Yesterday I helped to run the library stall for our college’s Freshers’ Fair – the event was a big success, with almost all of the new undergraduates and about a third of the new postgraduates visiting our stall to collect their library card and their free library goody bag. We had the bags specially printed for us with a library themed word cloud and these were very popular with everyone.
Then today I volunteered to hand out flyers on the library stall at the much larger Cambridge University Freshers’ Fair, which was also very successful. I found it quite surprising, however, that there were a number of students who thought that the library wasn’t relevant to them because they didn’t use many actual books for their subject – I even had one engineering student who claimed that he was intending not to use the library at all during his degree!
I had to explain to these students that the library was not just for borrowing books, but that it also provided e-resources and information literacy training, and that even if they didn’t use many books for their subject this didn’t mean that they didn’t need any library services.
A couple of students also remarked upon the fact that I have purple hair and were surprised that a librarian was allowed to have hair that colour. One student also told me about a librarian he knew who he said was a bit scary as she gave the impression that students were a nuisance and that she preferred books to be arranged nicely on the shelves rather than actually used.
This is an image of librarians that we definitely need to dispel and I spent quite a lot of time telling these doubtful students about the new generation of friendly and funky librarians who I hope will be running all our libraries in the future.
Despite the above, the majority of students were very impressed with our colourful library flyers which directed them to the new Cambridge Libraries Gateway which is now the access point for all of the Cambridge University libraries. It was definitely worthwhile to have a stand at the fair – not just to promote our resources, but also for the opportunity that it gave us to challenge librarian stereotypes. Librarians are not all super-serious, grumpy people who like to say ‘Shush!’ to students – and yes we can have purple hair 😉