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April, 2019

Librarians Rove in Search of Students

By Hughan Biggar

Roving librarian Betsy Jayasuriya helps Bob Carroll, a senior finance major, learn about CUA library services.

With a red cloth instead of a red cape, Adam Day sits in the main lobby of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center ready to be a superhero to any passing students.

Day’s secret powers are those of a reference librarian, and the cloth on the table in front of him displays the CUA logo and reads “The Catholic University of America Libraries.”

Day is one of a dozen university librarians taking part in an innovative program to make students aware of CUA’s library services. They are opening a new chapter in their outreach efforts by taking the library to the residence halls, academic buildings and student center. The roving librarians have been going out to the people for two hours a day since the second week in February, coinciding with the part of the semester when students begin research papers.

In locations around campus, librarians armed with laptops and a library banner hope to attract the attention of passing students.

“It’s a way of reminding students that the most valuable part of the library is the staff,” says Kitty Tynan, assistant director of library services. Tynan initiated the program during the fall semester after reading about other schools’ use of roving librarians. “It’s a marketing tool and a public relations tool,” she says, adding that many students do not use the actual library building since collections can be accessed online.

Tynan admits it is possible to use the library services online and to communicate with librarians through tools such as instant messaging. But, she cautions, to make the best online use of the library, students must know how to use its collections. According to Tynan, most students’ only introduction to the library comes via freshman English, although a few majors offer more instruction on how to use the library.

Alyssa Strouse, CUA's applied sciences librarian, says the program helps the students understand the library and the library's homepage and shows them where to find materials at CUA and elsewhere.

“Our librarians are always willing to help and are available for more in-depth research consultations," she explains. "We can also show students how to use the library remotely, i.e. from their dorm rooms while wearing pajamas. This is one of the reasons we like to station our roving librarians in the residence hall lobbies.”

Jayasuriya waits for students to drop by in the Leahy Hall computer lab.
At his post in the Pryzbyla Center, Day says that just a few students have stopped by to investigate what he has to offer, although it was still early in his two-hour shift.

“The students generally start out with the question, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Day says. “Then usually they say, ‘Oh, I have this paper I’m working on…’ ”

Tynan has been working on ways to increase students’ awareness of the roving librarians. Initially, she advertised in The Tower and also on the CUA community page of Facebook, but met with mixed results.

This semester she has concentrated on doubling the number of roving librarians and posting the schedule for the program on the library’s news and events page (www.lib.cua.edu/newsevents/category/general) and on Home@CUA.

The librarians’ sorties will increase after spring break from twice a week to three times a week. Six of the librarians involved are students in the Graduate Library Preprofessional Program, which allows them to work full time as librarians while taking classes toward their degree.

Tynan says the reaction from the university community has been positive, especially from administrators and staff.

As for the students, “anything that gets their attention and lets them know we are here for them is a good thing,” Day says.


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Last Revised 29-Feb-08 09:19 AM.