, our supply list includes items such as:
- 40 loaves of bread, 10 pounds of butter, 2 irons and CHEESE!
- 2000 honey sticks
- Candy (No chocolate for outdoor tabling! Too melty)
- Libraries maps, pencils (where is the sharpener?), stickers, pens and 6 tablecloths
- Button making supplies and 3 button makers (10,000 should last the year)
- Structure-building pasta and marshmallows
- markers for coloring (smelly!)
- water for PAWS (Pet Away Worry and Stress) volunteers and animals (chicken, pony and 10 dogs)
- Post it notes (all the colors of the rainbow)
This table helps us when it is time to compile our yearly report and lets us see the objectives, talking points, and activities for all the events laid out next to each other. This keeps us focused on the specific events, as well as providing a view of how we are meeting the overarching program objectives.
Students during this time are absolutely bombarded with information so we want our message to be simple, clear, and relevant. We are constantly asking ourselves, “Is this important to a new first year student? What about a transfer student? Is it understandable to them?” The U Minnesota app provides access to the full student Welcome Week schedule, allowing us to get a sense of what the students are experiencing while using the same tool they use to navigate Welcome Week.
The University Libraries are welcoming spaces where students can get help regardless of college affiliation, major, or skill level. As new students prepare to embark on a new phase of their academic journey, Welcome Week is a crucial time to reach out and show them how the Libraries can help them succeed. Oh, and have a bit of fun while we’re at it.