Tag Archives: outreach

Engaging academics and researchers over coffee – LIANZA 2023

Elizabeth Sturrock and Stephanie Cook, Massey University
Have been doing library outreach by offering weekly dropins outside of the library space. Based on the Auckland campus of Massey – they’re subject librarians focusing on the College of Health subjects. All academics and PhD students are in the same place (and master’s students often visit) so it’s easy to target them there.
Wanted to spread the message about what they do and how they can help, and foster relationships and build trust. Wanted to remove barriers by going to them. The initial idea for drop-ins was at end of 2019. Had to park the idea for 2020 but in 2021 decided to just do it. Some success though hampered by continued lockdowns, then restarted in 2022 and committed to nearly every week in 2023.
Asked for permission to come to the tearoom for an hour each week – college administrator was happy to facilitate. Picked a time they hoped would have most people. Sent out reminders via the administrator each week though no longer need to do this. Both attend to show commitment, and useful if more than one person wants to talk. Take their laptops (can work when quiet, or use it to look things up. Wear badges, put a sign on the back of the laptop, and grab a hot chocolate to wait facing outwards so they’re visible but not in the way.
Since doing it regularly, starting to see more people. Usual queries eg Endnote but also CV writing and other non-library questions where they can redirect to another service team; or sometimes just chatting. Keep notes in an Excel spreadsheet.
Good successes especially over the last year. Eg an academic they hadn’t seen much before came to talk and said “While you’re here…” – turned into a large conversation, some work they could do for him for a service he didn’t know about, which he then passed on to other colleagues. Academics referring PhD students to them.
The virtual drop-ins were a complete flop – no-one came at all.
Benefits for researchers:

  • access help at point of need
  • customised support
  • regularity – so people become familiar with them, less scary to approach them
  • informal environment – so they don’t have to have a really well thought-out question, can just chat

Benefits for library staff:

  • no preparation
  • get to know people in their own space – on a more ‘personal’ level
  • spreads the word about what they do


  • Finding a suitable time – nothing suits everyone
  • Maintaining weekly attendance
  • Uncertainty – maybe no-one will turn up. But at least can wave to people. Haven’t had a week with nobody for a long time – and sometimes even have a queue.

Good feedback from staff. Especially hear “While you’re here…” very frequently. Even if they don’t have a question they like the library presence in case.

  • Pick the right location and time – as few barriers as possible so staff don’t have to book, search, login, etc
  • Visibility in the space – so they can see you and can see others engaging with you. (Another attempt in another department were consigned to a meeting room and rarely got people coming in.)
  • Persistence, regularity
  • Face-to-face

Looking at more targeted drop-ins to focus on eg ORCiD signup. Want to experiment with other days/times.