Academic librarians: serving patrons over holiday breaks without killing yourself

The holidays are upon us. Starbucks has had caramel/pumpkin/brulee/eggnog/nutmeg lattes since the day after Halloween. And ImageThanksgiving break can’t come soon enough for all of us at academic institutions. Students are slugging through this week while professors do their best to put on a good show (hopefully.) Whether you have a break or not, you probably are the tiniest bit looking forward to a quiet library. It’s okay; you don’t love your job any less. It’s fall semester burnout.

However much students think they’re on break, there are students still to be served during breaks: thesis or dissertation students, international students, the wonderful overachievers, and student employees. They still need to be served, but you have a pile of work just waiting for attention. How can you serve and still have that sigh of relief? A few simple acts of keeping in touch can accomplish much.

  • Use HootSuite to schedule Tweets and Facebook updates in advance, but especially over breaks. HootSuite lets you track your social media interactions, hits, and schedule updates far in advance. Keep users abreast of changes in hours due to breaks, remind them of the fun stuff you offer, and let them know if staffing will change due to breaks. I’ve got a whole load of info Tweets and questions for our Facebook page scheduled to keep in touch with students over breaks. Took me 15 minutes and yelling at co-workers, “what’s a good question to ask our students?”
  • Strategic displays: this time of year I focus on pleasure reading for break and tools for theses. Promote the heck out of your Kindles and iPads right now; let seniors know what tools they can use at home to get that thesis completed; and bring holiday DVDs front and center. Students love knowing we have The Hunger Games trilogy on Kindle for when they get stuck in O’Hare Airport!
  • Host small, targeted events. International students are often the orphaned users during breaks. NOW is when they would appreciate a movie night in the library. If you are targeting students still on campus, you don’t need heavy advertising to promote activities. Resident hall directors and assistants, international student organizations or offices, and the dean of students can all help you get the word to this population through emails and word-of-mouth. Pop some microwave popcorn and consider showing classic American holiday films or the latest Best Foreign Film.
  • Remind employees patrons will still use the library, just in less numbers. Now is the time to catch up on work, but it’s not the time to show up in pajamas and finish Angry Birds Star Wars.
  • If it’s in your budget, consider having small treats for patrons who come in (and use HootSuite to promote this!) Maybe your development or dean of students offices have swag they could donate for this cause. See if your bookstore has unsold merchandise they can’t return. People love free and they love being special.

Happy Festive Winter Holiday Season!

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