Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Library Student Liaison Program at Eastern Washington University: A Model for Student Engagement

Julie L. Miller | College & Undergraduate Libraries, 18 no. 1 (January/March 2011): 1-15


In 2006, Eastern Washington University (EWU) Libraries implemented a library student liaison program to enhance library efforts at student engagement. Reporting to the associate dean of libraries, the library student liaison is an undergraduate hired on a part-time basis to represent students within the library organization and to represent the library among the student body. The three goals of the program are (1) to enhance communications between EWU Libraries and the student body, (2) to articulate student perspectives on library services and help determine priorities for meeting student information needs, and (3) to increase student participation in library programs and activities. The student liaison develops an annual action plan to support these goals. Activities have included developing and maintaining the library's social networking sites, conducting student surveys, and implementing library events for students. Entering its fourth year, the student liaison program has been very effective in meeting desired outcomes.



The library student liaison program has changed EWU Libraries in ways both desired, and, in  some cases, unanticipated. Not only doesthe library have more student-friendly tools or  communication (e.g., the library now has social networking sites maintained by a student for students), it also has a systematic communications plan with students as the target audience. In the past, public relations were often the last consideration when the library made a change in policy or services; now, public relations is integrated into the planning process. The library has more pathways to receive feedback from students, and that feedback is being incorporated into  the decision-making processes. In short, the student liaison’s presence insures that communication with students remains a priority. More students are attending library events and activities—for the simple reason that the library is offering more events and activities relevant to students. The student liaison is responsible for implementing programs of interest to students. Library faculty and administration call upon the liaison to support some of the library’s traditional programming (such as the annual Books2Eat event). The library is becoming a more welcoming place as a result of the liaison program. Perhaps the greatest change is that EWU Libraries have become more focused on serving students. Having an informed and articulate student liaison to participate in policy discussions and to provide input into operational decisions has changed the dynamic of library management. Library decision makers are no longer making decisions based on our own experiences as undergraduates and what we think students need— we’re listening to students express theirinformation needs. The library is engaging students more
and more effectively at EWU. In a twist on Gardner’s challenge, the library student liaison program is teaching EWU Libraries to love its students.

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