About a week ago, an amazing program happened in one of the libraries I supervise. This program also won the award (in my books) for largest collaboration. I had 10 resident assistants (RAs) helping to plan and run the program (remember, these are undergrads). Wow. Since I'm pretty proud, I figured I would share this story with you.
It all started with an email from an RA I know. She had seen Buzzfeed's "Blind Date with a Book" article and thought it looked pretty cool. Her email asked if I (and in extension, the library) might want to collaborate.
Of course I said yes.
When we met up during my office hours that week, we discussed how the program was definitely doable in the library. But we really wanted to focus on was how to tie the program in with some learning outcomes.
BACKSTORY: Our residence life is beginning a switch from any program an RA can think up to promoting and steering RAs towards programs with intention. This intention is created with learning outcomes and eventual curriculum (in the process of being written now). One of the halls I work in is having their RAs think about learning outcomes this spring before this official curriculum and intentionality is put into "official" play this fall. The RA who approached me with this idea is in the hall where they are starting writing learning outcomes early.
PRESENT: During this office hour brainstorming session, we figured out we could "swing "(going back to my days in Admissions giving tours and talking on panels) the program to be about interpersonal and intrapersonal care (one of the pillars Housing wants programs to focus on). Instead of wrapping any old book, we would wrap books from our Personal Growth collection and books one would read recreationally. The two of us figured if we could get students into the library, giving them a "blind date" with something that was either interesting or easy (in comparison to their school textbooks) to read would be the most successful.
With that in mind, it was time to writing some learning outcomes. While the RA seemed nervous and apprehensive, I was all fired up. Writing learning outcomes was something I learned about in my instruction class this past fall so I was jazzed about putting classroom knowledge into lived experience.
So I pulled up my learning outcomes slideshow from that day in class and we set out to write three learning outcomes.
And we were in business! From that brainstorming session, the RA went back to her peers and found nine other RAs who wanted in on the program. I pulled books from the two libraries I supervise, crossing my fingers the RAs who would cover them would think they were good choices.
With 10 students and one librarian on board, we planned a kickoff event and then would leave the not-checked-out-yet books on display in the library for the rest of February. We got approval for money for food (pizza and cupcakes) and made flyers to put up around the hall. It was awesome to see 10 students come together and collaborate on this program.
The kickoff day arrived and in the 30 minutes before the event, one of my clerks and I set up the display. It looked awesome and we had too many books for the shelf (we resorted to displaying them on any space available near the shelf). The food arrived and we waited for students to show up.
AND THEY DID. I think that's my favorite part. Students showed up, some who had never been in the library before. They checked out books, movies, even a magazine! It was so amazing and I had that happy librarian goofy grin on my face for the entire hour of the kickoff event.
This is the sort of collaboration I crave and the reminds me why I love working with undergraduates. Sure it took six months of just showing up in my library, sitting in on meetings simply to remind RAs that I am here and I do want to help, and talking to people to make these connections happen BUT IT IS ALWAYS SO WORTH IT. We increased presence and foot traffic in the library, we taught RAs about our collection, and we provided the space for students to think about self-care (so important for undergraduates...really anyone).
So I'm curious to see the ripples effects the rest of the semester. And I've already seen some. I already ran into a student who up until the kickoff, had never used the library, as she left the library on a separate visit to pick out some DVDs to watch. I've seen several of the RAs I collaborated with who now say hello and call me by name. I have some new collaborations coming up soon with some of the same students I just worked with. And I even got asked to lead a learning outcomes workshop to a group of RAs (more on that when I discuss my instruction experience...coming soon). I can only hope for more awesome ripples in the spring.