On Tuesday March 22, 60 librarians from around the UK and US met for the ‘Personalised Libraries Services in Higher Education’ symposium, which explored many angles of the Boutique Model for library services.  Though I personally have trouble applying abstract models of groups and directions of influence to the complexities of real life, I found that I left the symposium with a more clearly defined mission as a librarian.  Presentations and discussions throughout the day explored examples of personalised services for faculty, student groups, distance learners, and within the physical space of the library and digital research support. There were many opportunities to break into small groups and discuss the merits of a particular service and to brainstorm new ones. Most attendees left the symposium with new service ideas and a theoretical approach to base it on.

Four presentations were for me particularly insightful:

Angela Cutts and Emma-Jane Batchelor, ‘Tailoring resources to courses at the Faculty of Education Library,’ discussed their efforts to provide services on a course-by-course basis.  Students and faculty seem more likely to use the resources of the library when they can see how such services are directly relevant to them.

Nicola Wright and Michelle Blake, ‘Postcards and more…’ discussed a fresh outreach approach to PhD students which entailed an eye-catching postcard on which students could list their various research needs and frustrations and submit to the library.  To me, the project sounds like a very logical way to reach a user group who likely has many information needs (and gripes) but perhaps not a lot of time to consult with librarians.

Chris Powis, ‘How can space be personalised?’ was for me the most emotionally touching presentation of the day.  The importance of the library as a place of learning and refuge should not be underestimated, in his opinion.  Library professionals should think hard about how to make their space appealing and a destination source.

Emma Thompson, ‘”It’s all about you”: marketing personalised services to the University of Liverpool Management School’ was a discussion of efforts to reach out to faculty, and the importance of engaging faculty on terms that are important to them.  Having a ‘hook’ to demonstrate to faculty how library services will personally and professionally be helpful for them is the key to faculty advocacy of the library.

Refreshing and inspiring, the day was filled with new and practical ideas for tailoring library services.  For me, the Boutique Model is less a rubric or framework and more of a philosophy.  I have always aspired to be a Super Helpful Librarian, and the Boutique Model has given me justification to really differentiate services based on users’ needs, proactively reach out to user groups, and think critically about the physical and electronic environments that I provide.   Kudos to Andy and Libby for organising such a thought provoking event!

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