Enrollment may be down, but Library numbers are up, up, up

I work at the University of Houston and most of the staff this year were disappointed to learn that our enrollment numbers were way down for the current semester. Classes started Monday, along with all the usual hubbub. Other librarians know what I am talking about: ridiculous amounts of printing (“but I need every power point ever created for my class, today, now, in print”), lines everywhere, that frantic look on the face of the student who has no idea where their next class is located (and it started 10 minutes ago), and the smell of students who have been wandering around campus looking for classes in near 100 degree heat. Ah, the smell of Fall in Texas. Beautiful.

Despite enrollment being down, I am pleased to say that out of roughly 32,000 students, over 11,500 of them came into th library on Monday and Tuesday. That is 11,500 on each day! Good for us. I think they are here for multiple reasons. Some of the reasons are good, some are not that great, but they are here in the building. Below are the reasons I think students are coming to our building:

  • It is hot outside and air conditioned in here. Did I mention the heat?
  • We have the largest number of computers in any one place on campus.
  • We have free printing, for a few more days anyway, and the students know it.
  • We let students eat in out library.
  • Our staff answer their questions. We often get students who have been sent to a couple different places to find the answer to a question that a phone call could have solved. We try to solve it or at least send them to the right person.
  • Students can manage their accounts with some IT staff who have set up house by our reference desk. I have only seen the line empty there one time, it was 7:40 at night, and it only stayed empty for about a minute.
  • If people have questions, we answer them. We do not send them elsewhere.
  • We have AC, remember.
  • There are a ton of study spaces, tables, nooks, and crannies where students can meet and relax.
  • We have stuff they want: computers and printers. OK, honestly, I did see students checking out a lot of books yesterday (even if they were the textbooks they should have been buying).
  • We try to help them. Did I mention that yet?
  • The moral is: I believe our students come to the library because we try our best to be helpful and we have stuff the students need. I think, biased though it may be, that our library gives better customer service then any other department or service office on campus and the students know that. Not that we are perfect, but it is nice to know that they like us enough to be here, in our building.

    –Jane, what does your library do that other groups do not for your users?

    3 thoughts on “Enrollment may be down, but Library numbers are up, up, up

    • August 22, 2007 at 1:04 pm

      I think we do a better job of answering people’s questions than do many other places, in large part because answering questions is our primary reason for existing, or one of them. And when someone comes in asking, “Can I do ___?” I always, always try to say “yes” or “let me see,” and then I try to find a way to make it happen. I’ve helped people download books, burn pictures to a CD, get through online applications, and so on–and of course we let people sit in our comfy chairs!

    • August 22, 2007 at 2:14 pm

      Gawk. No more free printing? That’s been a long time in coming, but will be painful. Nice post. I agree. The UH library doesn’t pass the buck and shuffle those poor kids off to yet another office…

    • August 22, 2007 at 10:27 pm

      I interned for Arizona State University where, on the first day of classes, librarians have tables outside the two main libraries offering ask a librarian services. They have bottled water – helpful since it is 110 outside – and give directions to students and answer all the random questions. Students find it really helpful when they are looking for their building but it is 40 miles away on a different campus! I think it is a little something that goes a long way and the students remember it.

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