At my university, there is a group of student tour guides who give tours of the campus to prospective students and their families. The library is included in their tour, and it is often amusing to listen to the misinformation about the library that they sometimes include. We periodically provide updated information, and the tour guides are trained each year, but errors are always present and we accept them with good humor.

What was harder to chuckle about not long ago was overhearing a tour guide give an explanation of the reference desk followed by an explanation of the nearby “Media Hub.” It went something like this:

(Spoken in a sad tone): “Over there is the reference desk where there is a librarian who can, um, help students find things to use for their research papers and things, and they are experts in different subject areas … There is a reference desk on each floor.” (In our building with four floors, there is Circulation and some student technology help on the first floor, reference on the second, student technology help on the third, and nobody on the fourth.)

“Moving over this way, that is the Media Hub, which is self-explanatory.”


It seems to me that we’re getting our message out okay regarding what we do, but most students here don’t connect to the service we are providing once they hear us describe it. It seems to me that overworked faculty members are not scrutinizing students’ papers to the point where the students would see any need for our help. So we say, “We can help you get a better grade,” but I think that from the students’ point of view it is hard to see how we could possibly do that, given the more immediate obstacles to better grades that they experience. There are exceptions, of course, and most days those are enough…

6 comments on “Overheard

  1. They (admissions’ student reps) do that here as well. They usually walk in, show them the “front” of the library near circ. and reference, and move on. Some of the reps keep it very short, as if they don’t want to bring them here but have to. Others are a bit more enthusiastic. Listening to their spiels can be a source of amusement. I am not sure how consistent the training they get for tours is. It’s been on my list o things to do to check sometime. We also get them over the summer when freshmen orientations are going on.

    AS for the professors scrutinizing those papers, that is a whole other conversation.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  2. How about this. Campus tours are quickie overviews so full detail is not needed, nor accurate detail. How about after the students are accepted and are attending, a librarian gives a full and complete tour as part of the usual orientation. Coordinate that with the powers that be–integrate it into exiting orientation programs–and maybe everyone will benefit.

  3. Well… I told the story mainly to illustrate something about the way students think about the library and reference service in particular. I agree, there isn’t necessarily a problem with the tours themselves.

  4. When I walk to the library in the morning, here at U.C. Berkeley, I often hear the student tour guide talking about the Free Speech Movement, probably because our library cafe is named after it.

  5. Here’s what we did: we called the folks in the prospective students and athletic departments and offered them a deal–they brought over the students, but the full-timer manning the desk would give them a quick 5 minute spiel, and tour the building if they had time. The coordinators were quite receptive, prospective students (and parents) got a fuller understanding of what we had to offer, and the tour guides got to shut up and relax for a few minutes. And while it may not seem important now, it gives them a name, a face, and a starting place when they’re tackling their first paper. Win-win!

  6. Oh, and as far as academic rigor, it seems like most students here seem pretty challenged. Maybe because we have such a large first-generation/nontraditional demographic? Of course there are other barriers to student success than research skills. However, we design services to make the library easier/faster to use on and off-campus, and we use the tour as an opportunity to promote those services.

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