Think of your favorite bookstore or coffee shop? Why do you go back? Is it the lighting, the warmth, the decor, the people who recognize you? When a place makes us feel cared for–like we belong there, we invest our loyalty in it.
At the Educon 2.2 unconference, Bud Hunt, John Pederson and Zac Chase led an excellent discussion on the “Caring Classroom.” But what we discussed in the session went far beyond the classroom, and could be applied to library spaces as well as an entire campus.
They identified five areas of caring: Academic, Organizational, Emotive, Physical, and Infrastructure, and the etherpad from the workshop lists thought-provoking questions on each area.
Think about how your library conveys caring:
Academically– This seems somewhat obvious but beyond providing a place to study and study guides, do you help support the “academic schedule?” Do you do anything special during times of more student stress to support the students and help them destress, or example?
Organizational– This is an area where libraries/schools need to really challenge themselves. Think about your core mission. Do your organizational policies really support the students’ needs? Are your check-out periods unreasonable and unreflective of student use (we extended ours to three weeks to alleviate overdues, for example)? Are there obstacles for students’ finding things in the library? (Consider changing Dewey signage to bookstore signage, for example).
Emotive- Are you doing things to let students know you care? Greeting them, handing out a bookmark with every book, noticing when a student needs help? My assistants keep a variety of fun toys on our front desk that students love to come tinker with–a little touch but students associate the desk with gadgets, toys and an spot where they are welcome. ( I do think this is an area that many libraries are quite strong in–and are one of the most student friendly areas in many schools.)
Physical–The physical space of a library is another way to express care. Are there comfy areas for students and are they encouraged to use them? Is there a variety of lighting that creates little cozy spots for students? Is signage friendly, positive, helpful? Are there areas delineated for various activities? Does the overall physical space create a warm atmosphere for students?
(Again, I do think most libraries are tuned into this aspect of care, but there is always room to evaluate).
Infrastructure– Is the infrastructure cared for? Are things fixed when they are broken? Is the signage fresh and color coordinated? Is the paint fresh and carpet clean? Does the library smell good? Does the entryway look inviting and clean? What is within your control to fix or change regarding infrastructure?
Spend a little time considering the ways that your library contributes to a caring climate on your campus. One way to evaluate your space is to survey staff or students and see how they respond to your current space–it’s hard as a staff member to really “get” how your facility is perceived. Find out what they like, and what obstacles there are for them. Find out what they ‘would’ like in the space. And an added benefit is that this sort of survey would express your caring for students and staff.
Thanks to Bud, Zac, and John for a thought-provoking conversation!